March 20, 2018

2013 Texans’ Runningback Outlook

We look at one of the most interesting groups heading into training camp. There are only two familiar faces and plenty of rookies in 2013 which should lead to some good competition in training camp.


The Runningbacks



Arian Foster at OTAs.

Arian Foster at OTAs.

Arian Foster

After a calf injury sidelined him for the entire OTAs, Foster is said to be ready heading into training camp. He has been a media hiatus and staying away from the spotlight heading into the season. He looks much more focused from the small time he was at OTAs and looks much more fit than the previous season. With so many touches last season with the football, the Texans should be focused on cutting down his workload. He can do it all, run and catch the ball, but most importantly pass protect with the best of them. Foster is still one of the most important pieces of the offense.

There is no doubt Foster is one of the top running backs in the league and his production should still be at a high level, but he needs some help in the backfield.

Outlook: The bell-cow for the Texans offense and he will continue to set the tone in the running game.


Ben Tate

One of the biggest mysteries of the 2012 season, Tate seemed to hit the “Kubiak doghouse” at one of the most crucial points of the season. Hopefully, the new year will be a fresh start for the 4th year running back who is heading into his final year of his contract. The motivation is there for Tate to set himself up for a new contract “somewhere” in 2014 and it starts this season. Tate has been plagued by injuries since his rookie season and after a breakout 2nd year in Houston there are questions surrounding him. He is a gifted player who can run north and south and be a good compliment to the Texans running game. Only question is, which Tate will the Texans get in 2013?

This team is better off with the Tate that looks motivated on the field. The Texans are banking on a bounce back season from him.

Outlook: The Texans number two running back and will be called upon early to make a difference for the Texans.


Cierre Wood (One to watch)

The Texans snatched up Wood on the cheap side after the NFL draft and added a solid college running back to their backfield. With the third running back position open for the taking, Wood is a prime candidate for the job. Early impressions during OTAs make him the early favorite to be the number three running back when the season opens and the future backup running back in years to come. Wood looks like Ben Tate with the ball in his hands and actually looks faster on the field than his game tape showed at Notre Dame.

Despite holding the upper hand entering training camp, he will have plenty of competition from other running backs on the roster.

Outlook: Inside track to make the 53 man roster, but will have to prove his worth on special teams to make that jump.



Dennis Johnson, Runningback, #28

Dennis Johnson, Runningback, #28

Dennis Johnson (One to watch)

Only at 5-7 and 190 lbs., Johnson is one of the quickest players on the field. His lateral movement with the football is a site to see and his ability to turn the corner is impressive. Now it is time for him to do it in pads. Johnson is a well put together player but his size is a concern, especially in pass protection. He will have to show that he can hold up against blitzing linebackers to win over the coaching staff because his running style and pass catching ability should not be an issue.

He will win people over in Houston with his quickness and speed on the football field. His play making ability will be fun to watch.

Outlook: He will be the main threat to take over the third running back spot from Wood and that will be one of the stories to watch in camp.


Ray Graham

Coming off a knee injury he suffered his junior season at Pittsburgh, Graham entered his senior season not as explosive as previous seasons. Graham who is only 5-9 and 193 lbs. is at an upward climb especially with two better rookie running backs on the roster. He will have to take advantage of his time he has in practice to break though and take reps away from the running backs in front of him.

The Texans want to see what Graham can do but there is only a limited number of snaps to go around.

Outlook: Graham will have to impress but with Wood and Johnson on the team, time will be limited.


Deji Karim

Karim received a contract after making an impression at the rookie mini-camp to kick off the season. He is considered the elder statesmen of the running back group not named Foster or Tate. Entering his 4th season in the NFL, the Texans wanted a veteran presence just in case the youngsters do not pan out. His value is good especially with the fact he can return kicks, play special teams and be the third running back.

Karim knows the Texans are banking on the rookies to make an impression but that won’t stop him from doing what he has to on the field.


Outlook: The Texans know what they have in Karim and they will use him as the fall back option if the young running backs falter.



The Fullbacks


Greg Jones, #33, Fullback

Greg Jones, #33, Fullback

Greg Jones

The most underrated signing of the off season, Jones brings back the true fullback to Houston. Jones is focused on opening holes again for a running game that struggled in short yardage situations. He also brings some much needed attitude to a Texans’ offense that let opposing defenses take the punch to them at times in 2012. Expect better offensive line play with the addition of Jones because the fullback is an important part of this offensive system.

The offensive line has expressed their approval of the 10 year veteran.

Outlook: Expect a difference in the running game with Jones leading the way.


Tyler Clutts

A sports hernia slowed Clutts in 2012 that required off season surgery to repair. Clutts never really contributed on offense the way the Texans needed him to do when he was acquired via trade from the Chicago Bears. He played special teams sparingly and was still learning the offense as the season went on. Despite being on the team in 2012, coming to the team prior to week one put him behind the learning curve.

Still learning the offense, the Texans will probably get a better feel for Clutts during training camp.

Outlook: The Texans could possibly keep two fullbacks but the signing of Jones put Clutts in a battle to stay on the team during camp.


Zach Boren (One to watch)

The rookie from Ohio State is the definition of a football player. His senior season at Ohio State, he played fullback and inside linebacker for the Buckeyes and made an impact on both sides of the football. Boren will be asked to only play fullback in Houston and he has plenty to prove for the Texans. With two veterans in front of him, Boren will probably get some good work late in the preseason when the Texans decide to back off their starters.

At 6-0 255 lbs., Boren has the opportunity to make an impression that he can play fullback at the NFL level.

Outlook: The practice squad looks like his best option but if he gets the position down another NFL team could come knocking for his services.


You can follow Patrick on Twitter.  He is the Editor of State of the Texans.



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