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Walker signed; Slaton expected to start


Rookie running back Steve Slaton is expected to start for the first time in his NFL career on Sunday.

With starting running back Ahman Green's status for Sunday's game in question as he nurses a sprained ankle, the Texans added a third healthy running back to the roster on Thursday by signing Darius Walker from the practice squad.

In four games with two starts last season, Walker ran for 264 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry as an undrafted rookie out of Notre Dame.

"I'm excited about the opportunity again to get a chance to showcase what I can do, but I also know that I have a job to do and they expect me to perform at a high level," Walker said. "I've been working this whole time to try to get to this point and to make it to this spot."

Rookie Steve Slaton is expected to make his first NFL start this week, sharing carries with third-year back Chris Taylor. Slaton, a third-round draft pick out of West Virginia, led the Texans with 13 carries for 43 yards in the opener. Injuries to Green and his projected backfield mate, Chris Brown, have opened the door for Slaton to make a steady climb up the depth chart since training camp.

"Coming in with OTAs and mini-camp, I don't think I could've pictured this right now," Slaton said. "But I'm just happy my teammates helped me prepare well, and I'm looking forward to this weekend."

{QUOTE}After the 2008 draft, many observers labeled the 5-9, 201-pound Slaton as a third-down back. But the rookie's body has held up well to the pounding that came with leading the Texans in carries in both the preseason and regular-season opener. Slaton has shown toughness running between the tackles and has improved in pass protection to the point that he feels comfortable in any game situation.

"I think I'm ready," he said. "I've been used to carrying the load since I started playing. I view myself as more than just a third-down back."

Taylor, a former undrafted rookie out of Indiana, had 28 carries for 133 yards (4.4 avg.) in the 2006 season but missed the 2007 campaign with a knee injury. Though he didn't get any carries in the opener, contributing solely on special teams, Taylor is likely to get his turn against Baltimore. It would mark his first action at running back in a regular-season game since the 2006 season finale when he ran for 99 yards and a touchdown against the Browns.

Taylor and Slaton have played in a combined six career games, with zero starts between them.

"We know we're going to have a lot on our shoulders and we just have to step up to the challenge," Taylor said. "We're young backs, but we're up for the challenge and we're just ready to show our talent."

Walker, with the two games he started in 2007, finds himself as the seasoned veteran of the group – even though he just moved up from the practice squad and is in only his second season in the league.

"Who would've thought?" Walker said. "I hope to use that to my advantage. I've been talking with Steve, I've been talking with CT as well and talking about this whole game thing and what's it like to be out there in the game and trying to offer my experience, so to speak, from my standpoint from last year and everything.

"I think we're all ready as a unit, and we're going to play well."

To make room for Walker on the roster, the Texans placed defensive end Stanley McClover on the injured/reserve list. McClover had surgery this week to repair a torn meniscus. Running back Arliss Beach was added to the Texans' practice squad.

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