Arian Foster's workload catching up with him, ruled out for Week 10
Despite a hamstring injury, Foster was able to suit up for last week's game against the Indianapolis Colts, but he was forced from the game early with an injured back. Foster still does not have an exact diagnosis on the ailment, and he is consulting multiple back specialists to find the best path to recovery. The ambiguity surrounding the diagnosis suggests that the injury is complicated, which does not bode well for Foster's chances of suiting up any time soon. The Texans have already ruled Foster out for Week 10, and his status beyond this weekend remains murky.
There was concern with Foster's health entering the season, not because of his injury history, but because of his past workloads. From 2010 to 2012, Foster accumulated an absurd 1,115 touches (371.7 per season), including a monstrous, league-leading 351 carries last year. The Texans knew how hard they had been working Foster, and with one of the top backup running backs in the league - Ben Tate - they entered 2013 with a plan to limit Foster's touches.
Despite their vow to decrease his workload, the Texans still fed Foster like crazy through the first six games of the year. In those six contests, Foster averaged 23.2 touches, which extrapolates to a 371-touch season - exactly the same workload he has averaged since 2010. Since that sixth game, Foster has left each of the Texans' two contests early with two separate injuries - a hamstring against Kansas City and his back against Indianapolis.
Foster has always dealt with nagging injuries, but he has almost always been able to play through them. In a fourth consecutive season with a massive workload, however, the wear and tear on his body may be becoming a bit overwhelming. This is why the Texans should be mixing in Tate - who averages 4.5 yards per carry, the same as Foster - more heavily.
The Texans will be forced to lean on Tate this weekend, as Foster will be in sweats on the sidelines. Tate is dealing with an injury himself, as he has four broken ribs, but he has been playing through the pain and will be suited up and starting on Sunday. Tate has always served well when given opportunities, as he averages 88.2 rushing yards in games in which he gets 12+ carries. However, he has gotten 12+ carries in only ten of his 34 career games. He's a near lock to top 12 carries this weekend, as he'll be the lead man in the Texans' backfield.
Dennis Johnson - an undrafted rookie out of Arkansas - will handle change-of-pace duties while Foster is sidelined. After signing with the Texans in the offseason, being waived, signing with the Browns, being waived, signing with the Browns' practice squad, and then finally signing with the Texans again, Johnson got his first NFL carries in Houston last week. He ran the ball eight times for 36 yards, giving him a 4.5-yard average per carry - the same as Foster and Tate this season.
Tate will be a solid fantasy play this week due to the sheer volume of his workload, but know that he'll be up against a stingy Cardinals defense allowing just 3.5 yards per carry - third best in the league. As for Foster, his status for Week 11 is very much up in the air. His status will likely be updated constantly as he visits back specialists.