Ben Tate's history with offensive Kyle Shanahan makes him an ideal fit for the Browns' offense
The Cleveland Browns continued their methodical approach to free agency by addressing another critical need with Saturday's signing of former Houston Texans running back Ben Tate.
Not only were the Browns able to find help for an area in which they finished tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for 27th in the NFL last season, they also added a player who is an ideal fit for their offense.
"It's something that I've been waiting for for a long time," Tate said during a conference call with reporters covering the Browns. "I'm just ready to grab this opportunity and run with it and show everyone what I'm all about."
Tate said there were two other NFL teams interested in signing him. Although he said he had other free-agent visits lined up, he chose to remain in Cleveland the past two days to complete a deal with the Browns.
"In the grand scheme of things, I really wanted to be here," Tate said. "At the end of the day, I thought this was going to be the best opportunity for me. I felt the pieces that were already here, offensive-line wise, and their plans in free agency and the draft, so I felt it was just going to be the best opportunity for me to help turn this thing around and take it to another level."
Tate, 25, was the most accomplished running back in the open market with experience in the outside zone-blocking run scheme of new Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who oversaw a similar system employed by former Texans coach Gary Kubiak while serving as Houston's offensive coordinator in 2008 and 2009 (before Tate arrived there).
Tate excels in the "one-cut" running style that is imperative to the scheme's success, meaning that as he starts the play to the outside behind the lateral flow of the line, he has a good feel and sense of timing for when to cut in the opposite direction and find a seam through which he can run.
"It's pretty similar," he said. "(Shanahan) does things a little different from Coach Kubiak. His offense has some different tweaks to it than what we did down in Houston. But it's a good scheme. I like it because they find that running backs are important. They hand you the ball, they throw you the ball. I felt that gave me an advantage (in being pursued by the Browns)."
Tate becomes the fifth player to join the Browns since the NFL's free-agency signing period began Tuesday. The others are linebacker Karlos Dansby, strong safety Donte Whitner, cornerback Isaiah Trufant, and tight end Jim Dray.
Since joining the Texans as a second-round draft pick from Auburn in 2010 (58th overall), the 5-foot-10, 220-pound Tate has averaged 4.7 yards per carry. He ranked third on the Texans' all-time rushing list with 1,992 yards in 40 games. Tate also appeared in three playoff games with Houston.
He has rushed for 10 career touchdowns – tying a franchise record with three against the New England Patriots last Dec. 1 – and has five career 100-yard rushing games. In addition, Tate is a weapon in the passing game, with 58 career receptions for 287 yards.
In 14 games last season, including seven starts, he led the Texans with 771 rushing yards before suffering cracked ribs that landed him on the injured-reserve list.
"I run hard," Tate said. "I feel like I'm explosive. I feel like I can make guys miss in the open field. I feel like, if it's third down and I've got to go one-on-one with the linebacker, I can do that as well. I just feel like I'm a total package. I can catch the ball out of the backfield. I feel like I can do everything. I'm a three-down back. I'm just a complete back."
A broken ankle suffered in the preseason-opener caused Tate to miss the 2010 season. But he came roaring back the next year with a career-best 942 rushing yards and a 5.4-yards-per-carry average.
Tate is looking forward to emerging from the shadow of Texans star running back Arian Foster.
"It was tough, it was very tough," he said. "Because when you're stuck behind someone like that, it's tough to really showcase your talent on a consistent basis. It's tough because you can't be seen. You can't show everyone what you can do, so that's why everyone doesn't know your full worth."
Tate intends to demonstrate as much as a member of the Browns.
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