(Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)
(Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

Arian Foster: The AFC’s Mystery Man

His health in question and his presence looming large in the Super Bowl picture, the Texans’ running back insists he's feeling fine; why Rex Ryan guaranteed his firing; more

HOUSTON — Battle of the heavyweights here Sunday. When it was mostly first-teamers versus first-teamers through the first half, the score was the rejuvenated Saints (with some frisky new pups on defense) 17, Texans (minus J.J. Watt and Arian Foster) 16. If the Saints can play defense, they have a chance to play deep into January. If the Texans can get 16 games out of the idled Foster, they can win the Super Bowl.

Lots to focus on this week, the last week of my preseason travels and roster-whittling time around the league: The Decision Rex Ryan wishes he could have back, the OW and his friends in Jacksonville, the ugly situation between ESPN and the NFL over the concussion story, what the funky Eagles offense is going to look like. But let’s start here, with Arian Foster, the questionable man of the hour in the AFC pennant race … and in every fantasy football draft this week from coast to coast. I found him sitting on the counter of the Texans’ equipment room a half-hour after the Saints’ 31-23 win here.

The bizarrely undrafted Foster, of course, has been an incredibly productive back over the past three years, and one of the greatest values in recent NFL history. He’s averaged 95 rushing yards a game in his three starting seasons in Houston, and without him the ground-loving Texans would have to rely on Ben Tate, who they’re not sure can be a bell-cow type of back. Anyway, Foster missed most of the last three months of real football practice because of a strained calf and a sore back. He returned to practice last week amid concern he might be ready for the start of the season but not ready for a 325-carry grind. (Plus, of course, however many times he’d have to carry the ball in the playoffs.)

“I’m fine,’” said Foster. “My body feels great. I actually think all this time [off] might help.”

“Why?” I said.

“You ask any player: ‘How’d you enjoy the lockout season?’ Great time. You had a chance to train without [having to] practice every day. When you got back to training camp, everyone felt fresh. That’s exactly how I feel right now. Over the past couple of months I had the chance to just train and rehab and work on my body and didn’t have all those carries in training camp. Even during camp I got a long rest [because of the back injury]. It’s usually a grind. Now I feel fresh. I feel rejuvenated.”

foster-table

Foster was treated with injections to relieve pain in his back, and he said he’s pain-free now. His doctors cleared him to resume all football activity, and he said, “They think it’s over, but you never know.”

You get your body tired and worn down during training camp. When you don’t have that on you, you feel fresh. Getting some reps in practice, it does help you get your game ready. But when you get to a certain point in your football career, you know how to play football.

More than nursing an injury, Foster said he thinks sitting out a month of camp will pay off over the long haul of the season. He said he’d recommend anyone who plays a physical position in football have the bare minimum of contact in the time leading up to the season. “My body feels great,” he said. “It’s because I haven’t had the grind of camp.

Think about it: During the season, you never play football six days in a row. You get your body tired and worn down during training camp. When you don’t have that on you, you feel fresh. Getting some reps in practice, it does help you get your game ready. But when you get to a certain point in your football career, you know how to play football. Football is reactionary then.”

And you can react better if you’re fresher, Foster thinks. Let the debate between old and new school begin. Don’t tell Mike Tomlin this; he thinks you have to toughen up your players in camp in order to play tough during the season. But all of you out there prepping for your drafts—you’ll have to ask yourself if you’ve got the third or fourth pick and are thinking seriously of Foster, “Do I feel lucky?”

My advice (which is usually worth a used dryer sheet): I’d pick Foster in the first half of your first round.

Support cast is vital, but Texans’ Super Bowl hopes ride on Matt Schaub

***

The opener’s only 10 days away.

Takeaways from a busy weekend:

Table of Contents
What you'll find in this week's Monday Morning Quarterback:   Page 1—Arian Foster insists he's healthy after an offseason on the trainer's table, and extolls the virtues of what no training camp can do for a player; here’s a surprise: the Eagles are going to play fast; Saints rookies are shining, and they'll need to.   Page 2—As if there was any doubt, Rex Ryan signed his own pink slip over the weekend; five thoughts about the Jaguars; my take on the ESPN-PBS tiff.   Page 3—Quotes of the Week; tweets of the Week; Hall of Fame candidate Ray Guy's numbers compared to his punting peers.   Page 4—Ten Things I Think I Think, criticizing the preseason schedule and feeling bad for Kevin Kolb; the Adieu Haiku.
The Eagles could run 1,200 plays. That’s 75 plays a game, and it’s nine more than the oft-frenetic Patriots ran last year. The number of plays in NFL games has increased five years in a row; offenses like to use the no-huddle to limit defensive adjustments, and smart offenses figure it’s to their advantage if they can run it efficiently without getting overly fatigued. On Saturday night in Jacksonville, the Eagles’ first unit, which played until midway through the third quarter, didn’t show anything stunning. But they continued to play fast, without huddling. Of the 45 snaps Michael Vick orchestrated, only one came with the play clock inside five seconds. Mostly, Vick snapped with between about 21 and 15 seconds left on the 40-second clock. There was an 11-play no-huddle sequence late in the first-quarter on a Philly field goal drive; Vick ran twice on it, and jogged back to the line each time, getting the play call in the helmet and snapping the next play each time with the play clock in the teens. The guy’s got to be in fabulous shape. Now, Vick threw two brainlock passes during the game—one an interception, one while he was going down for a sack that was the classic careless Vick we’ve seen at times in his star-crossed career. And this was probably his worst offensive performance of the three preseason games, though his numbers were good. “The thing I’m most proud of is I didn’t approach this preseason the way I approached the last three or four years. I came to play,” Vick said. The Eagles will struggle on defense, but they’ll be a constant chemistry experiment on offense.

Eagles will play fast under Chip Kelly, but the pieces are an awkward fit

Two impressive things about the Saints. One: their rookie class. Kenny Stills, the fifth-round receiver from Oklahoma, made a great catch against the Texans down the left sideline on a bomb, and first-round safety Kenny Vaccaro has fit in seamlessly and shows good instincts around the line; he made a good tackle on a run blitz. Another first-year player (technically not a rookie), wideout Andy Tanner, made a fingertip touchdown catch from ex-Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin. But I liked the two defensive linemen who shone Sunday: third-round tackle John Jenkins, who has some Wilfork-type moves for a 350-pound man, and undrafted free agent end Glenn Foster, who had a sack and a quarterback pressure. How is someone as athletic as Glenn Foster not drafted? Probably comes from a decided lack of production—four sacks in 23 college starts at Illinois—but he looked promising Sunday. Two: defensive end Cameron Jordan, who had a sack and was buzzing around Matt Schaub for much of the first quarter. Jordan and J.J. Watt were the best big ends in the 2011 draft, and he looked to have some of Watt’s quickness, spin moves and strength Sunday. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan plans to move Jordan—son of former NFL tight end Steve Jordan—around on the defense. Sort of like last year. “I was a Swiss Army knife last year,” he said after the game. “I played everywhere. I think that’s how I’ll be used again, which is fine. I can excel wherever they put me.” The Saints need the combination of Jordan, Junior Gallette and Akiem Hicks (and the rookies) to pressure the passer. It’s essential if Rob Ryan’s pressured defense is going to work.

Just a little bit of defense will get Saints back into deep January

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188 comments
Ciscos
Ciscos

1. Eagles will be entertaining - and better than last year. 

2. Saints will regain their form and their swag.  They'll be better as well - offensively speaking.  Defense is another story. Not sure Rob Ryan's defense has been fully absorbed, but hey, they've got one more week then everything is for real.

3. Jacksonville for all of it's potential, is still a project and that starts at QB.  Not sold on Gabbert (injured or not) and I def believe this is his make or break year.  Gus Bradley is a Pete Carroll trainee - meaning, they'll be looking for another QB in 2014.

4. Buffalo will be better - with EJ Manual at QB for half of the season.

5. Tennessee - They remind me of the crazy uncle living upstairs in his room.  They'll make some noise, but chances are nothing will come out of it.

6. Jets - ready for a rebirth, but it's not going to happen. Too much dysfunction and Ryan will take it in the shorts. Expect to see Jets run at Nick Saban at the EOS.

7. Raiders - just throw Terrelle Pryor out there and take an antacid. He's going to make mistakes, just like the organization has for more than several years, but he's mobile, he's young and guess what? He's finally learned how to throw a pass. Even knowing that, he's a better option than Flynn - and considering the Raiders outsmarted themselves in drafting Matt Barkley, they might as well let him grow - or let him go.

8. Kansas City - Team to watch. Got a QB and got a re-energized head coach in Andy Reid. I said last year, watching him on the Eagles sideline and at the press conferences, he looked burnt out. He doesn't look that way now and that's good news for him, his family and the Chiefs.

9. Seattle - Team assembled to compete now. 

10. San Francisco - see Seattle above.

11. Ravens - Will "The Purge" do more harm than good? Dunno. Flacco is Flacco, but can he still be without Bolden who saved his bacon on more occasions than I can count.  Defense still dominates. Must be that Baltimore water.

12. Bengals - I know why Mike Brown agreed to be on Hard Knocks again. He was clowned the first time and he wanted to show they're headed in a new direction. I believe they are since he decided to leave the drafting of players to coaches who coach them. They've done well.  However, one thing for certain is Taylor Mays needs to stop talking about superheros or he's done.

sbello
sbello

It gives great hope and solace to all small business owners/armchair quarterbacks out there that even in the top tiers of business, the people running the show can make the dumbest decisions. This past week's trifecta of calamities will go down as a major stain to the reputation of ESPN, the NFL and what's left of the Jet's organization.  The winner in all of this is Frontline, a highly regarded news show on PBS. I look forward to watching its documentary on concussions in the NFL in October thanks to the NFL.  

Jerkzilla
Jerkzilla

The Jets are disfunctional, just like Woody Johnson's family. With lack of leadership at the top, you get nothing but chaos below.

NYCDIA
NYCDIA

What makes you think Rex Ryan was the one calling the shots in that game? Ryan is a lame duck in a lame duck organization.

More importantly, "Why wasn't a penalty called against the fool who took out Kevin Williams in the Viking, 49ers game?" Every play in the NFL today seems to lead to a penalty, yet here we have a young player with an obvious intent to go low on a veteran player and nothing happens. That is a disgrace and the 49ers own players should come out against that type of play. So NFL were is the fine, and or suspension?

Harry4naris
Harry4naris

Rip Rex for playing to  win but give Old Man Tom Coughlin a pass for "playing to win" by kicking a field goal to tie that game to send it to overtime, after he went for 4th & Short earlier in the game. Hack job. Jets D plus a modern NFL offense this year (non Tony Sparano driven) will win them 7 games this year.

MikeLittle
MikeLittle

Houston Texas a model organization???  After busting on the high #1 picks that they had?  Sorry but those picks should have taken them to the Super Bowl in order to be the model organization.

bmore19
bmore19

Re: The Jaguars new helmet.  It's probably the same person who designed your MMQB web pages - both make the eyes bleed.

jfpdroid
jfpdroid

I get tired of people saying that Sanchez had "won" the competition. He hadn't and they put Sanchez in for more reps. Geno's game was much better than the statline suggests and he showed escapability, accuracy and poise that Sanchez has not shown this preseason. What possible could can come from trotting the worst starting QB in the NFL out there again. There was a new depth chart posted by the Jets and Geno/Mark are listed as the 1. Mark has not "won" anything yet,.

drudown
drudown

But I thought smart teams try to lose in order to get such a coveted #1 pick?

/s/ the Colts

pol6ca2
pol6ca2

I bet most of the other people on the flight had their phones on or in airplane mode. Did you see that funny bit on Extra Mustard about that a few days ago?

vanonymous
vanonymous

@pol6ca2 Seriously :)

If simply having a cell phone turned on could screw with a jet's operations, I'd be pulling a Madden and taking the bus from now on!

kcopen
kcopen

@pol6ca2 The biggest sham being put upon the American people is being forced to turn our phones off on planes. I've flown with mine on 100 times and have to admit i get aggravated when i'm told to shut off my ipad when i'm reading a book on take-off and landing. Just figure it out airlines

llovette99
llovette99

PK just gave Arian Foster the fantasy kiss of death!

ChrisDuPre
ChrisDuPre

Did you even test the new website on iPad browsers? Takes forever to load and regularly crashes Chrome and Safari.


Newer isn't necessarily better.

RobertSmith
RobertSmith

Peter - What was "bizarre" about Foster not being drafted given what was known about him in 2009 -- not what we know in 2013?

What we knew in 2009:

Freshman - 879 yards. Arrested

Sophomore - 322 yards.  Injured.  

Junior - 1,193 yards

Senior - 570 yards.  Injuries. UT coaches preferred other RBs

Pro Day - 4.71 40-yard time and negative feedback from UT coaches about his attitude. 

Would you REALLY have used a draft pick in 2009 on someone with that history??

Mike26
Mike26

@RobertSmith Robert, anyone who couldn't see The Tree through that Foster Forest should be FIRED!!!!  Look how awesome he is - I mean, who COULDN'T have seen it?

DjangoZeaman
DjangoZeaman

The Streisand Effect in full force with the NFL concussion story. The more you try to cover it up, the more attention you draw to it.

dca44
dca44

no fantasy insights?

BeauBradshaw
BeauBradshaw

@dca44 if you read the article, it says that when deciding wether or not to take a gamble on Arian Foster ,because of the red flags and injury risks, he suggests you take him in the first half the first round of your fantasy draft...

Richard A
Richard A

Peter King displaying his anti-Raider bias again. Without Ray Guy you don't have all these punters with higher averages than Guy. He changed the position. The punters of today were influenced by Guy to become punters. Ray Guy changed punters went from an afterthought to a strategic weapon. PK is just looking at the raw stats. He is being totally ignorant when he states punting hasn't changed between now and 1973. In '73 they didn't keep stats for kicks inside the 20,  touch-backs, or net yards. Guy's influence created these stats. Has PK heard of the Ray Guy award. Guy was voted the punter for the National Football League 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. If he played for the Pats King would be raising hell to get him into the HOF.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@Richard A Yeah right. N O B O D Y   C A R E S. Funny you don't seem to want to address his Jerrell Wilson comparison. Even in his own time - when he was sooooo influential, there was somebody doing it better than him... Pretty sad (read funny) that the only thing Raiders-related people are talking about was some PUNTER 30 some odd years ago. Hilarious...

Richard A
Richard A

@Joebuckster @Richard A You are obviously a Chiefs fan. Wilson is never even remotely considered for the HOF. King is the only that brings him up. Ask the avg fan who should be in the HOF Guy or Wilson. answer, Wilson Who? When is the last time the Chiefs won anything, 45 years ago.

IvanAJagerbomb
IvanAJagerbomb

@Richard A - Ray Guy did not change the position...he was just really good at what he did....and belong in the HOF of course.

Knowitall
Knowitall

If Ray Guy would just come out as a Red Sox fan Peter would run his HOF campaign.

ProfessorGriff
ProfessorGriff

Jon Gruden = idiot.  guy sounds like such a hick

rskins09
rskins09

@IvanAJagerbomb @ProfessorGriff      Your  right ... He was the  Brent,  mushy mouth,  Musburger of the 1970's , 1980's on CBS ..   Every NFL player was great, stupendous ,the next Superman at his position...He was, then , a glorified cheerleader ..Felt like smacking  him and Jimmy , The Creep  was a big bag of wind who never told me anything on the air that I didn't know ...@rskins09 

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