2010 Position Preview: Running backs


The following article contains excerpts from the 2010 Houston Texans Yearbook, the Texans' official season preview magazine, that goes on sale July 30 at Texans Training Camp, presented by Comcast, and the Go Texan Store at Reliant Stadium.

Running back
Who's here: RB Arian Foster (projected starter), FB Vonta Leach (projected starter), RB Steve Slaton, RB Ben Tate, RB Chris Henry, RB Jeremiah Johnson, FB Justin Griffith

Who's new: Tate (rookie draft pick), Griffith (free agent signing)

Who's gone: RB Ryan Moats (Minnesota Vikings), RB Chris Brown (free agent)

With Steve Slaton returning from injury, Arian Foster looking to pick up where he left off last season and rookie Ben Tate joining the mix, running back is one of the Texans' most competitive positions in 2010.

Foster (6-1, 229) enters training camp as the starter. A year ago, he was fighting to make the Texans' roster as an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee. He ran for 216 yards and three touchdowns in the final two games of the 2009 season and impressed Kubiak with his performance in organized team activities (OTAs) this spring.

Slaton (5-9, 199) dropped 10 pounds this offseason and is back near his rookie playing weight. He caught 44 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns last season, but gained only 437 rushing yards before a nerve injury in his neck landed him on injured reserve. After a cervical fusion operation, Slaton is expected to be healthy entering training camp and is looking to return to the form that saw him run for a team-record 1,282 yards as a rookie in 2008.

Tate, selected 58th overall in the second round out of Auburn, is the highest-drafted running back in Texans history. His combination of size (5-11, 220) and speed (4.43 40-yard dash) made him one of the SEC's leading rushers in 2009. He didn't participate in most of OTAs because of a hamstring injury, but he'll have a chance to make up for lost time during camp.

Rounding out the position are Jeremiah Johnson and Chris Henry. Johnson, an undrafted free agent out of Oregon last year, spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Henry, a former second-round pick of the Tennessee Titans, spent most of the 2009 season on the Texans' practice squad.

At fullback, bruising lead blocker Vonta Leach (6-0, 263) is entering his seventh season in the league and fourth with the Texans. He has developed into a leader in the Texans' locker room and was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2008 and 2009.

Leach had zero carries last season but posted a career-high 155 receiving yards on 20 receptions, including a seven-yard touchdown against the Colts in Week 12. He has 52 receptions for 366 yards in his three seasons in Houston.

The Texans signed veteran Justin Griffith after their June mini-camp. Griffith previously played for three different teams where new Texans quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp was the offensive coordinator (Atlanta Falcons, 2004-06; Oakland Raiders, 2007-08; Seattle Seahawks, 2009). Tight end James Casey played backup fullback in 2009 and could be an option at the position once again.

Spotlight on: Arian Foster
Coach's commentary"Arian possesses size. He's a 225-, 230-pound back, so he's a bigger back, quite naturally larger than Steve (Slaton), and he showed significant power in the games he played in the last part of the season. I think he's developed a lot of confidence that he can run between tackles, and he also has enough speed to get outside. He has a feel for pass protection. Very smart, and he adjusts real well on the run."
- Running backs coach Chick Harris

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