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
”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