1-2 Punch at RB serves the Houston Texans' Offense Well

By Chris Shelton

It takes a confident player to mentally withstand the presence of a competent backup, especially when that backup could be a starter in his own right.

Hall of fame QB Steve Young knows the feeling of backing up a star. Perhaps Joe Montana still believes that the transition was to fast, but that’s besides the point.

For the Houston Texans running game however, a two headed monster is a perfect combination for their balanced offensive attack. Arian Foster’s burst and big play ability separate him from a grand majority of running backs in the league. The Texans obviously concurred, rewarding him with a long-term contract in the off-season.

For a tandem, a great number two is also necessary. Ben Tate certainly suffices that definition. Tate is a bruiser who fits the one-cut and go system the Texans run. He could be a pro bowler if he were a starter. Tate was almost a 1,000 yard rusher this past year, running for 942 yards.

When Foster was hurt for the first three games of the season Tate was the lead back and performed admirably. The second year runner had two 100 yard games and 301 rushing yards overall. Throughout the regular season Tate reached the century mark on the ground four times. Tate and Foster combined for 2166 yards.

They are the best ground tandem in the league bar none.

The situation works because they both challenge each other to be better players.

Their head coach understands the value of having this impressive pair.

“It’s so competitive because you’ve got a guy in Arian who has arrived as a pro and worked his tail off from being (an undrafted) free agent to becoming a Pro Bowl player and then yet he shows up every day. He has a young man who wants to be a Pro Bowler there pushing him (in Tate),” Kubiak said after speaking at a Touchdown Club of Houston luncheon at Reliant Center on Tuesday to the Houston Chronicle. “They’ve been very impressive throughout the course of OTAs and Arian looks exceptional but I think Ben may be one of the young guys who has probably made the most progress as a pro from last year to this year, so that’s good for our team.”

Carolina-D’Angelo Williams/Johnathan Stewart

There are other talented twosomes which deserve mention, for instance D’Angelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart. Both are good players and can take over a game. Both provide rookie sensation, Cam Newton with a viable option in the running game. Both, at this point of their career lack the game-breaking ability that Foster provides. Neither is as much of a threat in the passing game as Tate or Foster bring with screens.

Chicago-Matt Forte/Michael Bush

Matt Forte and Michael Bush will also present a huge challenge to opposing defenses. The addition of Brandon Marshall will stretch the defense and afford Forte and Bush more open running lanes. The combo is very compelling and talented. But Forte is disgruntled. You never know what to expect from disgruntled players.

Tate’s preseason injury in his rookie season thrust Foster into the spotlight. He became Arian Foster. He was the league’s leading rusher in 2010. The two now feed off each other.

“We’re both competitors, so you’re going to go out here and work every day to get better because every day you’ve got to get better,” Tate said. “He don’t want me gaining ground on him. I don’t want him gaining ground on me. It’s just always a competition. We’re always working to get better.”

The Texans were the second ranked rushing squad last year but they will probably not top 153 yards per game again. The team could be better offensively and rush for less yards per game with Matt Schaub’s return. Either way, Tate and Foster will be a dominant combination that will win many games for their squad. Not many teams can say that. That is a good thing for Texan fans.

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