DENVER - DECEMBER 26: Running back Arian Foster #23 of the Houston Texas rushes with the ball as cornerback Perrish Cox #32 of the Denver Broncos defends at INVESCO Field at Mile High on December 26 2010 in Denver Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Texans 24-23. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
One of the strangest and (I would say) least successful sets the Texans featured last season was when they would split Arian Foster out wide in a shotgun look, essentially rolling with five receivers and an empty backfield. While I don't think I have any tape in last season's archives that clearly show it, I do remember this play call failing on multiple occasions. Why exactly would you take the threat of Arian Foster running the ball out of the play equation entirely? It'd be one thing if these were the 2009 Texans starring Steve Slaton, but with a true star feature back? A little fishy.
Well, Football Outsiders' Mike Tanier ran the numbers and validated my suspicion with cold hard data. The third-and-short pass play with an empty backfield led to a completion percentage 10% lower than having at least one back did, and the yards per attempt were also down by a significant amount. The sack percentage was slightly higher, but that probably isn't enough to offset the statistical losses taken by putting Foster out wide.
Depending on your point of view, there was either a lot to complain about or only a few nits to pick with Rick Dennison's game plan. I tend to be in the camp that thinks he needs to expand the deep play-action game and other than that the offense is just fine, but if Houston could scrap Foster going wide from the playbook next year, that would probably be a net win for the Texans.