I suppose we should have seen this day coming when Bill O'Brien was asked about D'Onta Foreman after the running back's 2018 return from the PUP list, and the head coach's answer was "Can he carry the ball more than two times in a row without having to go get a drink of water," O'Brien said. "What type of shape is he in?"
I suppose we should have seen this day coming when, last week, O'Brien was asked about running backs on the roster behind Lamar Miller, and he mentioned every last undrafted and street pickup crumb on the depth chart, and made ZERO mention of D'Onta Foreman.
Hell, given the Houston Texans' recent history in the third round of the NFL Draft (pre-Justin Reid), I suppose we should have seen this day coming the day the Texans selected D'Onta Foreman in the third round, because on Sunday morning, we all woke up to this bit of breaking news from John McClain of the Houston Chronicle:
The Texans placed RB D’Onta Foreman on waivers. They weren’t happy with his work habits. RBs on the roster are veterans Josh Ferguson, Buddy Howell and Taiwan Jones and undrafted rookies Damarea Crockett and Karan Higdon Jr.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) August 4, 2019
During camp, it was apparent Bill O’Brien wasn’t happy with Foreman. Asked after a practice about the third RB spot, O’Brien said, “Who’re the first two?” When Lamar Miller and Foreman were mentioned, he said, “Miller,” and went on to explain the backup job was “wide open.”— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) August 4, 2019
Ok, there's a lot to unpack on this situation, as the Texans prepare to spend a few days with the Green Bay Packers up in Wisconsin. Here are my four overriding thoughts on Foreman's release:
It's Bill O'Brien's world now, and thus, he must draw every bit of the praise and criticism.
Look, if Foreman had maturity issues and wasn't working behind the scenes the way the Texans want him to, then I have no problem with O'Brien (who is clearly calling the shots at this point, with no GM on the team directory, zero doubt) moving on from him, if he thinks it's what is best for the team. That's fine. However, this is not a sudden development with Foreman. O'Brien has known for some time that there have been work ethic issues with Foreman. So how does he explain their handling of the running back position behind Lamar Miller and Foreman this past offseason? How do you NOT use a draft choice on a running back, or sign a decent veteran (not a street guy who was still sitting there in June)? With Foreman's release, the RB position has drifted into malpractice territory.
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Well, now we know why they loved Alfred Blue so much, and perhaps why JD Clowney doesn't have a deal.
It's quite obvious that O'Brien is a guy who values the behind-the-scenes "grinder" qualities almost as much as he does the talent on the field (and therefore, he may be overvaluing those "grinder" qualities). On the "O'Brien good list" side of the ledger, that's how you explain Alfred Blue sticking with this team for five seasons when he is about the least threatening running back to an opposing defense in the AFC. On the flip side, this release of Foreman for "work habit" issues may shed some light on exactly why O'Brien doesn't see Clowney as the caliber of player that Clowney's camp sees. Perhaps those rumors of Clowney not possessing those elusive "worker bee" qualities, in the eyes of O'Brien at least, are true. At the very least, Foreman's release shows how O'Brien prioritizes work ethic and professionalism. I'm not saying he would cut Clowney over similar things, but I am guessing that he would hold off from giving him a long term deal for those types of things.
If you're Karan Hidden or Damarea Crockett, you woke up Sunday with the opportunity of a lifetime.
So now, behind Lamar Miller, the RB depth chart is thrown wide open. Among guys who have taken NFL snaps before, you have Buddy Howell, Taiwan Jones, and Josh Ferguson. Howell is largely a special teams guy (zero offensive snaps last year), Jones is 31 years old and was signed in May, and Ferguson has been mentioned by O'Brien mostly for his third down skills. This opens the door for two undrafted rookies, Karan Higdon out of Michigan and Damarea Crockett out of Missouri. Both have shown flashes in training camp thus far, and this battle will be one of the top storylines to follow on Thursday night when the Texans face the Packers. If you recall, back in 2009, there were two very productive collegiate players in Texans camp as undrafted free agents. one was Jeremiah Johnson out of Oregon. He was eventually waived. The other was Arian Foster. He went on to become the third greatest player in franchise history.
If you're Kahale Warring, you should be scared $%&#less.
So we've established that Bill O'Brien is not very good at hiding his feelings when it comes to players in his doghouse. D'Onta Foreman knows that better than anybody, especially after this morning's news. If I'm third round rookie tight end Kahale Warring, I am sitting up as straight as possible in meetings, and I am only missing practice if I've been dismembered. With Foreman gone, Warring now inherits the top of the O'Brien Doghouse Power Rankings. By the way, what is it with third round picks? I mean, clearly the third round is the fuzzy boundary for O'Brien to say "Screw it, I know we drafted them, but we have to eject early on this guy." Louis Nix, Jaelen Strong, Braxton Miller, and now D'Onta Foreman. Warring, you've been warned. (By the way, with the very next pick in the 2019 draft, the Patriots took Alabama's Damien Harris, a very good college RB from the quintessential NFL farm system program. Just sayin'. Also, by the way, the Texans' foibles in the third round deserves its own post. Be back here tomorrow, people!)