Texans gear up for mini-camp

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With the Texans gearing up for mini-camp, seven drafted rookies and a handful of rookie free agents are making Reliant Stadium their new home.

They have personalized lockers stocked with cleats, jerseys and 2008 playbooks. Their headshots are being added to the team's media guide. And Friday morning, they will get a taste of life in the Rick Smith/Gary Kubiak era when the team takes the field for its first practice.

"I'm very excited," running back Steve Slaton said. "It's a dream that I have had all my life to go to the NFL and fill big shoes and do very positive things for a pro team."

Slaton, a third-round selection, could make an immediate impact his first season as a third-down back, and maybe even more. The junior ran for nearly 4,000 yards at West Virginia and shows the signs of being the change-of-pace rusher the Texans need.

"I can catch the ball," Slaton said. "I can get to the outside. I can create one-on-one mismatches. There will be a lot of mismatches for me with corners and linebackers."

{QUOTE}The Texans' brass is eager to have Slaton and his rookie class begin their careers in Houston.

"I am really excited to see them on the grass for the first time next weekend," Smith said. "I get to really see and assess who we have added to our football team and see how much better I think we can be."

With the additions the Texans made during free agency and through the draft, there will be stiff competition at running back, cornerback and linebacker.

The team will carry five ball carriers into mini-camp, including Slaton, Ahman Green, Darius Walker, Chris Brown and Chris Taylor.

"I know there is good competition," Slaton said. "I've seen a few of these guys play and I know they are talented. But we are all trying to play the same position. We're all going to try to make plays, so there'll be competition."

At linebacker, second-year pro Zac Diles will be competing against free agents Chaun Thompson and Kevin Bentley and rookie Xavier Adibi for a starting spot on the outside.

The cornerback position opposite Fred Bennett will feature a contest between free agent Jacques Reeves, rookie Antwaun Molden and Demarcus Faggins.

"I think that we have some really heated battles that have manifested," Smith said. "The running back position, the cornerback position, the linebacker position – I think there are any number of spots on the team where you are going to see some good, young players battle it out."

Slaton said he embraces the competition, but he knows he can't afford to slip up with so much on the line. The Texans never have carried five running backs on the squad, so at least one player may be cut before the season begins.

"It's knowing that everybody is after your job, that everybody wants that spot," Slaton said. "And, now, everybody is the best of the best."

The Texans' mini-camp runs from Friday, May 9 through Sunday, May 11.

Click here for exclusive information from general manager Rick Smith about the Texans' plans to acquire a defensive end from Monday's "Texans Today" podcast.

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