Ben Tate shows he can be adequate replacement for Arian Foster

Ben Tate averaged 6.7 yards per carry Sunday. (USATSI)
Ben Tate gained 6.7 yards per carry Sunday. (USATSI)

HOUSTON -- Ben Tate showcased Sunday vs. the Saints that he could be a very capable, much less-expensive No. 1 running back if Arian Foster continues to struggle with his health.

In the first half, Tate rushed 11 times for 74 yards (to go with a 39-yard touchdown), and he looked every bit of a starting running back as he enters his contract year. For the record, Foster, who has missed most of the preseason while nursing multiple injuries, is making $8.25 million this year, while Tate is making less than $900,000.

"I was definitely out there to prove a point, and I felt like I got my point across," Tate said after the game. "I feel good. I feel good coming out of this third preseason game. I'm right where I want to be. I'm feeling good, excited, and ready for the season to get going."

Lest you forget, Tate has been productive the past two years as Foster's backup.

But consider this: Foster, who has been dealing with leg and back issues, had his first real preseason practice Friday, and he's getting healthier. While's Jason La Canfora mentioned in his Texans Observations piece that the team might hold back Foster a little early in the season, don't expect Tate to leapfrog Foster for the full-time No. 1 job.

"Privately, the Texans are pleased with where [Foster] is now after some concern in the past," La Canfora wrote.

But Foster hasn't been healthy for an entire season since 2010. In part, that's because he's carried the ball 956 times in the past three seasons to go with 159 receptions. It'd be almost impossible to stay healthy through all of that work.

"He looked good, he looked fresh to me, he looked quick," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Friday after Foster's return. "The biggest thing is he had a smile on his face with his reps and he felt positive. We'll go in and see how he feels after practice and hopefully we take a bunch of steps forward this week."

Don't expect Foster to play in the team's final preseason game, and even if he's not 100 percent ready to contribute by the time of the season opener, Tate has proven he can handle the load.

"I wanted to get Ben somewhere between 10-15 carries," Kubiak said. "He looked good. He looked very good. I think he's going to have a really good year. I've been impressed with his camp."

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