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D'Onta Foreman 'adds balance' to Texans' run-first offense

HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans were a run-first team last season, due in part to poor quarterback play but also because their free-agent signing of running back Lamar Miller paid off.

The Texans ran the ball 456 times in 2016, continuing a trend of high usage under head coach Bill O’Brien; since he took over in Houston in 2014, the Texans lead the league with 1,479 rushing attempts in the regular season.

The Texans depended on Miller a lot; he had 74 more carries more than he did in 2015 with the Miami Dolphins, and including two playoff games, he had five contests with 24 or more carries, rushing 31 times in the wild-card victory over Oakland. While O’Brien said he doesn’t think the Texans overused Miller last season, he is hopeful third-round pick D'Onta Foreman will be able to “spell” their starting running back in 2017.

The addition of Foreman will crowd the backfield O’Brien and the Texans depended on frequently last season. Foreman will not only help relieve Miller, but the first- and second-down back will challenge last season’s backup, Alfred Blue, for the No. 2 job.

“[Foreman] adds balance to the offense,” general manager Rick Smith said. “[He] is a powerful runner, good vision, good feet, good foot quickness, so we like the addition for our running game for both those guys. Both those guys are high-character guys. Very impressed with our running back.”

In his last season at Texas, Foreman ran for 2,028 yards on 323 carries with 15 touchdowns en route to winning the Doak Walker Award, given to the best running back in college football.

“He was a very productive inside runner that broke a lot of tackles for Texas this year,” O’Brien said. "He ran to the outside. He ran to the perimeter. They attacked the defense with him in different ways, but he was a productive first- and second-down, tackle-to-tackle runner and that was impressive to me.”

Foreman is a powerful runner who is hard to tackle. The rookie said although he didn’t catch the ball much in college, he feels like that’s a “strong part” of his game. He also said because of the system Texas ran, he hasn’t had a lot of practice working on blitz pickups, but he thinks that’s the “biggest thing” he should work on entering the season because it’s such an important skill in the NFL.

Foreman will join the group of Miller, Blue, 2016 fourth-round pick Tyler Ervin -- who was primarily used on special teams last season -- and Akeem Hunt. Running-backs coach Charles London and the Texans kept four running backs to start the 2016 season, with third-down back Jonathan Grimes now departed.

The Texans aren’t sure what they will get at the quarterback position in 2017, as current starter Tom Savage has played in only five NFL games and started only two. Regardless of whether Houston’s offense gets more help from the passing game next season, it’s likely O’Brien will still be committed to the run in 2017.

“I think it’s just a matter of, No. 1, being able to control the tempo of the game, possess the football versus some of the teams we play,” O’Brien said. “I think all good teams, in my opinion, are measured by their ability to stop the run and also their ability to run the football. I think that’s a big part of what we do. We’ve done a great job of stopping the run on defense and we’ve done a decent job of running the football. That’s part of our philosophy. It’s not the only thing that we look at, but it’s definitely part of what we believe in.”