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Houston Texans Rookie Review: D’Onta Foreman

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The Texas Longhorn product steadily increased his production in his first season up until his Achilles injury in the Cardinals game.

Arizona Cardinals v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The third segment of the Texans’ 2017 NFL Draft Review brings us to one of the more promising players in this class. D’Onta Foreman had a spectacular career at Texas. I was fortunately able to watch him develop from a second-string afterthought to a Doak Walker Award-winning running back among the best in the nation. At Texas and under former head coach Charlie Strong’s offense, the Longhorns ran as basic a scheme as possible. With Big 12 defenses being fairly porous, Foreman had an easy time blasting through opposing defenses on his way to a 2,000 yard season his junior year.

Coming into this past season, it was thought that Foreman would surpass the underwhelming Alfred Blue and take over the role of RB2 in Houston. With Lamar Miller struggling to bear the entire load of the run game, it was a smart selection by the Texans to address concerns in the back field. Foreman’s downhill running style meshes well with Bill O’Brien’s blocking scheme. It looked like it would be a smooth transition into the NFL for Foreman.

However promising, Foreman’s first training camp was anything but smooth. Early reports from O’Brien disclosed that Foreman came into rookie camp out of shape even though he reported to camp at a lighter weight. That was not too much to fret about as Foreman immediately displayed his talent during the preseason.

Even through a leg injury took Foreman out of the third preseason game against the Saints, two stellar preseason games had the fan base excited for the season to come.

The start of the regular season was not as prolific for Foreman. Averaging 3.3 YPC through the first four games, the Texans did not provide Foreman with the touches necessary to get him going. As the season progressed, the game got slower and Foreman’s production increased. Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns was a huge step forward for Foreman. He had 12 carries for 59 yards, though he did have one fumble. Next Gen Stats gives us a look into Foreman’s contribution to the Texans’ swamping of the Browns.

One big carry does skew the stat line a bit, but it was a good reestablishment of Foreman’s talents and ability to help this team win games.

The events that unfolded this season with Bob McNair’s comments were very unfortunate. The Friday leading up the game against the Seahawks, Foreman sat out of practice and ultimately missed the game against the Seahawks.

Foreman then had decent performances against the Colts and the Rams, but the game against the Cardinals turned out to be Foreman’s coming out party. His 34 yard touchdown against the Cardinals was one of the best rushes of the season by a running back.

Such a good play. Such a painful play. When he tore his Achilles at the end of this run, it was such a disappointing way to end the season. This play was a great design that the Cardinals did not play well at all. Bruce Ellington swung through the backfield, followed by Xavier Su’a-Filo.

Two poor defensive techniques on this play allowed the Texans to break this play open for a TD. First, DE Josh Mauro presses inside, bypasses the TE’s block, and gets crushed by Su’a-Filo’s pull. C.J. Fiedorowicz gets to the second level and cuts off the MIKE LB from pursuit.

Second, Budda Baker runs into the play and loses outside contain on the stretch.

It was an unbelievable way to end a season. With injuries piling up and so many players out, this one almost felt personal. Foreman’s injury was like watching your little brother get bullied. There’s just no worse way to end your season than on the best play in your young career. Foreman ended his rookie season recording 327 yards on 78 rushing attempts. He had two TDs and 83 yards on six catches.

A little over two months later, and we finally have some good news on Foreman from the player himself:

“I’ve been in a walking boot for like almost a month now. I’ve been trying to put a little bit more pressure on it, in the training room. I’ve been doing little exercises trying to keep my calf muscle as strong as I can. Keep my quad as strong as I can.”

Where he can improve:

At times, especially against New England, Foreman would dip his shoulders and try to power through the line of scrimmage. Instead of using his vision, he would trudge forward and fight for few yards. Another area of growth would definitely be Foreman’s acceleration. At Texas, he was able to break through the front seven and would eventually get caught by safeties down the field. In the NFL, however, it is much more difficult to break through opposing fronts, so that burst of speed is crucial to increasing his production. Although that burst has never been one of his best traits, it is definitely something that would help Foreman succeed in the league. Some people point to problems with Foreman’s vision, but I honestly think that is a lazy stereotype for larger backs. From my review, and looking back to his college playing days, Foreman’s decision-making in the hole to either try to bowl over the defender or try to avoid him slows him down in the hole.

What the future has in store:

If Foreman heals correctly and can get back on his upward trajectory, he will become the Texans’ premiere running back in the future. He fits perfectly into what this offense is trying to do. Setting up third and short is something he can excel at. Being in the same backfield as Lamar Miller will help ease Foreman into the starting role, and having Deshaun Watson threatening to run will open up lanes for Foreman.

Many people have compared Foreman to Jonathan Stewart, which I will agree is a pretty spot-on comparison. One of the better people and stories on the team, Foreman has a lot to prove but a lot to work with. His natural skill and experience being the featured back at Texas give him the right stuff to be an asset for the Texans in seasons to come. My optimism in his career path comes from his still-improving still set. He has been steadily becoming a better player for the last four years. Even if the production was not as abundant as expected, this offseason should be a big step forward for Foreman’s career.

Alfred Blue is a free agent this offseason and is likely to be let go. This would give Foreman sole possession of the RB2 spot with a good shot at an even rotation with Lamar Miller. This bodes well for Miller’s production, too. When playing for the Dolphins, Miller hovered around 175-200 carries per season. He still recorded a similar amount of production with the Texans when they gave him the ball 268 and 238 times in the past two seasons. Maybe less is more for Miller and more is more for Foreman.