Arian Foster vs. Ben Tate: Is There a Running Back Controversy in Houston?

Job TennantCorrespondent IINovember 8, 2011

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 06: Running back Ben Tate #44 of the Houston Texans rushes for a touchdown against defensive back Usama Young #28 of the Cleveland Browns on November 6, 2011 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

The Houston Texans have the best one-two punch at running back in the NFL, and it's not even close.  They have a two-headed beast that coach Gary Kubiak would be foolish not to unleash on every team for the rest of the year.  Foster is currently ranked sixth in yards per game, and Tate is ranked twelfth. 

However, in so many instances success breeds contempt.  In the myopic, Twitter-fed world in which we live, there are too many examples of people who can't see the bigger picture, focusing only on what is going on in their world.

That is not the case in the Texans' locker room.  After the second game where both Foster and Tate rushed for over 100 yards, Tate said, "I think it's great right now, the way the coaches, ya know got us going in a rotation."

That is not to say that Tate doesn't want to run down Foster (sorry for the pun).  "He don't really say much but I'll let him know that I'm always trying to come after him," Tate said.  This is in part a friendly rivalry (at least as friendly as it gets in the NFL), but it is also, and perhaps more importantly, a statement that Tate is not yet satisfied.  "I haven't reached my goals yet, I'm still working, I'm still striving."

Foster doesn't seem to feel too threatened by Tate, though.  Foster said, "We like to be each other's eyes...I try to share everything I know with him and vice versa ya know so it's a good thing we have going." 

Foster shouldn't have any reason to worry about Tate taking his job.  While Tate does have a higher yards-per-carry average (Tate is at 5.2 and Foster is at 4.3), it is on a much smaller scale.  Even with Foster being out for the first two games and most of the third, he has 57 more rushes than Tate.  Tate did miss one game, but since Foster has been healthy Tate is only averaging about eight rushes per game.

Foster also has 343 receiving yards compared to Tate's 40 yards.  This is a key aspect of the Texans offense, especially once Andre Johnson returns to the field.  Another key aspect that we have not seen as much of in Tate is pure breakaway ability.  Tate's longest run thus far is 27 yards, against the Browns, whereas Foster has run for 42 yards and, of course, had the 78-yard touchdown reception.

To be fair to Tate, part of that is dependent upon opportunities, and obviously Foster has had more.  Tate has had great bursts, but we haven't seen him pulling away from defenders as he streaks down the field.  That is something that is essential to any successful running game in the NFL today.

For now there is no controversy about who the Texans' best running back is or who will take the lion's share of the carries, but it wouldn't be shocking to see Tate get a few extra carries now that he has shown that he can consistently be a very good back in the NFL.