ARIAN FOSTER, Running back
Two years ago Arian Foster was an undrafted rookie on the practice squad bent on proving he belonged in the NFL. Now he's anxious to build on a breakout season in which he set franchise records in carries (327), touchdowns (18) and rushing TDs (16) while leading the NFL in rushing yards (1,616)—but not because he's worried about being seen as a flash in the pan. "I just think the whole notion of a fluke is ridiculous," he says. "I could see if I had one good game. But it was a whole season. And it wasn't just running and catching. I blocked, I read my assignments well, I graded out well every game."
One thing he and the Texans offense didn't do was start fast. With 390 points, Houston was among the league's top offenses, but it scored more than twice as many points in the fourth quarter (128) as in the first (53). The sluggish starts caused the Texans to fall behind early—seven of their 10 losses came after trailing by 10 or more points at halftime—and that put pressure on Matt Schaub (whose quarterback rating jumped from 69.6 in the first to 94.8 in the fourth) to rally the team through the air. Foster, who ran for more yards (412) and touchdowns (seven) in the fourth quarter than in any other, thrived under pressure too. But he wants to prove he can do it earlier. "The passing game has to work with the running game," he says. "When I'm on my A game, this offense runs a lot more smoothly."