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O'Brien: Arian Foster can fill third-down role for Texans

Arian Fostertold us a couple weeks ago that the Houston Texans plan to utilize him out of the backfield more in 2014.

In the past, Bill O'Brien's offense has generally subbed in a third-down back with more passing game acumen. However, the first-year coach said Tuesday that Foster has the skills of pass-catching backs like Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead.

"The most important thing to do is to make sure that you look at the player's skill set and figure out how they fit your system or our system," O'Brien said, per the team's official website. "What we do is if we have a back for instance that is a three-down back like Arian (Foster) is, a guy that can play on first, second and third down, then you're finding ways to incorporate him into the passing game and the running game and it really works out well for your offense.

"In the past we've had guys like Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead in this offense that have filled those types of roles," he continued. "Now it looks like definitely Arian will be able to do that and more."

Faulk ended his 13-year career with 3,701 yards receiving, while in the last four years -- three with the New England Patriots and last season with the San Diego Chargers -- Woodhead has gone for 1,587 yards.

Oddly enough, in O'Brien's one season as offensive coordinator in New England -- his only such position in the NFL -- no back caught more than 18 passes (the Patriots went tight-end heavy in 2011).

After back-to-back 600-yard-plus receiving seasons, Foster is coming off years of 217 yards and 183 yards in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Last season saw him play in just eight games. 

With a dearth of pass-catching options behind Foster, O'Brien views the 27-year-old, who is coming off back surgery, as a three-down player.

"He's got really good hand-eye coordination," the coach said. "He's got good hands. He's an instinctive player. He has a good idea about how to get open. He enjoys being involved in the passing game, both in protection bases and obviously on routes. He's had a good OTA period for us."

While fantasy football players might be skittish about trusting the running back after an injury-plagued year, O'Brien plans to ride Foster.

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