Originally written on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 11/20/14
Running Back Duo Stands Out on Day 3 of Houston Texans Training Camp

The Houston Texans have perhaps the best running back tandem in the NFL with Arian Foster and Ben Tate. On Monday however, two other RBs stole the show with impressive practices as they compete for the third and perhaps final roster spot at running back. Newly acquired free agent Justin Forsett and undrafted rookie Jonathan Grimes both impressed yesterday, particularly Forsett. 

 In pads for the first time this season, Forsett was explosive running the ball. He displayed great vision and the elusiveness necessary to spot the open hole and accelerate through to the second level. In the Texans’ zone-blocking offense, vision is perhaps the most important attribute of a running back, so coupling that with the agility to make one cut and get up field makes for a successful RB. Forsett also demonstrated he can catch the ball out of the backfield, something he did quite frequently during his time with the Seattle Seahawks. Head coach Gary Kubiak has some glowing things to say about Forsett following practice, stating, “It was impressive. I told the team. You guys see it. What a pro. He comes out here, he can go all day. Very impressive in his work habits, knows what we’re doing. Those are the kind of guys you’re looking for to make you better. He let everybody on this team know today he plans on being here. That was an impressive practice.”

When the Texans first brought in Forsett, many (especially me) were very critical of the signing. The issue was that Forsett wasn’t the same type of between the tackles runner as Foster and Tate, demonstrated during his time in Seattle. Where most NFL rosters need and utilize that change of pace back, the Texans’ offensive scheme uses the running backs in the pass game, but it’s built off the zone-blocking game, mostly through play action. Foster and Tate have both been used in the pass game and demonstrate the qualities of a change of pace back themselves. Since the Texans run the ball so frequently and use their #1 and #2 backs tirelessly, the third RB is probably a much more important position for the Texans than it is for every other team in the league in the unfortunate event of injury. 

However, the zone-blocking scheme has a knack for making stars out of seemingly pedestrian running backs (see Denver Broncos RBs from 1995-2006). Perhaps Forsett’s inability to be that type of runner in Seattle was all about system. If Forsett consistently demonstrates excellent ball carrier vision and the ability to cut on a dime, he can have tremendous success with the Texans and an absolute steal of a #3 RB.

The coaching staff apparently also loves Grimes, who has shown the same ability to see a hole open up and hit it hard downhill. Since Grimes comes to the Texans from William and Mary (a smaller D1AA school), so the adjustment to the level of talent and competition around Grimes will take some time. 

Luckily for Grimes, since running back is such an important position for the Texans, there is a solid chance that if he shows enough during camp he could still make the practice squad, assuming Forsett continues his dominant play. It wont be the first time the Texans keep an undrafted rookie running back on the practice squad, they did so in 2009 with then little talked about Arian Foster. Paid off pretty well for everybody. 

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

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