We know that in 2016, the Houston Texans will rely on a new starting running back, since workhouse back Arian Foster is no longer going to be plying his trade on Kirby Drive. We still have Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes, Akeem Hunt and Kenny Hilliard behind the line, but none of these names have yet risen to what Foster gave us in his prime. We've drafted Tyler Ervin and signed Lamar Miller.
According to the fine folks over at Pro Football Focus, these six men should prove to be the ninth-best unit in the league.
Starter: Lamar Miller
Backups: Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin
Key stat: Lamar Miller’s 2.76 yards after contact per attempt were 11th-best in the NFL last season.
Lamar Miller has to be one of the happiest men on the planet going from Miami to Houston. The Dolphins were the lowest-graded run-blocking team each of the past two seasons, and game after game we saw them treat Miller as an afterthought in that offense. With the Texans, he should be the undisputed feature back, and could end up even higher than his sixth-overall rushing-grade rank from a year ago.
While PFF is positive about our run game next season, there are a number of new pieces in the backfield. We've got a new quarterback, our offensive line will change with the loss of Ben Jones and Brandon Brooks, and only Blue and Grimes performed in this offense last season. I don't know that I automatically assume Ervin has replaced Grimes in the rotation. I need to see some prognostications based off training camp and meaningless preseason games before I buy that ;).
As passionate Battle Red fanatics, I know we all believe that Bill O'Brien will make miracles happen--he certainly did last season coaxing the offal that was our QB situation into playoffs (of which we will NOT speak)--but I don't know that I believe wholeheartedly that Miller will step right into this situation and replace Arian or wholly complement Blue and Grimes so that Brock Osweiler has a running game that can help him as he develops.
While I definitely believe OB will retain his love and passion for running the ball while his quarterback situation works itself out, this season that running back unit will be working behind a new offensive line with a new quarterback, and there are bound to be growing pains.
What say ye, Texans fanatics? Are there any teams ranked above our unit that you think are misplaced? How do you feel our run game will unfold over the season? Discuss at length your loathing of PFF (since the Masthead knows you're going to do that regardless, we may as well invite it).