Joel Blank: Texans should beef up backfield by taking a shot at Adrian Peterson
The biggest worry that Texans fans had heading into the upcoming season is water under the bridge—hopefully. Deshaun Watson is on schedule to be ready for training camp and should be ready to play in Week 1 of the 2018 season. Because of this, the backup QB is not as pressing an issue as it could have been, health permitting of course. On the defensive side of the ball J. J. Watt is also progressing nicely in his rehab, as is Whitney Mercellus. Both players are on pace to join Watson on the field when camp opens next month.
Thanks to all those encouraging reports, new GM Brian Gaine can check off a few more boxes on positions that would have to be addressed or upgraded through remaining free agents. He already added talent and depth to the offensive line which was his top priority, as well as upgrading the secondary with veterans Aaron Colvin, Tyrann Mathieu and rookie Justin Reid. So the only other position with question, one that is vital to the comfort of Watson and the success of Bill O'Brien's offense, is running back.
Every good offense needs a reliable and deep running game to sustain success in the NFL. We all know that O'Brien loves to run the football, maybe a little too much, especially when he loses faith in his quarterback or passing game. The Texans expected big things when they signed Lamar Miller in 2016 and for the most part he has been steady in his two seasons as the feature back. He hasn't been spectacular, but his ability to take the majority of the carries, as well as catch balls out of the backfield has made him a vital cog in the Texans offensive game plan.
The biggest problem has been his lack of big plays and the abiilty to break big runs during the course of games. His longest run last season was 21 yards after ripping off a 45 yard scamper in his first year. He also only logged three rushing touchdowns last season, although the low scoring and predictable offense could be at least partially to blame for that minuscule number.
Behind Miller, the Texans had a young workhorse in D'Onta Foreman, a rookie out of the University of Texas. Drafted in the third round, he was brought along slowly at first, but then showed that he belonged in the NFL with a punishing, physical running style and above average quickness. Unfortunately that all came to a crashing hault when he tore his Achilles in November. The other back to recieve carries was 4-year veteran Alfred Blue. He has proven to be a good special teams contributor and has had a few flashes of productivity when called upon to carry the ball in spot duty.
Overall, the depth of the Texans running game has been something to be desired, especially with Foreman coming off a severe injury. With all the work that has been done to improve the roster this off season, why not add a veteran back to the mix, at least for training camp to give the team some insurance if Foreman isn't able to answer the bell in the early stages of the pre-season? Why not add Adrian Peterson?
Adrian Peterson is a proven commodity in this league that has been an MVP with the Vikings, been to seven Pro Bowls and been First Team All-pro four times. He is well beyond those years of being a feature back and carrying the load for a team, but he still has juice in the tank and a desire to prove that last season was more of a fluke than the end.
Peterson split time between the Saints and Cardinals last season, including struggling to find carries and time in a crowded backfield that included the experienced Mark Ingram and rookie sensation Alvin Kamara. Once he got to Arizona he was immediately thrown into the starting lineup and given the chance to once again toe the rock on a consistant basis. In six games with the Cardinals he racked up 448 yards on 129 carries, while averaging 3.5 yards per carry. Not quite the big time numbers of the past, but still a steady contributor that proved he could still be counted on to produce.
AP is still unsigned and lives in the Houston area. He keeps himself in excellent physical condition and has expressed his desire to play for the Texans if given the opportunity. If you are GM Brian Gaine, why not give him a shot? What do they have to lose? Sign him to a make good contract that is loaded with incentives and low on guarantees as you give him an opportunity to help the team while he helps himself. His experience can help Foreman while it buys time for him to fully recover from his injury. He could also prove to be a steady and reliable backup to Miller that gives O'Brien a change of pace in spot duty. If it works out, Gaine and the team look like geniuses and if it doesn't, both sides can walk away at least knowing they gave it a shot.