Skip to main content

Slaton likes backup options


The Texans will use organized team activities (OTAs), mini-camp and then training camp to determine who will be the ideal complement to running back Steve Slaton.

Currently, the list of candidates includes veterans Chris Brown and Ryan Moats and recently signed undrafted rookie free agents Jeremiah Johnson and Arian Foster. And that list could grow, as indicated by general manager Rick Smith, who said the team would continue to look to upgrade the talent level through the summer.

"We were able to add a couple of running backs through the college free agency process," Smith said. "We signed a young man from the University of Tennessee (Foster) who had a very, very productive junior season, over 1,000 yards there at Tennessee as a junior. He was not as productive as a senior, but he's a very, very talented young man. He's 6-0, 225 pounds, so he fits that bigger back/complement kind of guy that we were talking about.

"And then we added another young man from Oregon (Johnson). He's not as big; he's a 5-9, 205-pound running back; but he's very shifty with good feet and good hands out of the backfield, another versatile player. So, we feel good about that and we will continue to look as we keep marching our way toward training camp, and if there's a veteran player or another young player that's out there and is available and looks attractive to us, then certainly we will entertain those options."

The Texans would benefit from a bigger back who can excel in short-yardage situations and has the speed to succeed in their one-cut scheme.

Slaton, who ran for a team-record 1,282 rushing yards (4.8 yards per carry) and scored 10 touchdowns as a rookie last season, knows he can't carry the load by himself next year. Still, he wasn't fazed by the fact that the Texans didn't select a running back in this year's draft.

"I wasn't surprised because we still have guys like Ryan Moats and Chris Brown behind me," Slaton said. "In free agency, we got Jeremiah Johnson and Arian Foster, so I think it will be a good set."

Slaton is familiar with Johnson because Johnson played at Oregon with Slaton's friend, Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart. Johnson will be making the transition from Oregon's shotgun spread attack to the Texans' offense, which requires backs to quickly hit the hole.

{QUOTE}Slaton said his first piece of advice to Johnson and Foster will be to work on their pass protection.

"You have to make sure you protect the quarterback," Slaton said. "In my case, I didn't block that often in college. It's definitely a skill you need to get on the field."

Slaton's pass protection improved tremendously through last season, and coaches were impressed that he was able to hold up as such an effective blocker and runner. His blocking load should be lightened if Brown is healthy or Moats, Johnson or Foster assumes a backup role. Either way, Slaton said he anticipates being even more productive in 2009.

"I know more of what the coaches want and what the coaches need and what I need to do to get the yards that I left on the field last year and get them back," Slaton said.

"The first year is the biggest learning year you are going to have. I think I learned a lot from the veterans being on me and the coaches being on me. (Now), I can step my game up more."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content