The state of the Texans running back group is strong. Stole a bit from the State of the Union, I know, but the running back position has to be the strongest, most established unit on the team. I'm not saying the other positions are in flux because most of them are strong as well, but not to the level of the backs. The Texans have had brief periods of stability at running back in the past with Domanick Davis and Steve Slaton, but those periods were brief and didn't possess the star power of this group. Don't take this current group for granted, remember the days of Jonathan Wells, Stacey Mack, Tony Hollings, Ron Dayne, Vernand Morency, Samkon Gado, and Wali Lundy, and cherish what we get to watch nowadays.
Arian Foster - The best running back in the league. Foster can do it all and do it all at a very high level. He's got speed, agility, great vision, good hands, doesn't fumble, and can get the tough yards. He'd be a good running back in any system, but he's special in the zone scheme. Over the last two seasons, Foster has rushed for 2,840 yards (98 per game), caught passes for 1,221 yards, with 30 total touchdowns. Foster is the perfect one-cut zone-blocking running back and has a chance to establish himself as an all-time great if he stays healthy over the next 3-5 years.
Ben Tate - While only starting twice, Tate racked up 942 yards on 5.4 yards per carry last season; an impressive total for a backup. If Tate were a full-time starter, I have no doubt he could put up numbers close to 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns, but there is a noticeable drop off from Foster to Tate in my opinion. Specifically, Tate doesn't possess the vision for the cut back lanes that Foster exploits so often. When Tate made his two starts for Foster early last season, he routinely left yards on the field so to speak by running up the back of his blocker into the defense, when a gaping hole had developed on the backside. That seems like a skill that you either have or you don't, I'm not sure he can be coached in to seeing those cutback lanes.
Justin Forsett - He obviously won't get many carries, but should provide them with quality depth behind Foster and Tate. Over the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Forsett averaged 4.9 yards per carry in a reserve role with the Seahawks. A good signing to replace the retired Derrick Ward.
James Casey - Will also play some tight end, but in the absence of Lawrence Vickers, will likely spend the bulk of his time at fullback. Either way, he's a versatile athlete who when used correctly, is a nightmare matchup for opposing teams. Casey isn't the blocker that Vickers or Leach was before him, but he's good enough to get the job done and what he provides as a receiver more than makes up for any shortcomings as a blocker.
Not only does this group provide the Texans with yards on the ground, but their entire passing game revolves around play action, rollouts, and giving the defense a run look to open up passing lanes. Without a great run game, the Texans passing game suffers.