The Texans had the top running back tandem in the NFL in 2011. Arian Foster and Ben Tate both finished in the top-20 in rushing – Foster fifth with 1,224 yards, Tate 19th with 942. No other team in the league even had two 800-yard rushers.
Foster and Tate both ran for more than 100 yards in the same game twice, making them the sixth duo since 1985 to accomplish the feat.
"I think that it's a very wholesome environment to have two players that are very good players that are going to compete," Texans running backs coach Chick Harris said. "And they compete against each other every day. They have a good relationship, but they know that when they get on the field, it's work and it's competition. Both of 'em feel that they could be pretty successful, and they will challenge each other in practice. To have an environment like that with two backs that have been successful is very good, because that competition should bring the best out of 'em and it should bring 'em more success."
Foster made his second consecutive Pro Bowl in 2011 and earned second-team All-Pro honors despite missing two-and-a-half games with a hamstring injury and sitting out in Week 17. He led the NFL with 141.6 yards from scrimmage per game. His 285 postseason rushing yards were the most by any player in his first two playoff games in NFL history.
Over the last two seasons, Foster leads the NFL with 4,061 yards from scrimmage, 30 touchdowns and 26 rushing touchdowns. He ranks second with 2,840 rushing yards. An undrafted free agent out of Tennessee in 2009, he is one of five players in NFL history with back-to-back seasons of more than 1,000 rushing yards and 600 receiving yards.
"Arian's a three-down player," Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said. "It's hard to find guys these days who never leave the field. What he can do catching the ball can be just as dangerous as what he can running it in a lot of ways. He's very smart, excellent in protection schemes. Arian is just a very well-rounded player. He's been special."
Tate, a second-round draft pick in 2010, ranked seventh in the NFL last season with 5.4 yards per carry, just 0.2 yards off the league lead. He had four 100-yard games after missing his entire rookie season with an ankle injury. He became the 11th player in NFL history to run for more than 100 yards in both of the first two games of his career.
"Ben brought a lot of big-play ability to our football team," Kubiak said. "Arian is a big, physical runner. Ben is more of a speed-type guy. If Ben stays healthy, has a good offseason, camp, here's a player who can break out and become a top player in this league, also."
Fifth-year veteran Justin Forsett, signed by the Texans in May, has 4.6 career yards per carry and 97 career receptions. He will compete with undrafted rookies Jonathan Grimes (William & Mary) and Davin Meggett (Maryland) in training camp for the Texans' third running back spot. All three players have special teams ability, a prerequisite for the Texans this year in their number three back.
James Casey enters camp as the Texans' starting fullback. It's his second season at the position after starting his career at tight end. A fifth-round pick out of Rice in 2009, Casey now lines up at fullback and tight end and motions all over the field, giving the Texans a variety of looks on offense. He had 18 catches for 260 yards and a touchdown in 2011.
Also in the mix at fullback is 34-year-old veteran Moran Norris, a physical presence who played for the Texans from 2002-05 and was signed after a June 14-16 mini-camp tryout. The Texans have an intriguing prospect at the position in Derrell Smith, a converted middle linebacker who spent last season on the practice squad.