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Houston Texans

Position battles: Running back

It's Cinco de Mayo. 5/5. The fifth day of the fifth month of the year. Five days until the thick of the Texans' first minicamp (May 9-11). And so, we present a look at a position battle featuring, yes, five players: running back, a position headlined by a four(which is really close to five)-time Pro Bowl player.

That would be Ahman Green, who enters minicamp as the Texans' clear No. 1 option. Fully recovered from the left knee injury that kept him sidelined for much of last season, he's been working hard with his teammates during voluntary offseason workouts and looks forward to being the impact player the Texans envisioned when they inked him to a lucrative free-agent deal in the 2007 offseason.

Forming a one-two punch with Green will be Chris Brown, recently signed from the Tennessee Titans. Brown is an excellent slashing runner with breakaway speed, having averaged 4.3 yards a carry during his five-year career in Nashville.

The key for both Brown and Green will be staying healthy. Brown has played in only 17 games in the last two seasons, but he objects to being called injury prone.

"Some of the things I've had, just people falling on my foot wrong, getting turf toe; some things you really just can't help," Brown said at an organized team workout in April. "It just comes down to having bringing luck going your way. If I just work hard every day, hopefully I can just play a whole season this year."

A slew of youngsters rounds out the running back bunch, those youngsters being third-year pro Chris Taylor, second-year man Darius Walker and rookie Steve Slaton.

Since the Texans have never entered a season with five backs on the roster, this is where the competition should really heat up.

Taylor, the object of consistent praise from Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, is 100 percent healthy and ready for his first action since an offseason knee injury ended his 2007 season before it started.

Walker, second on the team in rushing last year with 264 yards (4.6 avg.), showed a ton of grit in his first professional season – signing with the Texans as an undrafted free agent, then being cut, re-signed, cut and re-signed again before earning a spot in the starting lineup for two games near the end of the season.

And then there's Slaton, the electric rookie out of West Virginia. He brings an element the others don't have: home run-hitting speed. Expect to see the third-round draft pick used in a third-down-back role, catching passes out of the backfield and keeping defenses honest in short-yardage situations.

At the very least, the young backs will provide depth should the veterans succumb to injury this season. And while one may be the odd man off the roster, perhaps a surprise player will emerge to earn consistent playing time and become an integral part of the Texans' offensive attack in the zone blocking run scheme being installed by new assistant head coach/offense Alex Gibbs.

  • Nick Scurfield
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