HOUSTON -- The last time Houston saw running back D'Onta Foreman on the field during a game, he was in the end zone at NRG Stadium after scoring his second touchdown of the game against the Arizona Cardinals last November. On that play, Foreman tore his Achilles and has been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of training camp.
On Wednesday, Foreman practiced for the first time this season, which opens a 21-day window for the Texans to move the second-year running back from the PUP list to the active roster or put him on injured reserve.
If Foreman can return this season, the Texans hope to get back the running back who was just starting to pick up momentum and had his best game of the season before his injury. In 10 games last season, Foreman ran for 327 yards and two touchdowns on 78 carries. Quarterback Deshaun Watson said if Foreman returns, Houston will get another "powerhouse" on offense. Texans running backs coach Danny Barrett complimented Foreman, saying he thinks his return could take Houston's running back group to the next level.
"For his size, he has good speed," Barrett said. "I think he runs with great pad level as well, which is always leaning forward -- falling forward I should say. It complements what we do on offense with the other two guys as well."
The Texans are averaging -- with the help of Watson, their mobile quarterback -- 120.2 rushing yards per game, which ranks 11th in the NFL. Starting running back Lamar Miller has run for 525 yards and two touchdowns on 125 carries this season and has caught 13 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. Barrett said Miller, along with backup Alfred Blue are a "one-two punch," and hopefully when Foreman is back on the field, the Texans have "a three-headed monster." Barrett pointed to the success the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles had when using three or four players in their backfield last season.
"When you get to this time of season, you're going to need all of your guys," Barrett said. "We're looking forward to, at some point, [Foreman] coming back to join us and helping us build on the success that we've already been able to accomplish."
In order to be on the active roster and play again this season -- and that's something Foreman said he's "confident" will happen -- Bill O'Brien needs to see the running back is in good enough shape to play. What is the coach looking for?
"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?"
O'Brien pointed out that before Wednesday, Foreman had not "done anything on a football field" or faced contact since he tore his Achilles nearly a year ago.
"We would have to really look at what he's able to do relative to what he did last year -- running the ball on first and second down, some of the different things he did in the passing game," O'Brien said. "He had a good year last year. That was a long time ago, so let's just ... see where he's at."
Regardless of Foreman's outlook, O'Brien said Houston's running game needs to continue to improve and show some consistency -- the unit struggled in Week 9 against the Broncos -- if the Texans want to keep having success on offense.
"I think in November and December, I don't think it's too much of a secret. I think you have to be able to run the ball," O'Brien said. "I think the running game is very important. ... We have to figure out ways every week to run the football and try to be balanced."