Finding Diamonds in the Rough Texans Backfield
A Texas Two-Step has now become a Western Waltz, as the Houston Texans' new backfield trio could certainly frustrate fantasy owners for the rest of the 2007 season. Starting running back Ahman Green (knee) and backup tailback Ron Dayne are now joined by journeyman running back Adimchinobe Echemandu. Green missed Sunday's Week 8 contest against the San Diego Chargers, and Echemandu seemed to take advantage of his time as he outplayed Dayne with fewer carries. Let the fantasy dancing begin.
Week 8 Results
Green pulled a fast one on his owners this week as he sat out Sunday's Week 8 contest against San Diego after participating in full Friday, Oct. 26. Dayne started in his place and finished with just 47 yards on 17 carries. Echemandu, however, took advantage of the situation on fewer touches, producing on all 12 of his utilizations. He finished with 62 yards on 10 carries and added two catches for 11 yards.
The resolution to this committee will likely rely heavily on Green's recovery. He has 232 yards with just one touchdown this season and has steadily declined since his season-high 73 yards in Week 1. In his last action, he ran for just 39 yards on 11 carries in Week 7 while adding five catches for 32 receiving yards. Green already missed Weeks 4 and 5 with knee problems, however, and the fact that he couldn't hold up after a full day of practice can't sit well with his fantasy owners. Knee issues also limited him to just five games in 2005 as he was placed on Injured Reserve in late October. In March the Texans signed him to a four-year deal after he turned 30; this investment means Green would likely regain his role as the premier back if and when he returns this season.
Until then, Echemandu trumps Dayne as a more versatile option to the backfield as a healthier version of Green. Team officials love his quickness and agility. Both were displayed last Sunday as Echemandu averaged 6.2 yards per carry and ended up with four carries of more than six yards, including a 20-yard scamper in the first quarter. He didn't merely benefit from garbage time carries - he was incorporated into the running attack throughout the game. Echemandu left Sunday's game with a hamstring injury but was able to return. This could be a sign that he might not be able to handle a full workload this soon. Before Week 8, he had not stepped on the field for a regular season game since 2004. In four games that season he compiled just eight carries for 25 yards.
Dayne continues to offer up his standard game of plowing into defenses with minimal lateral movement. He retains a modicum of value through his size as he's a physically prototypical goal line and short-yardage back. Dayne has little upside compared to Echemandu, because the opposition has seen more of the veteran. A typical Dayne afternoon comprises of around 50 yards as long as he has in the neighborhood of 20 carries.
The Texans will likely continue to look to the running game in the wake of some key offensive injuries. After returning from ankle and hip injuries, starter Matt Schaub (head) left Sunday's game after he was hit in the head on a tackle by Chargers linebacker Stephen Cooper. Backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels played for the second straight week, going 17-for-27 with a touchdown and two interceptions. He has thrown five interceptions in his last two weeks. Wide receiver Andre' Davis (rib) also left Sunday's game and did not return. With Schaub, Davis and wideout Andre Johnson (knee) banged up, Houston could rely on the backfield to take pressure off Rosenfels if he has to play in Week 9.
After hitting the road against the Oakland Raiders in Week 9, the Texans have a Bye in Week 10 before hosting the New Orleans Saints and visiting the Cleveland Browns. The upcoming schedule presents a reprieve for the Texans; after facing the Chargers, they should be able to open up their offense. The Raiders, in fact, have allowed a league-high 169.3 yards and two touchdowns per game against running backs over their last four contests.
For Week 11, the Saints present a stronger challenge; over the past four games they have allowed 74.2 yards per game without a touchdown against running backs. The Browns have allowed 101.3 yards per game to running backs, but their unit has surrendered just one touchdown to them over the last month (in three games played).
This puzzle hasn't been entirely pieced together; after the Bye week Green could reclaim his spot just in time to face two staunch run defenses. For Week 9 a healthy Echemandu looks like the best option against a vulnerable Raiders run defense. He has the most big-play ability for Houston, which is something the Texans will need given their long slate of injuries. If Dayne were to spell him for 10 carries, Echemandu could be more effective because he would remain fresh. Dayne could be used as a low-end No. 3 running back option for your fantasy team and could provide one or two goal-line chances, but don't count on triple-digit yardage. Keep posted on Green, who should be taken out of your equation until he heals and collects a solid game. He won't be expected to carry an offense immediately, though, so you have some time to stash him if necessary. Learn to pronounce the other name (Adim-Chin-NO-B Etchy-MON-Due, if you're curious), then put him in as a temporary offensive sparkplug this week.
Looking beyond, Green should probably be held onto at this point since you won't be getting any value in a trade, and he is too talented to simply be released. Dayne is a wise handcuff for Green owners, while Echemandu has intriguing upside going forward.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous publications, and recognized as a finalist in FSWA's awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he's on The Reality Check with Glenn Clark every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. He hits the airwaves every Thursday at 9:30 a.m. ET on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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