The first bit of good news that Texans coach Gary Kubiak shared at his Monday afternoon press conference is that his team came out of Week 3 with no major injury concerns. Linebacker Mario Williams and cornerback Kareem Jackson are day-to-day with knee injuries, but Kubiak said both should be fine.
The second bit of good news: Running back Arian Foster could return in Week 4 after sitting out Sunday's loss at New Orleans with a hamstring injury. If he does, it would be a boon to a Texans offense that has struggled to score touchdowns in the red zone this season.
"I hope he's full-go, ready to go," Kubiak said of the plan for Foster this week. "We'll see. He was feeling good yesterday. Obviously, we decided to give him that week (off) this week, thought that it was the best thing to do as we go through this process with him. I know he's chomping at the bit today to get back on the field full-time, and we'll sit there and watch how he works, and hopefully everything's full-speed."
Foster was inactive in Week 1 and played in the first half in Week 2. The 2010 rushing champ practiced last week but watched from the sideline as the Texans lost 40-33 to the Saints.
"Hopefully, the extra week gets us to where we're not dealing with anymore setbacks and he's ready to go for the rest of the season," Kubiak said.
With Foster out for all but two quarters this season, the Texans rank 30th in the league in red zone percentage. They have scored a touchdown on just five of 16 trips inside the 20 (31.25%). They were 1-of-5 on Sunday at New Orleans, settling for four field goals by Neil Rackers from within 36 yards.
Last season, when Foster led the league in rushing yards (1,616) and rushing touchdowns (16), the Texans were fifth in red zone percentage (62.26). Foster averaged 2.53 yards per carry inside the 20, compared to the Texans' 2.12 average so far in 2011.
"I think we've run the ball 26 times in the red zone, (and) 11 times it's been a yard or less," Kubiak said. "We've got to be more positive down there when we're doing that. And then I think out of 10 third downs we've had in the red zone this year, seven of them have been over eight yards. So you're putting yourself in poor position."
Kubiak said that improving in the red zone will be a big emphasis this week. He started Monday's meeting with the offense by showing players film of the Texans' trips inside the 20 in each of their first three games.
"Down there, the field gets very small," Kubiak said. "Every yard is huge. Positive yardage is huge. When you're running the ball well, then you're keeping yourself from third and (long). It's just tough; we had a couple of runs yesterday that in my opinion we ought to score, but they didn't, so we've got to figure out how we can get 'em to score."
The Texans also have struggled to pass the ball effectively in the red zone. They rank 24th in the league with 2.08 passing yards per red-zone play. Last season, they were third with 3.82 passing yards per play.
"We had a couple of plays to make in the red zone (at New Orleans) versus man coverage that we've got to make," Kubiak said. "A couple calls gotta be better. So it's not one thing, it's not like saying, 'Fix this and we'll be OK.' It's, 'Everybody take your responsibility and let's see if we can be better against Pittsburgh.' So like I said, we've just got to improve upon it. No excuses."
Kubiak didn't blame the Texans' ailing red zone offense on Foster being out, but there's no question that his return could help the Texans find the cure.