Texans Training Camp Preview: Running Backs

Jan 13, 2013; Foxboro, MA, USA; Houston Texans running back Arian Foster (23) stiffarms New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (37) in the AFC Divisional Round playoff game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Texans 41-28. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans have a number of running backs on their roster headed into training camp this coming Thursday. Besides Arian Foster and Ben Tate, the Texans have others who are going to be in a full-out onslaught for a roster spot at the tailback position.

The August camp will also include Deji Karim and three rookies in Ray Graham, Dennis Johnson and Cierre Wood. There is also fullback Greg Jones, who previously played the past nine seasons in Jacksonville.

Before the talk begins about the upcoming season, the stats from the ’12 season for the Texans were dominated by Foster, who rushed for a team-high 1,424 yards on 351 attempts. He averaged 4.1 yards per carry and scored 15 touchdowns on the ground and had two TD catches.

Tate had 65 attempts for 279 yards (4.3 ypc) with two touchdowns, in limited time, while Justin Forsett rushed for 374 yards and one TD on 63 carries. Forsett has since signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason.

Foster is entering his fifth season with the Texans with 4,521 yards and 44 touchdowns. Since ’10, Foster has played in 13 or more games per regular season, including a career-high 16 starts last season, where his longest run went for 46 yards.

May 20, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans running back Arian Foster (23) during organized team activities at the Methodist Training Center at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

The former All-Pro selection, Foster, also had 40 receptions in ’12 for 217 yards and two scores.

In two postseason games against the Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots last postseason, Foster rushed for 230 yards on 54 attempts. He rushed for 140 yards against the Bengals and 90 against the Patriots in the divisional round, scoring a touchdown in each game.

The Texans were eighth in the NFL last season in rushing yards with a game average of 132.7 yards per game.

As for Foster, running backs coach Chick Harris told houstontexans.com following mini camp, “I think Arian is more determined than ever to reach his goals of being better than last year and obtaining more yards in both the passing game and run game. He knows what he did the year before. He did not attain the amount of yards that he had prior, so therefore he’s gunning for it.

“He wants to get better, and better is put the stats on the wall, put possible championships on the wall. I think that’s what he’s looking for and what he should think. He’s approached his conditioning just outstanding this offseason. He’s worked hard at it, and I think he’s got a mindset to go on and be much better than last year.”

Harris went on to say, “He’s (Foster) a talented individual, he’s got size, good speed. He’s got tremendous instincts to run with the football inside the tackles. He has the ability to set blocks on the perimeter, on the outside and make good runs. He’s an extremely gifted receiver out of the backfield. He hasn’t even gotten close to what he can do.”

Now for the new guys on the roster, Karim signed with the Texans as an unrestricted free agent on May 15 after playing a total of 26 games the past three seasons, most recently three games with the Indianapolis Colts last year. His first two seasons in the NFL were with the Jaguars, where he rushed for 290 yards on 98 attempts.

Houston decided to have three rookies on the running back depth chart headed into camp with undrafted rookie free agents Graham (Pittsburgh), Johnson (Arkansas) and Wood (Notre Dame).

Maybe the Texans are looking to strike gold twice as Foster was once an undrafted rookie free agent by the Texans, as Tate enters the season in the final year of his contract.

May 10, 2013; Houston, Texans, USA; Houston Texans running back Ray Graham (37) works out at Methodist Training Facility at Reliant Stadium . Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

At Pittsburgh, Graham had his best season in ’12 with 1,042 yards on 222 carries with 11 touchdowns. He had 3,271 yards in his collegiate career. Graham is said to be average in his overall size, and had a torn ACL in ’11. His NFL comparison is Ahmad Bradshaw, as his second year off the ACL tear could give him the elusiveness and speed he once had, according to his draft scouting report.

Johnson rushed for 737 yards on 137 carries in his final season at Arkansas. In four seasons, he had 2,036 yards and 13 touchdowns.

In his scouting report, Johnson was compared to former Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner as he was described to have a “bowling-ball” look to his game, as his brute strength helps him get tough yards.

In his final year at Notre Dame, Wood (4.46 40-yard dash) tallied 114 carries for 742 yards and four touchdowns as Notre Dame lost in the BCS National Championship Game, finishing 13-1. In four seasons, Wood had 2,447 yards on 450 carries. He scored 16 touchdowns. He’s compared to Ryan Grant in his scouting report, he has “plus size,” but doesn’t play like a big back. He is said to have good vision and acceleration.

Topics: Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Texans

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