There are a lot of questions that remain to be answered before the Houston Texans take the field to start the 2015 NFL season.
What will Bill O’Brien be able to accomplish in his second year as head coach of the Houston Texans?
Who will be the starting quarterback? Is Ryan Mallett or Brian Hoyer the future for the Texans at the quarterback position?
Can Arian Foster remain healthy the entire season? Who steps up if he is injured?
These questions will be answered in time and it all starts with the upcoming organized team activities (OTAs), training camp, and preseason.
The one question in particular that needs to be addressed is the health of Arian Foster.
Foster is arguably the most important player to the Houston Texans in 2015 and their success this upcoming season might depend on his production level.
Foster's Career and Accolades
Since joining the team as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Tennessee in 2009, Foster has not only become one of the faces of the franchise, but also the key piece for the Texans offense.
In 2010, a year after joining the Texans, Foster led the entire NFL in rushing yards, yards from scrimmage, and touchdowns.
During his career with the Texans, Foster has already won numerous awards including becoming a three-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro, and winning an ESPY for “NFL Strongest Performance”.
Foster's accolades also include many of the Texans franchise records: most career rushing yards, most career rushing touchdowns, most rushing yards in a single season, most rushing touchdowns in a single season, and the first player in NFL history to have 100+ rushing yards in his first three postseason games.
Foster’s talent is undeniable, but over the past few seasons he has had to miss several games due to injuries.
In 2014, Foster still managed to gain 1,246 rushing yards on just 260 attempts. He accounted for eight rushing touchdowns and added another five receiving touchdowns. These are still pretty impressive numbers considering he battled injuries throughout the 2014 season.
It is common knowledge that running backs tend to wear down with age and it looks as if Foster’s body is finally starting to reach that point. NFL running back production tends to start wearing down at the age of 30, and at 28 Foster is closing in on that category.
The success of the Texans offense will again depend heavily on Arian Foster’s ability, especially with the question of who will start at quarterback still unanswered.
He is arguably the most dangerous weapon that the Texans offense has, and it would be extremely difficult to try and account for his production. He fits the Texans zone blocking scheme perfectly and when he is split out wide he is a mismatch problem for opposing defenses.
The Texans currently have five running backs on the roster excluding Foster: Alfred Blue, Mack Brown, Jonathan Grimes, Kenny Hilliard, and Chris Polk. None of these running backs really inspires much confidence should Arian Foster miss an extended amount of time.
Blue showed some signs of promise last year when he had to fill in for an injured Foster. Last year with the Philadelphia Eagles, Polk showed that he can fill the role of a short yardage specialist and goal line back.
Kenny Hilliard is a former LSU teammate of Blue's and was signed as an undrafted free agent after the 2015 draft. He had success in a running back committee while at LSU, but it remains to be seen if he can become successful at the NFL level.
Foster's a type of player that opposing defensive coordinators have to game plan for and opposing defensive players have to account for on every single play. There is not another offensive player that strikes fear in opposing defenses on the roster. He is the engine that will make that entire offense fire on all cylinders.
But the question remains unanswered - can he remain healthy enough?