Steelers' Bell appears to be off the table

Gaine's running back plan for Texans is clear: Miller,  Foreman expected to carry the load next year

Lamar Miller
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Texans general manager Brian Gaine made clear at the NFL Scouting Combine where he stands on his team's running backs and where he wants the team to go in 2019 with the position.

"We like the composition of the current depth chart," Gaine said referring to veteran Lamar Miller and third-year rusher D'Onta Foreman.

"Lamar Miller was our starting back last year, was a borderline 1,000-yard rusher. Unfortunately, he missed a game or two. He probably would've gotten 1,000 yards on the season – three-down back."

Is it safe to say Lamar Miller is the starter for next season?

"Yes," Gaine replied simply.

While Miller missed the 1,000 yard mark he achieved his highest yards per attempt since his rookie year. He's scored six touchdowns in each of his three seasons as a member of the Texans. His receiving numbers dropped off last season to some of the least impressive of his career. He is entering he the final year of the free agent contract he signed with the Texans.

As for Foreman, Gaine sees potential in the young back after finally getting back from his injury.

"We're optimistic about a very positive return in his contributions. We saw glimpses of that the previous season. Also impressed us in the passing game, so we're optimistic that those guys will be back and intact."

With Gaine saying the team would be "selectively aggressive" it doesn't seem a play at big-ticket free agent Le'veon Bell is in the cards.

"I'm always going to try to prioritize this, we're always going to try to keep our own, draft and develop our own, and try to sign our own guys to long-term deals before we look for external solutions."

Gaine could be scouting the next member of the running back room this weekend though.

"Then, we're going to evaluate the draft here coming up," he said. "Ideally, we'd love to have a committee backfield and have contributions from various players, but Lamar was a three-down back last year and we're optimistic that Foreman will return to full health."

Cody's Take

I don't hate this approach by Gaine. Lamar Miller, D'Onta Foreman, and a potential mid-tier free agent or draft pick is a fine running back room. I don't see how or why they'd get in the Le'veon Bell sweepstakes when they have to pay Clowney and a safety this year, key role players like D.J. Reader, and eventually Deshaun Watson. You don't need an albatross of a contract like Bell's on this Texans team.

They need someone else though. They can't lean on just Miller and Foreman like they did in 2018 with Miller and Blue. Getting someone in the building they trust is of paramount importance.

Trust is a reason Lamar Miller is going to be a rare NFL player who will play out his free agent deal as is. He isn't as frequently dynamic as he used to be but he is a fine part of a rotation. For some reason a lot of Texans fans think Lamar Miller's money is a problem for the Texans but he's only set to have a $7.2 million cap hit. Cutting just creates a hole you have to replace.

If D'Onta Foreman is close to the level of talent he possessed before injury he's the potential playmaker for the running backs. I am skeptical he's regained almost all of his ability but if it is true there is potential for him to lead the team in rushing next season.

As for the other spots I would love to see investment in either the second or third round in a running back. I like a lot of players in this class while I am not too fond of some of the veterans. Setting the room up for a Miller-Foreman-rookie depth chart in 2019 and Foreman-rookie-veteran in 2020 wouldn't be the worst move.

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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