Arian Foster's Projected 2012 Workload: An Historical Perspective
"He can handle it, I know that. You never know how the season's gonna go, and what it's gonna take to win each week. We're giving Arian some breaks at practice during the course of the week, but he looks fine to me. He's holding up fine. He hasn't missed any time, other than the time we've given him...he makes us go, so I'm not too concerned with that at this point." -- Texans head coach Gary Kubiak at his Monday press conference on Arian Foster's workload, which is on a near-record pace
Photo by Marco Torres Arian Foster: Just give him the damn ball
Four weeks into the 2012 season, the weekly Gary Kubiak press conference on Mondays has evolved into a forum to accomplish two things:
1. Allow Kubiak to laud the individual efforts of whichever dozen or so guys the media asks about specifically, and..
2. Pick nits at the one or two mildly troublesome portions of the box score that might bubble to the surface with a team who has led by 20 or more in all four games thus far this season (including the end of three of them)
If the Texans make a run at the Super Bowl this season (Currently, at +350, they are the favorite to win it all on the big boards in Vegas), one area that is probably a legitimate concern is the heavy workload that Kubiak has placed on Arian Foster through these first four games.
Through four games, Foster has carried the ball a league-leading 103 times for 380 yards and four touchdowns, which projects out to a season in which only one other player in league history (Larry Johnson's 416 carry blood war in 2006 that effectively ended his career) would have carried the ball more times. Why has the burden been so heavy early on for Foster, especially considering that his backup Ben Tate would probably be a capable starter on half the teams in the league?
Well, it's probably three things:
1. The Texans have led in games practically the entire season, so inherently they've been in a mode in the second halves of games where they are trying to grind out four or five yards a carry, shorten the game, and get the hell out of Dodge. In the NFL, few backs serve this need better than Foster.
2. There is still a huge trust factor (or mistrust factor) in play with respect to Tate sharing the load with Foster. While Tate may be the more explosive athlete, his running style still leaves yards on the field in the Texans' zone scheme, his blitz pickup is inconsistent, and his propensity for fumbling at bad times has already reared its head in Denver.
3. Kubiak would never seriously attribute this as a factor (although he jokingly referenced it after the Denver game), but subliminally the fact that Arian Foster is now one of the highest-paid running backs in the league has to at least seep in somewhat to how he is used. "We guaranteed him $20 million, let's get our money's worth." This may just be me being an uninformed radio guy, but in a league where a player's pay factors directly into how your roster is assembled, I don't think this can be discounted completely.
So why is this whole "on pace for 412 carry" thing (and nearly 450 touches, when you factor in receptions) an issue for the Texans? Well, quite simply, when players have endured a season in that strata of workhorse-ness, there is enough evidence of a plummet in subsequent seasons to where the Texans might be paying millions of dollars to a back who is a shell of the guy they extended for five more years just a few months ago.
So the question becomes "If the Texans keep pounding Foster (and Kubiak's comments above lean much closer to indicating they will than they won't), how concerned should we, as Texan fans, be that the best may be over after this season?"