Sound the horns! The time has come for Ben Tate to shed his elite handcuff status and step into the primary ball carrier limelight. With Arian Foster out of the picture for the remainder of the year, Tate will get his long-awaited opportunity to carry the burden full time and reward his patient owners (and to play himself into a lucrative 2014 contract). The third-year running back has been touted with heavy promise since his 942-yard rookie campaign – a total achieved in fewer than 12 carries per game in a change of pace role – and for good reason. BUT, the picture going forward is not all peaches and cream. Deep inside the numbers, there are reasons to be leery of a heavy dependence on Tate.
- Where’s Tate the bulldog? He’s carried the ball 62 times in the Texans’ last four games at a clip of 3.2 yards per rush. 15 of those carries, or 24%, have resulted in either no gain or negative yardage. According to Advanced NFL Stats, his Success Rate on the season is 36.8% (positive value plays), ranking 50th among 76 qualifying running backs.
- Tate has TWO 15+ yard runs all season on 103 carries, and ZERO since week four. Contrast that figure to 2011, where he ripped off 13 “breakaway” runs on 175 carries. Nursing broken ribs for several weeks, Tate’s big play ability has disappeared entirely.
- This was the unconvincing play sequence on Tate’s lone touchdown – six attempts to pick up five goal line yards:
3rd and 1 from five-yard line | no gain
4th and 1 from five-yard line | three-yard gain
1st and GL from two-yard line | one-yard gain
2nd and GL from one-yard line | no gain
3rd and GL from one-yard line | no gain
4th and GL from one-yard line | one-yard TD
- The 2013 Texans have no offensive identity. Their greatest strength since Arian Foster emerged as a star in 2010 had been softening defenses with a dedication to the run and then opening the field with the play-action game. Early quarterback failures had a severe detrimental impact on this pattern of play. Despite early success from a statistical perspective, undrafted FA Case Keenum remains a wild card and operates more comfortably from the shotgun.
- Playing off the previous point of team identity, the Texans offensive line hasn’t gelled. Outside of center Chris Myers, the O-line has struggled to create openings in its patented zone blocking scheme. All-Pro tackle Duane Brown has been uncharacteristically poor in run blocking since returning from a toe injury in week five. The holes have been few and far between.
Of course, I am simply playing devil’s advocate here. Tate possesses undeniable running talent, capable of shedding defenders between the tackles or challenging the secondary with 4.43 wheels. He’ll also face off with Tennessee and Jacksonville (twice) in the final seven weeks. However, facts are facts. His extreme dearth of explosive plays and frequent failures on short yardage are legitimate reasons for apprehension in utilizing him as a RB2. His health situation only serves to obscure his value further.
*Premium Stats provided by ProFootballFocus.com*
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