In Texans 101’s continued preview of training camp position battles, we move to running back, which proved to be a strength for the Houston Texans in 2011. Like the quarterbacks analyzed Wednesday, there isn’t much left to the imagination when it comes to the depth and playing time at running back. Arian Foster is the starter, he leads the NFL in combined rushing yards the past two seasons. Ben Tate is the number two after running for 942 yards as a backup for Foster. The Texans brought in former Seattle Seahawk Justin Forsett after informing last season’s #3 RB Derrick Ward he would not be returning. Lastly, the Texans brought in undrafted rookie free agents Jonathan Grimes and Davin Meggett following the 2012 NFL Draft.
At the top of the depth chart, Texans fans shouldn’t expect any changes from last year. Foster is going to get the bulk of the carries and playing time, but Tate is going to see his fair share of touches as well. Tate is perhaps the NFL’s best non-starting running back, and the Texans know it. The Texans’ entire offensive scheme revolves around a solid offensive line and dominant play from their running backs, so look for Foster and Tate to continue being the focal points of the offense. Both run well between the tackles and are effective out of the backfield as pass catchers, especially Foster. Last season, the Texans finished second in the NFL in rushing and baring injuries to both Foster and Tate, should finish among the top five again in 2012.
Justin Forsett will likely be the team’s #3 RB. Forsett is an interesting addition to the Texans roster because he doesn’t fit the same mold as the other running backs on the team, both in the recent past and present. In five NFL seasons, Forsett has only rushed for 1,287 yards (about 257 yards per season). Forsett has been more effective in the passing game and on special teams, which is where he figures to make his impact with the Texans. The positive is he adds a different dimension to the Texans’ backfield. The negative is that he doesn’t exactly fit into the Texans’ offensive running scheme. This really isn’t a big issue because Forsett probably will not get many carries between the tackles or see much playing time in the backfield in general. What does become concerning is what happens if either Foster or Tate (or both) go down with injury. Both players get a lot of touches and each spent part of 2011 injured, so it’s not a far-fetched scenario. Because Forsett isn’t the same type of between the tackles runner, the Texans’ offense could hit a speed bump is Forsett is thrown into more action than the Texans anticipate. Texans fans should look for Forsett to make an immediate impact on special teams and some in the passing game, but should be cautious if Forsett is forced into additional duties.
Then there is Grimes and Meggett. Since the Texans value the running back position given its importance to the offense, the team will most likely carry one of these two on their practice squad. The Texans will probably keep the one that is most like Foster and Tate and thus best fits their scheme. Should either Grimes or Meggett really jump out and impress, it could make the injury scenario much less stressful since they could be called up from the practice squad and help fill the void left by injury. The Texans organization has already proved they can find hidden running back gems after the draft when they found Foster, so hopefully they strike gold again with either Grimes or Meggett. This is really the only competition at the running back position for the Texans, as one of these two will likely be cut following training camp.
In 2012, the running back position will continue to be a major strength for the Texans. Foster and Tate make up the NFL’s top 1-2 punch and Forsett adds a nice change of pace to the backfield. Grimes and Meggett have potential to surprise, but will probably start on the practice squad due to how crowded the Texans’ backfield is. No matter how the bottom of the depth chart shakes out, the Texans are in excellent shape at the running back position.
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