March 19, 2018

1-2-3-4 Punch

Every NFL team is not fortunate enough to have depth at every position much less at one. If you are looking for depth on the Texans, look no further than the backfield the Texans have brought into the 2011 season. There is some reason to smile about what the Texans have on the roster, and there are some rival 1-2 punches in the NFL, like the Carolina Panthers (DeAngelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart) and Kansas City (Jamal Charles and Thomas Jones), but a 1-2-3-4 punch?

The Texans are heading into their season opener with the Indianapolis Colts with the NFL’s leading rusher nursing a sore hamstring, and is listed as questionable. Foster has been working slowly back into the swing of things since injuring his hamstring, once again, in the third preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers. Foster led all NFL rusher with 1,616 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns and in the preseason ran with a confidence that makes him look primed for a great season in 2011. Foster said this of his injury on Wednesday:

“I ran pretty well on it today…as close to full speed as you can get without going full speed. I was cutting. I was running and cutting, frolicking.”

If Foster is not 100% for the Colts the Texans will turn to back up Derrick Ward who averaged 6.3 yards a carry for the Texans in 2010. Ward rushed for 1,021 yards in the 2008 season for the N.Y. Giants and has rejuvenated his career in Houston after being released after a disappointing stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ward provides a veteran presence in a young talented backfield, and has a Super Bowl ring with the Giants in 2008 and provides much-needed leadership to the Texans. He too has been banged up this preseason after suffering a concussion against the New York Jets in the preseason opener. Ward provides a more than adequate option for the Texans zone blocking scheme, but he isn’t the only option either.

After injuring his ankle in the 2010 preseason, it is like the Texans added a running back in the draft because Ben Tate has come back healthy and ready for his first full season. Tate was slowed during camp with a hamstring issue too, and slowly worked himself into the so-called Gary Kubiak dog house. Slowly working himself back to the lineup and out of the Kubiak doghouse, Tate broke out against the New Orleans Saints which he ran through and around the Saints defense. He was not the 58th overall pick in the 2010 draft for no reason and he is Kubiak’s hand-picked back too. Tate alone could back up Foster, but is currently 3rd on the depth chart and looks like he and Foster in the early future could be a serious combination in Houston.

Then there is the wildcard of the bunch, Steve Slaton. Before there was ever a Foster, Ward or Tate, it was just Slaton, and he took the Texans by storm. In his rookie season of 2008, Salton rushed for 1,282 yards and 10 total touchdowns and finally gave the Texans their potential future back in Houston. Fast forward to 2009,Slaton came into camp bigger, so he could take the beating of a NFL running back, but the added weight slowed him down and a mirage of himself from 2008. Then add the fumble problem caused by a nerve issue, Slaton was quickly the scapegoat of Houston fans everywhere. He was shutdown for the season in 2009 and lost his starting job. This year in camp Slaton looked like a new version of his old self, and was looking great in camp and pushing for some playing time before a hamstring injury derailed him from playing in the preseason. The thought coming out of final roster cuts, is that Slaton would be cut but that did not happen and is currently apart of the Texans roster. Time will tell if he will be traded or not, but as of now he is in the Texans backfield.

The Texans are blessed to have four talented running backs on their roster that could start practically anywhere in the NFL, and here they are all apart the deepest backfield in the NFL. Whatever it took for Rick Smith to put this group together should be something to be proud of. Many other teams across the NFL would be in panic mode trying to scramble for options if their #1 running back went down, not the Texans. This is a luxury to have such a solid running back group and three of the four backs have rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season. No other team has that in the NFL, which makes the Texans the best 1-2-3-4 punch in the league.

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