2018 was a strange season for Houston Texans’ running backs. Late in his promising rookie season of 2017, D’Onta Foreman tore his Achilles, dashing the hopes that he’d be the presumptive “main” running back going into 2018; still, there was some belief that Foreman might contribute once he got healthy. Lamar Miller had been average at best in a Texans uniform (not entirely due to things within his control). Alfred Blue was...on the roster.
Well, what had happened was, Lamar Miller busted out with his best season in a Texans uniform, including a thrilling 97-yard TD run against the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football at NRG Stadium. Alfred Blue was the team’s third-leading rusher after Miller and Deshaun Watson. D’Onta Foreman missed most of the season, and then returned to uncork THIS performance:
7 carries. -1 yard. 1 fumble. I mean, what the HELL (trash emoji).
I guess he did have that one TD catch, so that’s something.
So a few BRBers chimed in to give their thoughts and hopes for the RB position in 2019. Here’s how that went:
As far as I’m concerned, the Texans need to be on the lookout for their next No. 1 running back. This isn’t going to happen via free agency (nor should it), as Le’Veon Bell will of course demand huge money. Plus I doubt the Texans would be interested. Kareem Hunt would be an interesting grab, but it’s safe to say the Texans will not even be in the mix unless Cal McNair is unexpectedly on a totally different wavelength than his late father.
D’Onta Foreman may or may not return to the flashes he showed as a rookie, but the one thing that is CERTAIN about Foreman is that in no way should the Texans move forward with the assumption that he WILL be that guy.
Lamar Miller improved in 2018, but he clearly won’t be around long term. The Texans, I’m sure, will consider cutting him this offseason even though the savings would not be huge. I think we would all be bigger Miller fans if he was getting more of a change-of-pace, heavier in the passing game treatment.
So this will come down to Brian Gaine. The league has been littered with successful mid-round RBs for several years now. After what I assume will be the shoring up of the offensive tackle and cornerback positions in the first couple rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft, Gaine should be on the lookout for the next (insert mid-round RB success story here).
Schematically, I would LOVE it if the Texans would devote resources and huge chunks of time in the film room to “creating” a weapon in the vein of what James White does for the Patriots (and Dion Lewis did before him) - but of course that change goes much further than just finding a player of that ilk.
My teeth are still a little dull, and this steak is too tough, but currently I’m in the camp of cutting Lamar Miller. They would save $6.2 million if they did. There’s zero point in paying a running back that much at all really, let alone one who struggles to break tackles and has never been fully utilized in Houston. Were there glimpses? Sure. But overall this season was underwhelming by how much Miller has been paid.
The one thing I am 100% sure of, more sure on than anything I’ve ever known, is Alfred Blue can’t stay here. If they re-sign Blue, I don’t think I can take it anymore. If Houston doesn’t give him a job, Blue is going to end up playing for the San Antonio Commanders next year. He doesn’t do anything well aside from moving his feet.
Looking at the current free agent class at running back, the only player I really like is T.J. Yeldon, who could be used as a pass catcher and outside zone runner. The rest of the class is whatever after the Le’Veon Bell drop-off and when the Redskins inevitably sign Kareem Hunt. Yet more players will be released and made available. As a non-college football watcher, I have no idea who’s available in the draft, but there’s always guys in the middle rounds who can make a difference. All of this, plus D’Onta Foreman fully healthy, and the cap space spread to the offensive line and secondary is better than keeping Lamar Miller around.
As a Miami Dolphin, Lamar Miller averaged 5.1 yards/touch. As a Houston Texan, Miller averaged 4.5 yards/touch, the latter of which is a number tremendously improved thanks to his 2018 season. In other words, a bunch of random offensive coaching scrubs in Miami were able to get far more out of Miller than the Offensive Super Genius here in Houston.
Sadly, and as much as I love D’Onta Foreman, I don’t think he’s the answer after his horrible injury.
I would keep Miller, stop using him like he’s the second coming of Jerome Bettis, and create more opportunities in space for him. Alfred Blue, of course, should be cut, fired into the sun, and then removed from the roster. Blue might literally be the worst player in the NFL today, no matter how much team paid sycophants try otherwise to paint his skills,
So, keep Miller, and find the next Nyheim Hines in the draft (he was drafted in the 4th round!). It’s a thing to find talent in later rounds.
Lamar Miller - While he hasn’t exactly done a consistent job of lighting the world on fire, the talent and skill is there - although it doesn’t really seem to justify the cap hit for next year. Still, when you’re taking a hand-off and trying to side-jump a defender who got into the backfield faster than the ball did due to an offensive line that can’t block a call, much less professional edge rushers, it’s a little hard to say anyone else would have better results. If Houston can fix the offensive line, get Miller to restructure so he’s not soaking up so much of the cap space, I think he could still shine.
Alfred Blue - to some extent the same things that hobble Miller prevent Blue from getting the job done at times. So far he’s never really brought the sort of “this guy NEEDS to stay on the team” sort of production people have expected. Fixing the offensive line and installing Blue as RB3 on a veteran-minimum deal might be beneficial.
D’Onta Foreman - When Kenneth Levy and I had the opportunity to interview Deshaun Watson last year, Ken shared how he had spent Foreman’s career in the stands at UT games watching him play. He laid out to me what he expected to see from Foreman going forward in his recovery from injury: a guy who would take longer than anyone wanted to see to recover and end up a shadow of his former self. At this point, no eggs should go in Foreman’s basket and Houston should be looking for a much better RB2 for the one-two-punch with Lamar Miller.
Le’Veon Bell - Some folks are predicting Bell will end up in Houston, and it’s hard to argue that he might be a big lift to the running back corps. Just like the Texans wanted nothing to do with Adrian Peterson, who clearly had a full tank coming into last season, Bell won’t pass the character test with the Texans’ brass. Next!
LeGarrette Blount/Latavius Murray/T.J. Yeldon/Insert-other-Free-Agent-Here - there are definitely enough interesting prospects about to hit the free agent market that Houston can reload the running back room with at least one solid ball carrier, if not two. Having someone who can hammer the A-gap a la an early career Marshawn Lynch would make a great compliment to Lamar Miller. The only sure thing here is Houston needs to bring in someone who can take advantage of the (hopefully) new and improved run blocking.
NFL Draft - There are a lot of guys Houston can target in the draft, but with so many needs at offensive line, cornerback and wide receiver (don’t count Will Fuller V or Keke Coutee as a sure thing at WR2 until proven otherwise), chances are if they do take a running back, it’ll be another flyer like Tyler Ervin that might not have the bell-cow ability Houston needs in 2019.
How do you feel about the RB position currently versus what you’d like it to look like in 2019?