Does Tate have what it takes to fend off rookie Terrance West and secure himself as Cleveland's workhorse come September?
The back-by-committee whispers and drafting of West kept Tate off this summer's "Making the Leap" list, but it wasn't so long ago that we were touting the fifth-year back as a breakout candidate in the mold of Michael Turner.
Nestled behind Arian Foster since being drafted by the Houston Texans in 2010, Tate showed the requisite power and playmaking ability when his number was called. After a rookie season lost to injury, Tate rumbled for at least 10 yards on 17.1 percent of his carries over 2011 and 2012, tops among NFL running backs.
His 771 yards last season weren't a career high, but Game Rewind revealed Tate's grittiest campaign to date, playing hurt for much of the year as the only backfield option for a Houston squad spiraling into the abyss.
Tate's a tackle-breaker with the power to fight off initial contact. Just six backs registered more missed tackles in 2013 than Tate's 41, while his 2.4 yards after contact were tied with LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte. After tiring of Trent Richardson's post-snap dance routine, Cleveland won't need to worry about that with Tate: He's quick to the line and shows good vision angling for inside lanes or taking it oustide.
Watch below, as Tate volts past Seattle's front seven before shifting gears and changing direction for extra yards.
He's not alone, but Tate can be swallowed up by larger defensive linemen -- watch Houston's Week 6 tilt vs. St. Louis. He also lost fumbles in back-to-back games against Seattle and San Francisco and finished the year with four turnovers, tied for second most among NFL runners.
Durability is an issue with Tate having missed 24 games over his first four seasons. It's worth noting, though, that he selflessly played through the pain of broken ribs down the stretch last autumn. That grit is reflected in his running style: Tate's not a back who gives up with the ball in his hands.
What can we expect this season?
Tate has shown that he can carry the load.
The biggest question is how rapidly West -- fresh from Division II Towson -- develops. The rookie has drawn comparison to Alfred Morris and, like Tate, fits well into Shanny's zone attack.
I still expect Tate to earn the first crack at a starring role. Notching his initial 1,000-yard season is no guarantee, but I like his chances if he can stay on the field.
The Browns, after all, are a candidate to go from leading the NFL in pass attempts to doing the same on the ground just one year later. Everyone -- including Tate -- will eat come September.