What Should the Houston Texans Do with Ben Tate?

Ryan CookContributor ISeptember 15, 2013

Sep 15, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans running back Ben Tate (44) warms up against the Tennessee Titans before the game at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

A week ago, the Houston Texans showed they are still one of the favorites in the AFC after a fight-back win over the San Diego Chargers in a second-half shootout.

On Sunday at home against Tennessee Titans, those same Texans struggled but pulled out another come-from-behind victory to put themselves at 2-0.

Ed Reed still patrolled the sideline, and the defense never managed to put together four consecutive quarters of hard-hitting pressure on quarterback Jake Locker. Kicker Randy Bullock missed two 50-plus-yard field-goal attempts and a potential game-winner, while Matt Schaub threw a pick-six with under five minutes to go to make the Texans' job harder than it needed to be. 

If you were to draw a positive from the Texans' Week 2 performance, it would be the run game.

The constant fight between Arian Foster and Ben Tate hasn't been this close, well, ever. And even though it may seem like it could turn into an ongoing problem, it's one that just about every team would like to have.

What all of this boils right down to is Foster's absence in team practices and training due to a calf and back injury, and the fact that he's only been participating in drills for about two weeks. Obviously, head coach Gary Kubiak now feels that Tate is the preferred starter, even though both players are sharing the workload pretty evenly. 

Unfortunately for Foster, Tate is looking like the better running back.

Against the Titans on Sunday he rushed for more yards on fewer carries than Foster (93 yards on nine attempts) and became Schaub's main target on short screen passes when Tennessee's safeties decided to play a little deep. 

At times Schaub also suffered in the pocket and was forced to scramble and make plays on the run. Foster has never been a bad blocker, but in comparison to Tate, he looked a little slow to react when the Titans sent an all-out blitz. It seemed Kubiak was more comfortable having Tate's bigger body in there. 

But of course, Foster has something that Tate can only hope he picks up, and that's explosiveness.

Don't take it the wrong way; Tate is a great outside runner who can bounce around tackles and make a play. Yet Foster once again showed the patience on Sunday to wait for a hole to open up and then turn on the speed that he's known for. 

Really, you just have to take a look at the Texans' game-winning drive in overtime to see where the Texans stand with their running backs. On one hand, Tate was brought in to pick up some big chunks of yards and keep the balance on offense, but Foster was the trusted running back with steady hands that guided Houston into field-goal range. 

Not to mention pushing the ball over the goal line to tie the game up in the fourth quarter, too.

If one thing is for certain, Tate definitely deserves a shot somewhere else if the Texans never intend to use him as their No. 1 starter. It's a tough reality for fans, especially since the two-headed attack seems to be working so well—but he clearly isn't happy playing second fiddle to anyone.

Houston probably won't be able to afford to keep Tate on the roster in 2014 either, especially if his value skyrockets this season and he ends up having a monster year. After two weeks of heart-attack football from the Texans, Tate stands atop the stat sheet as the guy who has been the most impressive on the ground. There's no reason we shouldn't see more of it in the coming weeks.

Whether things stay like that throughout the next 14 games remains to be seen though, and as Foster gets healthy, the chances of him keeping up with Adrian Peterson's yardage total slightly increase.

Still, even with past injury concerns, the Texans are feeding Foster the ball. Even if he is a little off, he's still making the big plays that count.