Making The Grade: Running Backs
Texans' running backs report card
Now that the Super Bowl is over and the NFL is into the offseason, we’re taking a position-by-position look at the Texans. We’ve already looked at the secondary, tight ends, O-line and specials teams.
Today, we’ll take a look at the Texans’ running backs.
Stud: Arian Foster
Foster had another Pro Bowl level season in 2012. He finished with 1,424 yards (sixth in the NFL) and led the league in rushing touchdowns with 15.
For the third straight season, Foster had at least 1,200 yards rushing with at least 10 touchdowns on the ground.
Foster again came up big in the playoffs for the Texans. He carried the ball 32 times for 140 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals in the first round. He became the first player in NFL history with at least 100 rushing yards in each of his first three career playoff games.
Dud: Ben Tate
In 2011, we saw what Tate can do when he’s healthy.
In 2012, we saw that Tate has trouble staying healthy.
In his third season in the league, Tate was slowed down by a nagging hamstring injury and played in just 11 games. He ran 65 times for 279 yards with two touchdowns. The year previous, when he was able to stay healthy, he provided a great second option and ran for nearly 1,000 yards.
This season, Tate’s yard-per-attempt average was down more than a yard per run.
Tate’s history with injuries didn’t start in 2012. After being taken in the second round of the 2010 draft out of Auburn, Tate hurt his ankle and missed his entire rookie season after surgery. In his three-year NFL career, Tate has played in 26 games.
Free agents: Justin Forsett
Look ahead: There’s no reason to think Foster won’t be a Pro Bowler again next season. He’s been one of the most consistent players in the NFL since being named the Texans’ starter a few years ago.
There is the concern that Foster carries the ball too much, that eventually he might break down. He led the NFL with 351 attempts in 2012. He ran the ball 278 times in 2011 (sixth in the NFL) and ran it 327 times in 2010 (third).
In the past three seasons, Foster has more rushing attempts than anyone in the NFL. With 956, he has 99 more than Michael Turner, who's second on the list.
Going with that large number of attempts, it's no surprise that Foster has some of the best stats in the NFL in that timeframe. With 4,264 yards, he's second in the NFL in yards behind Adrian Peterson and is one of only two backs with 4,000 yards. But Foster has five more rushing touchdowns than Peterson since 2010 too.
Foster is signed through 2016 and will make $5.25 million next season. He's earning it.
This upcoming season will be the final in Tate's rookie deal. He'll earn $575,000 with a $844,000 cap hit.
So Foster and Tate will be back and the Texans will hope Tate can stay healthy. Where does that leave Forsett?
He was on a one-year deal that paid him $700,000 last season and he performed well. When Tate was down, he saw his production increase. He ran 63 times for 374 yards and a touchdown. The Texans probably wouldn't mind keeping him but he might have performed too well in 2012.
If another team wants to shell out some money to bring him in, the Texans might not deem it worthy to pay a lot for a third-string player.