Tag:Houston Texans
Posted on: January 17, 2012 12:05 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2012 12:08 pm
 

Coach Killers, Week 19: Drops, picks and sacks

Coach Killers is your postseason look around the league at those performances, decisions and "Wait, what did he just do?!" moments that ends Super Bowl aspirations and begins "So, where should we vacation?" discussions.

By Ryan Wilson

Jacoby Jones, T.J. Yates - Houston

Jacoby Jones is the easy choice here because in the time it took him to try to field a punt with his face, he swung the momentum in the Ravens' favor. The Texans' opening drive led to three points, and the defense had forced Baltimore to punt on their first possession. Then Jones happened. (To his credit, he fell on an Arian Foster fumble later in the game. It doesn't make up for his first-quarter punt but it's something.) But he's not the only reason the Texans lost.

Jones had a long day in Baltimore. (US PRESSWIRE)
It's probably unfair to call out Yates here; he's a rookie who played collegiately at a basketball school that had never produced a starting NFL quarterback. His 2011 destiny was to spend the season running the scout team during the week and sitting comfortably on the bench on Sundays.

Then Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart were lost for the season, the Texans' playoff hopes didn't seem far behind, and the offense was suddenly Yates'. And he played beyond everyone's expectations. Which is why we don't feel quite so bad for name-checking him now.

Against Baltimore, he was 17 of 35 for 184 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. And if Yates had found a way to complete just one of those picks to someone not wearing purple and black, the outcome of this game could've been different. In fact, midway through the final quarter we actually had this thought: What if Yates leads Houston to a win (easily the biggest in franchise history)? No matter what happens in the conference championship, he's now entered Matt Flynn airspace.

Which is to say: assuming that Schaub and Leinart are both healthy by training camp, the Texans could try to trade Yates to a QB-needy team and make a nice little profit on the transaction. (We figured they might be able to get a third-rounder out of it; not bad given that Yates was a fifth-round afterthought last April.)

But that daydream was short-lived. Ed Reed's ball-hawking abilities quickly brought us back to reality and guaranteed that come August, Yates will return to a backup role. For the time being, anyway.

Green Bay 'pass catchers'

Easily the worst-performing bunch of the weekend and it's not close. It's easy to blame rust as the culprit but it could be something much simpler than that: the Packers were off (Hey, Occam's razor). They also have terrible timing.

Bad hands and worse timing for Packers. (Getty Images)
Whatever the explanation, unless Mike McCarthy has a time machine, the fact remains that Green Bay's season is over and it's primarily because their usually sure-handed receivers dropped eight Aaron Rodgers' passes.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Lori Nickel pithily recaps what happened at Lambeau Sunday.

"James Starks, Tom Crabtree, Greg Jennings, (Jordy) Nelson and (Jermichael) Finley all had drops. Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant and John Kuhn all lost fumbles."

Nelson was dumbfounded after the game.

"For everyone to do it in the same game," he said. "I don't know . . . I don't want to say it's contagious. But it sure looked like it today."

Finely was more practical. "Trying to do too much," he offered. "We were trying to look upfield, trying to get the YAC, but first you've got to catch the ball."

However you choose to explain it, it was a horrible showing for a team that won 15 games in 2011. Silver lining: Somebody's getting something really nice with the Best Buy gift cards coming their way.

Denver offensive line

Any conversation about the Broncos invariably begins with Tim Tebow. But that's no different than at any other point in his career going back to high school. Tebow is many things to many people, and for Denver, for now, he's theirs starting quarterback. Even following a forgettable performance against the Patriots, seven days after his most impressive showing in two years in the NFL.

But Tebow's final line -- 9 of 26 for 136 yards, 5 rushes for 13 yards, a lost fumble and 10 measly points -- isn't just the latest example that he's a fullback who is occasionally asked to throw the ball.

We've documented in great detail his progress this season. Has Tebow evolved into a franchise quarterback in 13 weeks? No, of course not. But the Broncos learned quickly that the best way to make this relationship work is by accentuating what Tebow does well (the college offense Tebow ran at Florida) and throwing the rest of the playbook in the incinerator (the pro-style offense the team ran with Kyle Orton).

But it's not just Tebow who has to grow into this system, it's his teammates. Specifically, the offensive line, at least based on their performance Saturday. In general, the unit performed well this season, particularly when Denver ran the ball. According to Football Outsiders' metrics, the Broncos' o-line ranked 11th in run-blocking in 2011 but 29th in pass protection.

Clearly, some of that falls on Tebow, who struggles to make correct presnap reads, or work through his progressions after the snap. But against New England, the Broncos had 15 plays that lost yards -- both running and passing (including sacks).

This doesn't mean that Denver needs to overhaul the entire unit. But if the plan is to build an offense around Tebow and the option game, they need to find players that best fit that scheme.

New Orleans secondary

Jenkins' day was much longer than Jacoby Jones'. (AP)
There's plenty of blame to go around, on both sides of the ball, but underwhelming performances by Roman Harper and especially Malcolm Jenkins gives the secondary the edge. Harper was the closest player to Vernon Davis on his game-winning touchdown grab, and afterwards, the 49ers said that they noticed on film that Harper's tendency was to drop several yards into the end zone but never step up to the goal line. Davis ran to the goal line, Alex Smith hit him with a laser, game over.

But a lot had to happen before Harper even got the opportunity to let Davis make the play. Linebacker Scott Shanle never redirected Davis as he came off the line of scrimmage, and linebacker Martez Wilson just missed tipping Smith's pass.

Jenkins, meanwhile, served as Davis' metaphorical punching bag. The poor guys at Canal Street Chronicles relive the horror to provide the play-by-play breakdowns in those fateful final three minutes. The final breakdown was Harper's; the other two are courtesy of Jenkins' inability to stop Davis.

As Brinson wrote in Sorting the Sunday Pile, "You might want to pick on Roman Harper for getting worked over by Vernon Davis in the end zone on the final touchdown, but Jenkins is the reason the Niners even had a shot. First there's the teardrop Alex Smith dropped over Jenkins into Davis' outstretched arms before his now famous touchdown run. Then there's Jenkins coverage on Davis across the middle when he picked up 47 yards on the 49ers final drive. Burnt toast anyone?"

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Posted on: January 15, 2012 4:51 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2012 5:34 pm
 

Texans defense will lead them back to postseason

Houston's defense could be one of the NFL's best in the years to come (AP).

By Josh Katzowitz

No matter what happens with T.J. Yates -- and he most likely will return to backing up Matt Schaub next season -- the Texans have to be pleased (no, they have to be ecstatic) with the way the season ended.

Not with the final result today obviously, falling to Baltimore 20-13 in the AFC divisional playoffs. But with the successful introduction of Yates in the final seven games of the season, with the showing by Arian Foster that proved he wasn’t a one-year wonder, and, perhaps most impressively, with the young defense that dominated the Ravens offense for most of the afternoon.

On a third-and-inches late in the game, with Baltimore trying to seal the outcome, the defense stuffed Baltimore fullback Vonta Leach to give Yates one more chance to tie the game. Earlier in the half, with the Ravens trying to increase their lead on fourth-and-goal from the 1, Brooks Reed and Tim Dobbins met Ray Rice at the goal line for no gain. The Texans sacked Joe Flacco five times. They pressured him numerous other times.

They were nasty, they hit hard (as Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck made sure to point out on his Twitter feed after Houston stopped Rice), and they gave a preview of the future. As in, Houston could be the toughest defense in the league for the next several years.

Already, Houston received great news when defensive coordinator – and, in my mind, the assistant coach of the year -- Wade Phillips withdrew his name from consideration for the Buccaneers head coaching job. “My first priority is to be here,” Phillips said when he was still being considered for the Tampa Bay job. “I like it here. I love it here. You know we’ve had such a magical year and we’re going to keep it going so that’s my first choice.”

But on Saturday, look at who was making an impact. Reed had 2 ½ sacks. As did J.J. Watt. Connor Barwin was a beast, and Brian Cushing was all over the place. That’s a rookie, a rookie, a third-year player and a third-year player, respectively, in the Texans front-seven. Plus, with the vast improvement of the secondary with Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning, Houston’s defense will continue to be a special unit.

You know who wasn’t there, wasn’t around the last 13 games, in fact? That’d be former No. 1 pick Mario Williams, who tore his pectoral muscle in October. While Williams has been a standout defensive end during his career, he’s going to be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

Is it worth it to bring back a 4-3 defensive end into Phillips’ 3-4 scheme? Williams seemed to adjust pretty well in Phillips’ new defense (he had five sacks in five games, after all), but the Texans played damn well after he was lost for the season. The Texans will have to ask themselves if signing Williams to a big-money deal is absolutely necessary to continue their defensive domination.

On Sunday, the real problem was the Texans’ first-quarter jitters, Yates’ interceptions and Jacoby Jones’ disastrous punt-returning. But with Schaub, Foster and that nasty defense returning next season, Houston will be a scary team to face. And a definite Super Bowl contender.



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Posted on: January 15, 2012 2:43 pm
 

Texans recover in second quarter to tighten game

J. Jones had a rough first half (US Presswire).

By Josh Katzowitz

The Texans looked so good, so calm in their first playoff game last week in Houston, casually knocking off the Bengals in the wild card round. The running game was successful, the defense was strong and quarterback T.J. Yates managed the game nicely.

But in the first quarter of their first road playoff game in franchise history, they looked like they didn’t belong, falling behind by two touchdowns to a hungry, rested Ravens squad at home. But thanks to Arian Foster, whose 95 yards on 15 first-half carries is the most Baltimore has ever allowed in a playoff game (an entire playoff game, that is) and a Texans offensive line that bullied the Ravens defensive line, the Texans head into halftime losing only 17-13.

Considering how the Texans played in the first quarter, they’re lucky to be in the game. While Yates, who looked terrible, tried to get the ball to Andre Johnson, Ray Lewis should have intercepted his third-down pass, and on the next series, with Yates trying to hit the same target, Lardarius Webb picked him in Texans territory.

Jacoby Jones didn’t exactly help his squad, muffing two punts, including one that the Ravens recovered on the 2-yard line, and in the first quarter, Texans receiver Kevin Walter dropped a perfect pass on an out route that could have given his team the first down.

Yates didn’t look good, but then again, neither did anybody else on the Houston squad.

And though the Texans fell behind 17-3, they continued running the ball, and Foster rewarded them with some explosive runs and a fantastic one-handed catch. Behind 17-6 and with a third and goal on the 1-yard line in which Houston needed a touchdown to stay close, Foster went off right end, made a nice cut and barreled his way into the end zone.

“At this point,” CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf said when Houston was behind by two touchdowns, “T.J. Yates must feel like an inexperienced quarterback.”

Thanks to Foster, Yates probably feels a little differently right now.

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Posted on: January 15, 2012 1:52 am
Edited on: January 15, 2012 12:37 pm
 

49ers, Patriots pulling hard for upsets on Sunday

The 49ers and Patriots know who they'll be rooting for Sunday. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

The Patriots and the 49ers advanced to their respective conference championship games on Saturday. San Francisco did it with defense and a heroic effort by Alex Smith, while Tom Brady simply eviscerated the Broncos. And on Sunday, both teams will be rooting for upsets in a big way.

For the Patriots, it's hard to imagine that anyone can beat them if they play like they did on Saturday; Brady threw five touchdowns in the first half and that game was never really close.

Divisional Round Recap

And they're already locked for home-field advantage. Regardless of whether it's the Ravens or Texans they play in eight days, the game will take place at Gillette Stadium.

But given a choice between the Ravens and the Texans, it's hard to imagine the Pats wouldn't prefer facing rookie passer T.J. Yates.

Yes, the Texans defense is stout and, yes, the Texans running game is explosive and dangerous and two-headed.

But the Ravens are a brutally physical team that provides a tougher matchup and potentially nightmarish memories of the 33-14 loss to Baltimore in New England during Wild Card Weekend in 2009. Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith would at least, presumably, keep the Pats defense honest enough to let Ray Rice run wild.

The Patriots would have a much easier time bottling up Arian Foster and Ben Tate with Yates providing minimal damage.

As for the 49ers, neither option for the NFC Championship Game is great. Both the Packers and Giants present problems. But if the Giants were to upset the Pack in Lambeau on Sunday, that would put the path to the Super Bowl squarely through Candlestick Park.

For the 49ers, getting a second home game would be absolute gravy. They've been nearly unstoppable in Candlestick this year, with their only loss a 27-24 overtime nailbiter to the Cowboys in Week 2. Once this season, San Francisco's beaten the Giants there. It's a clear-cut advantage.

And, of course, there's the quality of opponent. The Giants are terrifying if you're the 49ers because of their fierce pass rush and the problems that could pose for Alex Smith.

But the Giants actually allow more rushing yards per game than Green Bay (121.2 to 111.8) though the Packers are the preferred defense if you're the 49ers. They're not the preferred offense though: while Eli Manning's elite, the Giants simply can't cause the kind of matchup problems that the Packers present.

And the 49ers already stopped Drew Brees and the Saints. They can stop anyone, clearly, but if they're picking between a the pair of opponents they could end up against, they would absolutely rather see the Giants in San Francisco than the Packers in Green Bay.

Which is why they, like the Patriots, are pulling for an upset on Sunday.

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Posted on: January 13, 2012 9:42 am
Edited on: January 13, 2012 9:44 am
 

Film Room: Ravens vs. Texans divisional preview


Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

The Texans are hoping they can do what the Ravens did three years ago: reach the AFC Championship with a rookie quarterback. Like the ‘08 Ravens, Houston’s rookie quarterback is a complimentary piece, not the focal point.

Gary Kubiak might be offensive-minded, but his current squad is built around the run and defense. Come to think of it, so are the current Ravens ... if they play their cards right. Here’s the breakdown.


1. Baltimore’s offensive approach
With Joe Flacco turning 27 next week and entering his eighth playoff contest, the manual says this is the time for the quarterback’s coming out party. But it’d be unwise of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to buy into that.

Cameron has been Flacco’s most boisterous supporter – and rightfully so. He and John Harbaugh have gradually loosened the quarterback’s reigns over the past three years and all but removed them this year. That approach has had its ups and downs, but through it all the Ravens have continued to win.

Flacco had a poor season statistically – his completion percentage dropped below 60 for the first time, which is why he averaged a career-low 6.7 yards per attempt – but he was also playing with more freedom/responsibility than ever. You can tell a lot about what a coaching staff thinks of its quarterback by the plays it calls.

Most fans just assume the black-and-blue Ravens have a safe, methodical passing game. In reality, much of what the Ravens do centers more around Flacco’s big arm. Instead of using Anquan Boldin primarily underneath, the Ravens often push the ball to him downfield outside the numbers. They use their tight ends down the seams and it’s not uncommon for Flacco to launch multiple bombs in a half, usually targeting rookie burner Torrey Smith.

It’s encouraging that the Ravens have opened things up, but in this case the numbers don’t lie: Baltimore’s offense is inconsistent through the air and survives primarily because of Ray Rice. The fourth-year superstar led the league with 2,068 yards from scrimmage. In Baltimore’s 12 wins, Rice rushed for an average of 100 yards on 21 carries. In their four losses, he averaged 39 yards on nine carries (and in those losses, the score was never lopsided, making Rice’s decreased touches hard to explain).

Rice is one of the league’s few runners who can consistently move the chains with power or go the distance with speed. His low center of gravity lends him superb lateral explosiveness. That’s deadly behind an effective zone-blocking line that features guards as mobile as Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda.

Will Joseph try to neutralize Boldin this time? (Getty Images)

2. Facing Houston’s D
If Cameron wants to win, he’ll work the offense through Rice. The Texans’ swarming front seven can be difficult to run against, but the Ravens have the game’s most effective lead-blocking fullback in Vontae Leach. He takes great angles to blocks and hits moving targets adroitly, which can help neutralize the downhill speed of linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing. The objective of the Ravens run game is to get the defense flowing laterally and allow Rice to cut it up inside.

Flacco won’t be irrelevant, of course. In fact, it’s not unforeseeable for Houston to bottle up the run early and for Baltimore to take to the air. Getting Anquan Boldin back from a knee injury is huge, as he’s a much tougher inside matchup than agility-based tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta.

The Ravens have the speed to beat teams downfield, but Torrey Smith is still raw and can be taken out of a game by an elite corner like Johnathan Joseph. It will be interesting to see who the Texans have their No. 1 corner defend. If it’s Smith, they theoretically eliminate Baltimore’s field-stretching prowess. But last time these teams met, Boldin was the one who caught eight balls for 133 yards. Wade Phillips may not be willing to surrender that again.

Regardless of how the secondary matches up, Flacco will have to play with poise. Even when they’re not sacking quarterbacks, the Texans pass-rushers are disruptive. Flacco was impressive keeping his eyes downfield and sliding in the pocket in the last meeting, but he’s still somewhat of a week-to-week player in this sense.

3. Test for Yates
All in all, T.J. Yates has done a commendable job keeping the ship afloat.

 Gary Kubiak did not ask a lot of the rookie in the wild card round. In response, Yates was somewhat reactive reading the field, but he capitalized when a big-play opportunity came about (Andre Johnson’s double move on Pacman Jones). He also did not turn the ball over (though it was lucky that Chris Crocker dropped a surefire pick-six in the second half).

This performance, however, came against Cincinnati’s 4-3, zone-based scheme, which was similar to what Yates saw from the Jaguars, Falcons and Titans in previous starts. Yates is yet to face a 3-4, or even a blitz-oriented defense. He’ll face both Sunday, when the Ravens show him things he’s never seen before.

4. Ravens secondary
One thing Yates has never seen before is a safety like Ed Reed. The future Hall of Famer is not just rangier than all of Yates’ previous foes, he’s much savvier. Most safeties force turnovers by baiting quarterbacks into throws on a given play. Reed will bait a quarterback throughout the game.

He’ll bite on the first route of a play in the second quarter; then in the fourth quarter, against a similar play, Reed will assume the quarterback knows not to try to fool him twice. Thus, while every other safety would play conservative and make sure not to give up that first route again, Reed will abandon that first assignment and jump the second route.

This is how he gets a lot of his interceptions. He’s a master at recognizing how offenses use certain plays to set up other plays. This is no different than a great chess player thinking four or five moves ahead.

It’s unreasonable to expect a third-string rookie quarterback to win the mental battle against Reed. Thus, the Texans might be hesitant to have Andre Johnson stretch the field too many times.

Reed isn’t the only noteworthy defensive back in purple. Lardarius Webb has had a terrific season playing outside and in the slot. Webb defends the deep ball as well as any corner, and he’s great at jumping passing lanes from over-man coverage. His versatility expands what the Ravens can do with their disguises.

5. Houston’s run game
It will be difficult for Arian Foster to get outside against the Ravens the way he did against the Bengals. Strong safety Bernard Pollard is too good as a downhill run defender and outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Jarrett Johnson are the best in the business when it comes to setting the edge:

You’ve probably heard the term “setting the edge”. Setting the edge is when an outside run defender (in a 3-4 it’s usually an outside linebacker) entrenches himself along the line of scrimmage or in the backfield near the offensive tackle or tight end. In doing so, he forces the running back to either cut back into the teeth of the defense or run parallel to the line of scrimmage (which allows time for other defenders to chase him down).

No outside linebacking duo sets the edge better than Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs and Jarrett Johnson. This snapshot offers an extreme example of fantastic edge-setting. Suggs didn’t just stalemate Duane Brown – he drove him back four yards.
(AP)

These days, the key to running on Baltimore is, believe it or not, attacking Ray Lewis. The 36-year-old Pro Bowler is still terrific at diagnosing plays, shedding blocks and wrapping up anywhere near the hash marks, but since returning from his toe injury (perhaps too soon), Lewis’s lateral limitations have been exacerbated.

When he’s going east and west, ballcarriers have little trouble bursting by him (especially when the ballcarrier hits the hole with as much authority as Arian Foster).

To get Lewis going sideways, the Texans linemen will have to have fully beat Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody and Cory Redding off the ball. Houston’s front line doesn’t have the strength to block any of those guys – especially Ngata, even though the 345-pound monster has looked less than 100 percent down the stretch – but as a cohesive zone unit, they can nullify them by quickly establishing favorable angles.

That’s exactly what they did against the Bengals, who can be considered a good “pretest” for a bout with the Ravens.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Divisional Round games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: January 12, 2012 8:49 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 8:56 pm
 

Report: Phillips withdraws from Bucs job search

Phillips likes it so much in Houston that it seems he plans on staying awhile. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has been as much a part of Houston's success this season as any other single factor. The Texans' D ranked 31st in 2010, according to Football Outsiders; a year in his system and the unit finished the 2011 regular season ranked eighth. 

When coordinators have success, that often leads to head-coaching opportunities. It's how Phillips got his gig with the Cowboys in 2006 -- he did a bang-up job with the Chargers as Marty Schottenheimer's defensive coordinator. So it wasn't surprising that the Buccaneers, which had just parted ways with Raheem Morris after three seasons, wanted to interview Phillips. The two sides were set to meet this Friday … except that it appears Phillips has withdrawn his name from consideration, according to ESPN.com's Adam Schefter.

Latest Coaching Rumors, News
This news comes hours after Phillips had talked about a future that involved meeting with the Bucs about possibly being their next head coach. But he also sounded like a man clearly torn about leaving his current situation.

“Well again, you know, my first priority is to be here,” Phillips said of the Texans, who are preparing to play the Ravens this weekend, in comments distributed by the team. “I like it here. I love it here. You know we’ve had such a magical year and we’re going to keep it going so that’s my first choice. You know I may not be their choice either, but I am gonna interview and you know take it from there. As far as distractions, they asked me two weeks ago, they asked permission to talk to me two weeks ago so we knew what was going on for two weeks, but we didn’t let it be a distraction the week before so it won’t be this week.”

Turns out, Phillips likes it so much that he's decided to stay. Or at the very least, not pursue the Tampa Bay job.

Meanwhile, the Bucs organization is still in flux. Thursday afternoon, CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Scott Purks noted that "Nothing is totally clear about the search for a new head coach, but the leaders for the job appear to be Mike Sherman, Marty Schottenheimer, Wade Phillips and Brad Childress -- in that order. Interviews with more candidates are expected in the next couple of weeks."

We can whittle list to three now that Phillips isn't interested.


The Houston Texans will square off against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. Which team will advance to the Conference Championship? NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz preview this game. Watch the game at 1 PM ET on CBS. 

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Posted on: January 9, 2012 9:42 am
 

Wild-Card Weekend podcast review

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

Well then. Wild-card weekend looked like it would lack the requisite drama of an NFL playoff weekend and then Tim Tebow happened. Oh no.

We break down the Broncos stunning win over the Steelers, wonder whether John Elway is screwed for 2012, debate whether the Steelers should be disappointed and discuss Tebow's chances against the Patriots (and the guy who drafted him, Josh McDaniels!).

Then we take a look at the other wild-card games, wondering if the Falcons need to make some changes and whether or not they lost the Julio Jones trade. We discuss if the Giants are capable of beating the Packers and then move to onto the Saints, who have to go outside. Can they win in San Francisco? Should they be favored? Did the Lions get hosed by the refs? Should they be excited about the future?

And finally we take a look at the Texans-Bengals game (it seems so long ago) and debate whether Houston's got a shot at upending the Ravens.

(Did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes? And if you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.)


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Posted on: January 8, 2012 1:44 pm
 

Report: Texans, Foster no progress on new deal

Houston could wait until next offseason to address Foster's desire for a long-term contract. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Even if you've been half paying attention to our various soapbox sermons this season (and we fully understand if you've instead chosen to ignore us -- get in line), you're probably familiar with this one: teams shouldn't pay running backs big money because they're easy to replace. We've said ir in the past and brushed off the argument in August when Chris Johnson held out for a new deal.

The Titans eventually caved, Johnson woefully underperformed and those four months of mostly dreadful football no doubt has Tennessee questioning the decision, but it also ruined any chance that young backs now looking for new contracts would be able to cash in.

Matt Forte, Ray Rice and Arian Foster are all among the league's best runners. And by the time 2012 rolls around, they'll make substantially less than they might have just a few years ago for the reasons we described above.


Foster on Houston playoff victory. Rookie J.J. Watt returned an interception for a touchdown, and Andre Johnson and Arian Foster put the game away with second-half scores to power the Texans over the Cincinnati Bengals 31-10 on Saturday in the NFL playoffs.

Foster, who came into the league in 2009 as an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee, began his career on the Texans' practice squad. He started one game as a rookie before going off last season, leading the league with 1,616 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. A hamstring injury limited Foster early in 2011, but by the time it was over he ran for 1,224 yards and 10 scores. In Houston's wild-card matchup against Cincinnati Saturday, Foster continued to make a case for just how important he is to this offense, rushing for 153 yards on 31 carries, including two touchdowns.

And yet, the Texans and Foster have "made zero progress" towards a long-term deal, a source tells ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio.

Foster will be a restricted free agent this offseason, which means that the Texans don't have to concern themselves with a multi-year contract just yet. Instead, they can sign him to a tender that what Florio suspects will be in the neighborhood of $3 million for 2012 and revisit things 12 months from now.

That'll be Foster's fourth professional season, which is something more than that when measured in running back years. By that point, Houston could chose to move in a different direction, one that involves Ben Tate, or perhaps address the position in free agency or the draft.

Still, Foster does have some leverage. Florio writes:

"If [he] receives a one-year tender offer, he’ll be entitled to hold out as long as he chooses, since he won’t be under contract. In theory, he could show up in Week 10, sign the tender, and get credit for his fourth season, becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2013."

Ultimately, however, the organization has more leverage. First, as we've mentioned a few million times, running backs are fungible. Second, Foster apparently wants to play football. He's not interested in sitting on the couch, Chris Johnson-style, while his agent bangs out a deal. Florio points out that Foster didn’t hesitate to sign his one-year tender offer in 2011, perhaps concerned that Tate might move up the depth chart in his absence.

Houston general manager Rick Smith has done a fantastic job of assembling the roster (particularly the 2011 defense, including coordinator Wade Phillips), but he'll have some decisions to make regarding Foster. If not this offseason, then certainly next offseason.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com