Arian Foster has made a lot of people pay for passing up on him in the draft.
The Texans ultimately became benefactors by signing him as an undrafted free agent in 2009. Foster has gone on to become one of the premier running backs in the NFL, totaling 4,5657 yards and 45 touchdowns since entering the league.
He was slowed by a calf injury early this preseason, which has allowed backup running back Ben Tate to split carries.
Here's where it gets interesting.
Tate, a starting-caliber talent in his own right, is actually hoping to take Foster's roster spot, either this year or next. And so far, he's backing up the notion that he could assume the reins to the offense. The two have shared carries thus far, though Foster has still received the majority — by 37 to 18.
But what Tate has been able to do more with his 18 carries than Foster has with his 37. Tate has totaled 148 yards to Foster's 136. That's good for an average of 8.2 yards per carry from the backup, who fits the same style as Foster, a one-cut and go runner.
Baltimore's strength on defense has been stopping the run thus far. Tate will be someone the Ravens need to key on just as much as Foster.
"I'd heard something once, and it almost appears to be true, that Tate was going to try to prove to everybody that he ought to be the starting tailback," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees told reporters. "He sure looks like he's trying to prove it. Here are the two things about these backs: Even though they're a little bit different in style, the thing that really grabs your attention is when these guys make a cut, they can get to full speed faster than most backs. There are a lot of guys that make jump-cuts or do this or do that."
Texans coach Gary Kubiak's offense, which is similar to the one Redskins coach Mike Shanahan uses, always seems to plug in backs that aren't well known that wind up having success. A year ago in Washington it was Alfred Morris, a late-round draft pick out of Florida Atlantic.
Tate played college ball at Auburn, and Foster did at Tennessee. These guys were more well-known than someone like Morris, though they weren't coveted guys coming out of college. But both backs have fit Kubiak's system perfect.
"It's kind of like Shanahan last year with the Redskins," Pees said. "All of a sudden, a back you've never heard of has 1,000 yards. It's kind of the system. The thing about these two guys is once they make the cut, they can get to full speed in a hurry. They're both very, very talented."
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