Texans stocked at running back

Arian Foster led the NFL in rushing last season, and Houston

Texans teammate Steve Slaton was the top rookie rusher in 2008.

Throw in Ben Tate, Derrick Ward and Chris Ogbonnaya, and a team

that once struggled to find a dependable running back is now


Foster was on Houston’s practice squad for much of 2009 before

last year’s breakout season, when he rushed for 1,616 yards and 16

touchdowns. He knows he can’t rely on what he did last year to be

successful in 2011.

”The crazy thing about this league is that – coach (Gary

Kubiak) says it all the time – that you have to prove yourself

every single day,” Foster said. ”You could lead the league in

rushing one day and the next day they’ll forget you fast. You have

to keep on making your mark.”

Foster sat out much of Friday’s practice after experiencing

tightness in his hamstring, but should be OK. It was a setback that

Kubiak said highlighted the need to have a deep group at the

position, as players get banged up throughout the season.

”We’re going to end up with four dang good ones and we may be

in a situation where we can keep five,” Kubiak said. ”So we’re

strong at that position right now, but y’all know how this works.

You come out one day or play one preseason game and you go from

having a bunch of them to something happening. So let’s just keep

our fingers crossed that they’re all going to be there at the end

and we’re going to have a good group.”

Slaton had 1,282 yards rushing with nine touchdowns as a rookie

in 2008, but hasn’t done a lot since then while dealing with

injuries and the emergence of Foster. He’s healthy now, and the

Texans believe he could add to the running game.

Tate was selected in the second round of the 2010 draft after

rushing for 1,362 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior at Auburn. He

was expected to see limited playing time last season, but missed

his entire rookie year after breaking his ankle in Houston’s first

preseason game.

”I’m very anxious to get back to a preseason game and get to

show everyone, the fans, the organization, teammates, what I can

do,” he said.

Houston has so many options at the position that the team may

not be able to keep all of them.

”He’s in a battle,” Kubiak said of Tate. ”He’s working as a

fourth guy right now and that’s a humbling experience. You come out

here after you miss all last year (and) it’s a very competitive

situation, and we’ve got a nice problem back there. So we’ll see

how it works out.”

Ogbonnaya spent last season on Houston’s practice squad. After a

successful career at Texas, he spent one season mostly on the St.

Louis Rams practice squad.

The 30-year-old Ward spent the first five seasons of his NFL

career with the Giants, where he ran for a career-high 1,025 yards

in 2008. He appeared in each game for Houston last season and

finished with 315 yards rushing and four touchdowns.

Quarterback Matt Schaub said a dynamic running game took

pressure off the passing game.

”It allowed us to control the tempo a little bit more, keep our

situations and our downs manageable … and we were able to execute

better in the red zone because the field is shorter,” he said.

”The defense doesn’t have as far to defend in the pass game, so

running the ball down there was of the utmost importance. It just

helped us keep everything manageable. So it helped me out