POINT BLANK

Joel Blank: Texans should beef up backfield by taking a shot at Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson is worth a gamble. Photo by Adrian Peterson/Facebook

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.

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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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