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Old 05-31-2011   #1
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Default Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

The quandry of too many good RBs. A problem? If so, I sort of like this problem............for once.

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NFL seasons, despite being only 16 games, are long endeavors. With every passing week, an NFL team changes remarkably. Just halfway into a season, a team’s roster, expectations, and fan support have likely shrunk or swelled depending on results.

Given that the NFL is such a dynamic league, it is understandable that 2010 rookie Ben Tate is largely forgotten, even by diehard Houston Texans fans. After the Auburn product broke his ankle in the first preseason game he was immediately placed on the injured reserve and never heard from again that season.

And what a season it was to be for the Texans. Some undrafted free agent running back that had spent most of the previous season on the practice squad named Arian Foster emerged as not only the starter but also the eventual league rushing champion.

So now that Foster is considered one of the NFL’s best running backs and a perfect fit for the zone running system, what does that mean for Ben Tate now that he is presumably healthy?

Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison made it clear that the starting tailback position belongs to Foster alone. When addressing Tate’s position in the Texans backfield, he had this to say:

“We’re going to give him the ball a few times and see how he does,” Dennison said. “We’re looking at it as he ended up with a redshirt year. He still has the ability that we liked to get him in the second round. We’ll take some turns. Obviously, Arian’s (Foster) our number one guy, and then we’ll go from there.”

It should also be noted that Derrick Ward, who emerged last season as the primary third down back to spell Foster, was unexpectedly re-signed just prior to the end of the league year on March 4th. This move came after Tate was medically cleared in February.

At first glance, all these bits of news combined don’t bode well for Tate. Just a year ago he was a fantasy darling because the Texans finally had a competent back to replace the ailing Steve Slaton. Now it appears he might be third on the depth chart.

I would caution anyone prescribing to this thinking though. As Dennison pointed out, Tate was drafted in the second round of the draft. This represents a large investment, especially for the Texans who had previously never drafted a running back prior to the third round.

Not only did they set the aforementioned benchmark for the franchise, but they traded up for Tate meaning that they saw very good value after trading down from their original second round slot.

Tate may not have been worth the pick for every NFL team, but the Texans considered him a perfect fit for their zone running scheme. Tate showed surprising speed at the 2010 NFL Combine when he ran for a 4.34 40 yard dash.

This straight line speed didn’t come with a lot of lateral agility to make defenders miss, but that’s not what the Texans want from backs. They prefer their backs to read the blocks, and once a decision is made to stick a foot in the ground and hit the hole. It was this very skill that made Foster so successful last season.

So presuming that Tate possesses the same physical attributes that got him drafted 58th overall, the Texans have a physically talented back with full year of exposure to the NFL, albeit from the sidelines. Watching both film and how professionals approach the game constitutes the redshirt year that Dennison spoke of.

The notion that Tate will have to compete with Ward is probably not true. Ward was more than serviceable last season, but he will be 31 this season. Also, his 6.3 yards per carry was fantastic, but it was more a testament to the offensive line and Foster softening defenses than anything spectacular that Ward did.

While I don’t have concrete proof to back it up, I believe that Ward’s statistics are misleading. Foster would tire from the numerous touches he got, and it always seemed as if Ward was brought in when Foster would be needed the most. Sometimes Ward would produce, but there was an obvious drop off from Foster.

Tate possesses the same tools that made Ward successful last year, but with more power and speed. After all, Tate is a full eight years younger at a position where age really matters. Re-signing or not, Tate is number two on the depth chart.

What will the workload share be like though? Last season Steve Slaton and Derrick Ward combined for 69 carries while Foster tallied 327, not to mention the 66 receptions. The track record for backs with 400 plus touches in a season staying healthy is not very good, especially if the workload is repeated.

I truly believe that one way or another, Tate will have more than 69 rushing attempts in 2011. Either Gary Kubiak and Dennison will wisely use Tate to spell Foster more, or they will stubbornly insist on placing the same emphasis of the offense on Foster and two seasons of overwork will take its toll.

I think that Kubiak and Dennison used Foster to the extent they did in 2010 because they knew the alternatives represented a huge disparity in talent. While Tate has not shown to be near the back that Foster has, he is much closer in ability and therefore the offensive brain trust will feel more comfortable giving Tate a larger piece of the pie.

All this is to say that I will be shocked if Tate doesn’t have more than 100 carries next season, and a decent amount of receptions that comes with being a third down back. One of the attributes that Tate possessed which allowed his high draft was his ability to pass protect and underrated receiving skills.

Does this mean that Foster’s production will decrease from the 1,600 yard benchmark he set for himself? Probably, but I think that would happen whether Tate gets a larger percentage of work or not.

If it was up to me, I would rather have both backs with good production than one with great production if it puts him at risk for injury. After all, individual stats don’t matter, only team ones.
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Old 05-31-2011   #2
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Default Re: Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

Nice find. The life of an NFL RB is notoriously short and violent. I would keep all three and not bat an eye.
Speaking of Foster, there were a few guys on here a couple of years ago singing his praises. I was wondering who the hell he was. For those guys that saw the diamond in the rough, good job. You nailed it with him being perfect for the Texans running game.
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Old 06-01-2011   #3
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Default Re: Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

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Nice find. The life of an NFL RB is notoriously short and violent. I would keep all three and not bat an eye.
Speaking of Foster, there were a few guys on here a couple of years ago singing his praises. I was wondering who the hell he was. For those guys that saw the diamond in the rough, good job. You nailed it with him being perfect for the Texans running game.
I really doubt I was the first one but I always said his highlight reels at Tennessee were awesome. I thought he was big, strong and had good enough vision to make up for the lack of dancing manuevers. And then as a pro he developed all of that even further, hence the rushing title.

Ben Tate has a lot of similarities to Foster. Big. Strong. Quick. I think he has the ability to be just as good as Foster....but the dedication? Broken ankle certainly doesn't help but we'll see how this young 2nd rounder bounces back; hopefully having 3 big RBs is enough to pound defenses into submission. Ward was more than competent as a backup, I think Ben Tate may just outdo that.
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Old 06-01-2011   #4
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Default Re: Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

Still say drafting Tate was a wasted choice and it obviously goes to prove that Smith & Kubiak didn't have a clue about Arian Fosters potential.
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Old 06-01-2011   #5
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Default Re: Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

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Still say drafting Tate was a wasted choice and it obviously goes to prove that Smith & Kubiak didn't have a clue about Arian Fosters potential.
Yep

And the 31 other teams were scrambling to get Arian into their camps.


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Old 06-01-2011   #6
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Default Re: Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

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Still say drafting Tate was a wasted choice and it obviously goes to prove that Smith & Kubiak didn't have a clue about Arian Fosters potential.
The one thing I like about Foster is his attitude that he has to work as if the team is looking for someone to replace him right now. If Ben Tate keeps Foster looking over his shoulder, Ben Tate would not be a wasted draft pick.

I think Ward's production is not skewed. The writer of this article may have failed to notice how he was the only RB that scored against NY Giants in that horrific game, the 40 something yarder he scored against KC to help bring us back in that game -a game where Foster wasn't himself, and in Oakland where he scored the first TD of the game on a 30 yard score and played the entire first half.

All that being said. I recall we put Ward in when we got inside the 5. The reason was to give Arian a breather and that Ward would be the big back to get us in the endzone and we lost a few games due to that. I think Ward gives us the 3rd down back we want, I think Ben Tate gives us the grinder we need. And if we can have a well rested and healthy Foster late in the fourth quarter and late in the season. We can pull out some wins.
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Old 06-01-2011   #7
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Default Re: Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

if tate still has that 4.34 forty speed then lookout, nothing wrong with rolling him out there
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Old 06-01-2011   #8
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Default Re: Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

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Still say drafting Tate was a wasted choice and it obviously goes to prove that Smith & Kubiak didn't have a clue about Arian Fosters potential.
Obviously not, since they beat out the Saints to sign him as an UDFA by offering an uncharacteristically generous contract for an UDFA.

Nevermind the fact that he went undrafted, despite his obvious potential. Nevermind the character concerns that have been noted by people involved with him at Tennessee, media members, and coaches on the Texans' staff.

Obviously Rick Smith and Gary Kubiak are wholly inept and had no idea that they had signed, developed, and coached a great RB. They were definitely not hedging their bet and safeguarding the position that had a high risk, high reward player on it.
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Old 06-01-2011   #9
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Default Re: Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

I totally disagree that there was a huge and noticeable drop-off when Ward came in last year. I'll concede that maybe the reason THERE WASN'T is because Foster already had them worn out, and I'll also concede that Ward is getting old for an NFL RB and doesn't have many years of real production left, but 6.5 yards a carry is NOT a drop-off from anything.

Let's not take away accomplishments that have already occurred just because a good player is not our #1 hero of the year.

I also disagree that Kubiak and Smith didn't see Foster's potential. They just didn't know for sure if he would fulfill it (because nobody really did) and what if Ward (a 30 yr. old RB) had been injured, Foster had been average and not-quite-up-to-his-potential, and Slaton had just sucked again (which he did @ KR)? Ben Tate's drafting had it's reasons and it's not going to hurt anything to have another good, young RB around.
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Old 06-01-2011   #10
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Default Re: Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

This is going to be a big season for us. Is AF a one year wonder, ala SS and DD(W)? Can Tate recover 100% from his ankle injury? CND can comment more on this, but a lot of ankle injuries are quirky as far as recovery. There are so many small bones, ligaments, tendons and nerves that a minute change can have exponentially larger effects. I don't remember the exact diagnosis, but I do know, in general, you're better off with a broken ankle than a severely sprained/dislocated ankle. Was there much soft tissue damage?
IF AF can be anywhere near as effective as last year and Tate can come back 100%, we have a 3 headed monster that will definitely churn out some yardage and control the clock.
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Old 06-01-2011   #11
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Default Re: Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

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This is going to be a big season for us. Is AF a one year wonder, ala SS and DD(W)? Can Tate recover 100% from his ankle injury? CND can comment more on this, but a lot of ankle injuries are quirky as far as recovery. There are so many small bones, ligaments, tendons and nerves that a minute change can have exponentially larger effects. I don't remember the exact diagnosis, but I do know, in general, you're better off with a broken ankle than a severely sprained/dislocated ankle. Was there much soft tissue damage?
IF AF can be anywhere near as effective as last year and Tate can come back 100%, we have a 3 headed monster that will definitely churn out some yardage and control the clock.
Virtually all ankle dislocations result in an accompanying fracture......something I stated when the Texans were saying it was "only" a dislocation. Once the MRI was in, a fracture of the fibula (the smaller bone of the lower leg was fractured). This is fortunate because it bears only 10% of the weight. Had it been a tibia (large bone of the lower leg) fracture, prognosis would be more tenuous since it bears 90% of the weight. An every day Joe can recover to normal activity in 3-4 months. Athletes can usually regain pre injury performance levels between 1 and 2 years, closer to the 1 year point with attentive concentrated rehab/strengthening. There is always that small factor of unpredictability..........and it certainly didn't help when the medical staff allowed him to try to walk off the field on his own power. But I think that Tate has an excellent chance to pick up close to where he was prior to injury by the time the next regular season game begins (whenever that is).
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Old 06-01-2011   #12
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Default Re: Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

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Virtually all ankle dislocations result in an accompanying fracture......something I stated when the Texans were saying it was "only" a dislocation. Once the MRI was in, a fracture of the fibula (the smaller bone of the lower leg was fractured). This is fortunate because it bears only 10% of the weight. Had it been a tibia (large bone of the lower leg) fracture, prognosis would be more tenuous since it bears 90% of the weight. An every day Joe can recover to normal activity in 3-4 months. Athletes can usually regain pre injury performance levels between 1 and 2 years, closer to the 1 year point with attentive concentrated rehab/strengthening. There is always that small factor of unpredictability..........and it certainly didn't help when the medical staff allowed him to try to walk off the field on his own power. But I think that Tate has an excellent chance to pick up close to where he was prior to injury by the time the next regular season game begins (whenever that is).
I didn't know that virtually all dislocations come with a fracture. I've been unfortunate enough to see a handful of dislocations and they are horrible for all parties involved. Thanks for that info, doc.
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Old 06-01-2011   #13
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Default Re: Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

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Nice find. The life of an NFL RB is notoriously short and violent. I would keep all three and not bat an eye.
Speaking of Foster, there were a few guys on here a couple of years ago singing his praises. I was wondering who the hell he was. For those guys that saw the diamond in the rough, good job. You nailed it with him being perfect for the Texans running game.
watching him run reminded me of emmitt smith, he is not overly elusive, although he does have some BA cuts, but he is very deceiving and good with his feet, also very hard to bring down. he rarely goes down with first contact. He runs kinda like Domanick Davis did except with MORE speed.
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Old 06-01-2011   #14
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Default Re: Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

Foster should return with same impact if reduced yardage due to other backs. I evaluated Tate with that speed and size as a "franchise"type back. ANytime you can get a Franchise in second round regardless of position, it is worth the pick. Ward is well worth the re-newed contract and did exactly what he was supposed to do, give Ward a breather, do not lose the ball and any yards is gravy to go wid de chicken.

Slaton, I hope to see him in a role more suited to him.
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Old 06-01-2011   #15
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Default Re: Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

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Foster should return with same impact if reduced yardage due to other backs. I evaluated Tate with that speed and size as a "franchise"type back. ANytime you can get a Franchise in second round regardless of position, it is worth the pick. Ward is well worth the re-newed contract and did exactly what he was supposed to do, give Foster a breather, do not lose the ball and any yards is gravy to go wid de chicken.

Slaton, I hope to see him in a role more suited to him.
I'm trying to figure out what SS's role would be. 3rd down receiver out of the backfield sounds good, but I'm not sure he fits the team. What's his contract status?
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Old 06-01-2011   #16
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Default Re: Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

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I'm trying to figure out what SS's role would be. 3rd down receiver out of the backfield sounds good, but I'm not sure he fits the team. What's his contract status?
Slaton's in his last year of contract..............only $555,000. They'l find a role for him or package him in a trade.
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Old 06-01-2011   #17
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Default Re: Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

Do they resign Slaton if he has a good year?
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Old 06-01-2011   #18
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Default Re: Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

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Do they resign Slaton if he has a good year?
The 2011 trade deadline would have been around the middle of Oct. They could extend it, if there is a season and it is royally screwed up. There is plenty of time before a decision is made for keeping or trading him this year..........unless the whole season is royally screwed up.........and still there is plenty of time.

And I wonder........if there is no season, a player theoretically cannot count this year in their eligibility for FA...........right?...............what a frigging mess!
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Old 06-01-2011   #19
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Default Re: Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

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Originally Posted by gary View Post
Do they resign Slaton if he has a good year?
A minor but comparable situation to Mario Williams.

Slaton could have a very productive year and still be a trade option that could bring a plus to team.
Mario could have a very productive year and still be a trade option that could bring a very big plus to team.

Being offered the right deal is the key.
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Old 06-02-2011   #20
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Default Re: Houston Texans: The Texans Redshirt Rookie Ben Tate

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Originally Posted by badboy View Post
A minor but comparable situation to Mario Williams.

Slaton could have a very productive year and still be a trade option that could bring a plus to team.
Mario could have a very productive year and still be a trade option that could bring a very big plus to team.

Being offered the right deal is the key.
If either one has a very productive year, what's the incentive to trade them? I can see the incentive with SS, being that it will be a crowded backfield, but that will hinder his production. If MW has a very productive year, in an entirely new position and scheme, I can't see it. The sky may well be the limit for him if he goes all Lawrence Taylor on the NFL next year. I can't see trading for anything less than the Herschel Walker deal. Who's going to do that? I doubt the Vikings will. The Lions might have, but Matt Millen is no longer on the team. Casserly isn't in anyone's front office, so that's a no go.
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