There was some uncertainty surrounding Texans running back Arian Foster coming into Sunday’s season opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
But when it became obvious Foster would not play due to lingering hamstring problems there was only certainty that the Texans running back position was in good hands. The Texans seemed to have better depth at tailback than anywhere else on the team this preseason and it definitely proved to be the case Sunday as second-year running back Ben Tate and Derrick Ward filled in seamlessly for the NFL’s reigning rushing champion.
Tate, making his regular-season debut after missing all of last year with an ankle injury, ran for an impressive 116 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries to help the Texans to a 34-7 win over their AFC South rivals at Reliant Stadium. Ward, who injured his ankle in the first half, added 39 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries before leaving the game.
“He’s got a chance to be a fine player,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said of Tate. “Step on the field and have a 100-yard or 116-yard day …
“He has explosion, he’s got big play capability.”
That was obvious from the outset as Tate consistently convert big runs that kept the chains moving. He scored the first touchdown of his career late in the first quarter on a two-yard run that helped give the Texans a 17-0 lead. Tate finished the first half with 61 yards and a 6.1 yards per carry average.
But he still had some more left in the second half, converting tough yards and adding an 18-yard run that got the crowd in Reliant on its feet.
“I feel pretty good but I’m still learning,” Tate said. “I think in the middle of the season I will be a lot more comfortable. The longer you play in a system the more comfortable you become.
“It’s not that I don’t know what I’m doing, but maybe I’m not as comfortable as I want to be.”
But he’s comfortable enough that Kubiak could possibly give Foster another week of rest as the Texans head down to Miami next week. Foster had been a game time decision coming into Sunday’s game, but he was in street clothes on the sideline for the game.
Kubiak said he will know more about Foster on Wednesday the team goes through a full practice.
“I think until he steps on the field there are some questions, and I’ve said that all along,” said Kubiak, whose team improved to 1-0. “Until he steps back out there we have to be concerned. He has worked very hard for the last few days and he’s worked again today a little bit.
“I’m glad that we were able to get it done without him, that was important.”
Tate proved that he is more than capable of back up who has enough burst to make explosive plays and the power to pick up the tough yards. But the young back also has to learn to hold onto the football. His fourth-quarter fumble helped set up the Colts only score of the day.
Kubiak those types of mistakes will clear up as Tate gains more experience.
“He needs to learn how, from a pro standpoint, to play week to week,” Kubiak said. “(He has to) go recover this week and be ready to go in Miami on Sunday. But he’s got a lot of ability.”
Note: In addition to Ward, the Texans also lost receiver Kevin Walter in the first half with a shoulder injury. Kubiak said more will be determined about both players status’ on Monday.