Last week, on my radio show on SportsRadio 610, my cohosts and I went through the exercise of listing our five most irreplaceable Houston Texans for the upcoming season. We each made our lists privately during the break, then revealed them during the subsequent segment. Well, all three of us had the same top two players, and we quickly realized that to keep the segment from getting boring we would have to hastily revise the criteria.
And so it was amended as follows — list the top five most irreplaceable Houston Texans not named J.J Watt or Arian Foster.
Sometime Monday night, while practicing in front of the 5,000 fans who made it out to the Texans' practice facility, Arian Foster injured his groin, injured it badly enough to likely require surgery that would put him on the shelf anywhere from 3 to 6 months. To grasp the damage this injury inflicts on the Texans' 2015 season, just go back and read the previous paragraph of this post:
"... list the top five most irreplaceable Houston Texans not named J.J Watt or Arian Foster."
Foster's value is indisputably on the same level of J.J Watt for this football team. Sure, around the league, evaluated in a vacuum, Watt is undoubtedly the more valuable commodity. He's the best defensive player in football. But for the purpose of the 2015 Houston Texans' winning football games, losing Foster does to this offense what losing Watt (God forbid) would do to the defense. It cripples it. Foster's versatility and ability to wring every yard and then some out of a play is the fulcrum upon which any semblance of Texans offensive efficiency is balanced. Losing him, on this team, is like most other teams losing their quarterback. Any way you slice it, this is a fucking disaster.
The ripple effects of Foster's injury are plentiful and profound:
1. The Texans are reportedly wasting no time bringing former Saints running back Pierre Thomas in for a workout, something I've been suggesting they do even before Foster's injury. For all the talk about Alfred Blue being a capable backup and flowery articles about his grueling offseason workouts, Blue averages barely three yards a carry for a reason. He's pedestrian. Thomas, Blue, Chris Polk, Kenny Hilliard. I need whiskey.
2. I think it's fair to wonder if Foster's injury impacts the way Bill O'Brien evaluates the quarterbacks. Of the top two guys, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett, Hoyer was likely the one who would be more reliant on a dominant running game. Does this turn of events compel O'Brien to actually open things up more with the passing game? And if so, would that favor Mallett? The game has now changed. It'll be interesting to see how O'Brien adapts.
3. This offense is clearly going to need more "short fields" in order to score. The pressure is now squarely on the defense to replicate last season's turnover bonanza. Moreover, the pressure is amped WAY up on the special teams to win the field position battle. (Finding a reliable return man would be an awesome start.)
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The most personal tremor felt from all of this is by Foster himself. He's all of a sudden veering at a 90 degree angle into Brian Cushing territory in terms of time missed. At least with Cushing there are specific instances of blunt force trauma to explain his travails. Foster's injuries are maddening in their randomness, and in the ultimate sad quasi-metaphor, Foster's physical well being is a lot like Foster's demeanor — the good days are great, but the bad days are bad, and they come out of nowhere.
Wondering what this means for Foster beyond this season feels almost like piling on, so we will wait and see how the recovery goes. He has one more year left on his deal, and given his sketchy health already, you could argue he's beaten the odds making it four years into the five year, $43 million deal he signed in 2012.
For now, we are all left watching Pierre Thomas highlights and wondering when the football gods will finally cut Houston a break.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.