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The Film Room: D’Onta Foreman And The Future Of The Texans’ Running Game

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Join BRB as we look at how the Texans’ new running back will fit into the offense.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Texas Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Weltzschmerz is one of my favourite German words. Similar to ennui or angst, weltzschmerz is used to try and describe a sense of unrest within the soul. However weltzschmerz deals particularly in the idea that what is can never be reconciled with what we think it could be. In my mind, that’s always how I’ll feel when I think back to the the Texans’ rushing offense in 2016.

I cannot reconcile the reality of a run game that ranked 15th in Adjusted Line Yardage, 18th in Power Run Yardage and 6th in Run Stuffs Allowed with the team that I watched last season. Perhaps it is not the offensive line that causes my melancholy, but rather the offense’s usage of Lamar Miller. When the Texans signed Miller, many of us assumed that we signed a player who could bounce from gap to gap with the speed of Mercury and the footwork of Fred Astaire. Comparatively, the Texans’ strategy when using Miller was extremely apparent. The total amount of runs that Miller had to either sideline amounted to just over half of the amount of the rushing attempts that Miller had up the middle last season.

Just for context, here’s what happens when Miller gets to run power concepts to the outside.

Here we have 22 personnel grouping right. It’s a designed run in between the TE and RT. “22” means it’s two backs (1 RB and one FB), two TEs, and one receiver. C.J. Fiedorowicz is going to go engage #51, Bruce Irvin. Chris Clark is going to down block on #99 while Jay Prosch charges forward to meet some poor unwitting safety who is going to attempt to stop Miller.

The safety comes down as the force man on the edge that Prosch will have to deal with. On the other side of the line, Ryan Griffin and Duane Brown have combined to double team Khalil Mack to stop him from charging down the line. Greg Mancz and Jeff Allen have double teamed the nose tackle off of the snap, and Allen is now pulling off of his block to move up to the second level to the middle linebacker. Clark is losing ground on his block, but not enough for the defensive lineman to make a play. Prosch buries the safety. Miller slices through the mess before blazing up the sideline.

This is an example of what happens when everything goes perfectly. It was a rarity within the Texans’ season. More often than not, Miller would have to sift through traffic on the interior, trying to find his way rather than bouncing out into space where he could use his speed and agility.

So while Miller’s strengths do not lie between the tackles, perhaps that is the role that the Texans’ newest running back, D’Onta Foreman, will occupy.

To answer that question we must first define just what Foreman might be asked to do within the Texans’ offense based on what he did whilst at the University Of Texas. In terms of the weight and importance of his performance on Texas’ overall offense, Foreman was remarkably similar to Miller. Both played in offenses that featured horrific QB play, forcing them to be the focal point of their respective offenses.

Schematically, Foreman was nearly always in the shotgun. While the formation was often different, the intent with Foreman was nearly always the same—to make Foreman’s life as simple as possible so he could focus on getting yards. This is what power run schemes do best. Brett talked about difference between what’s expected of a power run in a gap-based scheme like Houston’s and UT’s. What is essentially being done is that the RB reads inside out and just focuses on following the hole made by his lead blocker. It’s a simplified scheme that wants the RB to do nothing more than run folks over, and that’s what Foreman does so well.

What Foreman and Texas did well last season was create a tremendous amount of push on the interior of the offensive line. Take this snap against Iowa State as an example of the push both Foreman and UT’s O-Line can create.

This is a straight blast through the A gap with the RG and TE coming from the opposite side to seal of the RDE with a back side block while the TE leads Foreman through the gap into the second level. The LT is going to go straight ahead and target one of the two LBs at the second level. The LG and C both take steps to their right and block NT and 3-Tech DT, respectively.

You can see the RT and C have both sealed off the right side, while the TE and pulling RG have sealed the other. Meanwhile, my main man Patrick Vahe (Texas LG) has mauled the NT back about five yards and is acting as the lead blocker for Foreman. The defense eventually sheds some blocks and swarms Foreman. That’s far from the end of the play, however. Foreman gets stuck behind Vahe briefly at the 30 yard line before finding a small gap and plowing forward for another four to five yards.

This is the beauty of D’Onta Foreman. He takes the yards made for him by the offensive line and then tacks on another four or five. His lower body strength allows him to keep his legs churning and his forward momentum going. These are the kinds of runs that allow Foreman to do his best work. He doesn’t have to go through a progression. He attacks the first gap he sees. That allows Foreman to get up field as quickly as he can.

This isn’t to say that Foreman can’t read the offensive line in front of him and react in time.

Here against Oklahoma, we see UT’s O-Line again maul some poor defenders and Foreman recognize a key defensive mistake. The RT and RG on this play are going to double team the LDE. What you see here is the MLB and the OLB behind the LDE are expecting an inside run or for Buechele to pull it back and keep it for himself. The problem is that by the time they react, it’s already far to late. No one has protected the edge and Foreman recognizes this.

It’s terrible recognition by the LBs and good vision by Foreman to kick it to the outside before scampering in for the TD. The problem is often times Foreman will miss these reads and will cut back into traffic rather than playing to his ability to break tackles in the open field.

Here’s a play where Foreman cuts it back away from the blocks. All he’s got in front of him is the safety rushing downfield to fill the gap. Instead of taking that safety one on one on the outside, Foreman cuts back into the waiting arms of a defensive lineman.

It’s weird to admonish Foreman for running into contact because that’s where he’s so damm good, but it’s moments like that where you wish he would take the one on one rather than just dropping and trying to drive the pile. Stuff like this:

Gang-tackling Foreman is really the only way you’re going to consistently bring him down. Foreman’s lower half is so strong that tackling him below the waist is no guarantee that he’s going to go down. He’ll just keep his legs moving and drag whatever poor soul made the woeful decision to try and tackle him.

Foreman’s addition to the roster makes me feel this was a conscious attempt by the Texans to not subject Lamar Miller to as much interior work as last year, instead using Miller in a fashion more befitting of his skillset. How that work load will be split remains to be seen. Foreman’s pass blocking leaves much to be desired, so I don’t think we’ll be seeing him in any kind of pass catching situation for awhile. At the very least, Foreman is a clear upgrade at the Texans’ backup RB position. As for his future, expect to see Foreman take a lot of the Power and ISO runs off of Miller’s plate for the coming season.

What do you make of Foreman’s ability? How do you see him fitting into the offense and how much of the workload do you expect him to have to begin with?