When Ben Tate was carted off the field Saturday night and most Texans fans were pretty upset (don't lie, it wasn't just me), two guys in Texans uniforms probably had to be smiling on the inside. Those two guys would be running backs Chris Henry and Jeremiah Johnson.
Unlike other people, Battle Red Blog tries not to report on the severity of injury news until there has been official word from the team or a doctor. Regardless of what other people think, we don't want to become an unreliable source of Texans news. Yes, we are a blog. But with how atrocious the local media can be on coverage, we'd like to still be an outlet for those who seek to know what's really going on with the team. We'd like to not become just a bunch of guys trying to break a story on Twitter. With that said, we now know that Tate will be lost for the season, as Coach Kubiak said yesterday that he will be placed on IR.
Now, with that done, the running back competition is down to four guys. Arian Foster, Steve Slaton, Chris Henry and Jeremiah Johnson. We all know by now that Foster is in and is probably the starter in Week One against Indy. There is virtually no scenario where Slaton doesn't make the team. Not even if he puts the ball on the ground three more times in the preseason. He will be on the final 53 man roster. As far as the other two guys, this is where the real tug of war begins.
Let's take a look after the jump...
To me, it's a given that the team doesn't bring another guy in to compete for a roster spot, at least not right away. I don't anticipate that happening until other teams make their final cuts in early September to get down to 53; anyone else they would bring in prior to that would likely be just a camp body. Not really anyone out there right now, but we'll see.
It has been pretty much a foregone conclusion amongst those following these things that Gary Kubiak is unlikely to carry four running backs. And even if you aren't an accountant, someone as "intelligent" as Chris Henry can figure out that there is still one last guy to hurdle for a roster spot.
In looking at the impending battle between the talented Chris Henry and the undrafted second-year man who spent his entire 2009 season on the IR in Jeremiah Johnson, who has the leg up? After only one preseason game and in my personal opinion, it is JJ. I know it is early, and it's hard to judge Henry off of just two carries for six yards, but sometimes a small sample size can be enough.
Henry has all the tools and talent to be a stud running back in the NFL. His physique is ridiculous and he hits the corner maybe faster than any back currently on the roster. But the label that has been tagged on him since he came into the league is that he looks like Tarzan and plays like Jane. The guy just seems to have such a low football IQ. The game on Saturday showed it, as he looked simply lost out there at times. At this point, it's hard to imagine the light just coming on and him figuring it out anytime soon. This scheme may be too much for him to learn.
Johnson, on the other hand, looked like a guy who could really help this team now. Yes, it is no secret that I have been a supporter of JJ since he was signed by Houston after being undrafted in 2009. The guy was a stud at Oregon and the only reason he wasn't drafted was because of an injury that caused him to miss his entire rookie campaign. John Harris and others have stated that he is the best downhill runner on the team and has incredible footwork. Although we are yet to see it in the pros yet, his stiff arm is a force to be reckoned with. And he certainly looked much better in the preseason debut than Henry, carrying the ball five times and gaining a team high 35 yards rushing. The only thing, in my opinion, that is keeping him from being a lock to make the team is his pass-protection skills. If he improves upon that, we may be looking at a roster that has two undrafted running backs in Foster and Johnson on its depth chart.
With these two guys expected to see most of the workload against the defending champion Saints (it still hurts me to type that) this weekend, now would be the time to impress the hell out of the Texans coaching staff. Let's just try to stay healthy, okay guys? Because we're one more injury away from one (or both) of them making the roster by default.
What do you guys think? Who would you like to see make the team as the third running back? Jeremiah? Chris Henry? Or....someone else?