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Your Texans: Running backs


The Texans won't fool anyone this season on running plays with fullback Vonta Leach and running back Ahman Green in the backfield.

Here's a hint: Leach does not have an NFL carry in four pro seasons.

Green rushed for more than 1,000 yards in six of his last seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers before joining the Texans this season.

Green represents the Texans' hopes of improving on last season's rushing game and Leach will be his primary blocker. The Texans ranked 21st in the NFL in rushing last season with a meager 105.2 yards per game.

{QUOTE}Coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman have placed a high priority on being able to pound defenses. There's more work to be done as they prepare for Sunday's Liberty White Kickoff game against Kansas City.

"We need to do a better job of just lining up and hitting people in the mouth and getting over four yards and going back to the huddle and doing it again," Sherman said.

Sherman, the former head coach at Green Bay, knows that Green can provide those numbers.

Green gained 1,059 yards last season with the Packers before signing a four-year deal with the Texans. He has a 4.5 career per carry average. The Texans averaged 3.9 yards per rush last season.

Green will be backed up by Ron Dayne, who started six games last season, and Samkon Gado.

"With Vonta and guys like Dayne backing me up and Samkon, it makes it a lot easier," Green said. "You know you've got guys back there who are going to back you up and can do the job as well as you can."

The Texans' running game was by committee last season. Wali Lundy (who didn't make the 2007 team) started 10 games as a rookie running back. Dayne was the team's leading rusher with 612 yards and five touchdowns.

"Ahman is a great guy, a big guy," Dayne said. "You wouldn't believe how fast he is. You'd think he was more of a power guy to run you over, but he's got the speed and the power so that's a tough combination."

Green's string of 1,000-yard seasons was broken in 2005, when he started five games and was placed on injured reserve with a ruptured right quadriceps tendon. He was back on track at Green Bay last season and expects a good partnership with Leach.

"He's aggressive and a big body in there," Green said. "He can cause a lot of damage. He's like a linebacker running at full speed. I know he's going to hit his guy hard and clear the way so I have to hit the hole hard, too."

Green says he's ready for his new surroundings after seven seasons in the frigid north.

"I've been moving since I was a kid so I know how to move and get adjusted quickly," Green said. "I can roll with the punches. I get to know everybody and listen before I start doing any talking."

Green and Leach will be working with new quarterback Matt Schaub, obtained from Atlanta.

"The quarterback has played extremely well, but what we have to do is generate more rushing yards per carry with the run," Sherman said.

Leach won't be picked on any fantasy league teams. He has caught 11 passes in his pro career and scored his first NFL touchdown against the Cowboys last Oct. 15. He laughs at the division of labor he shares with Green.

"I'm a former linebacker and I see myself as more of a bulldozer fullback, like the old-time fullbacks, you know, old school," Leach said. "I do all the blocking and (Green) does all the running so he makes me look good and I make him look good."

Texans opponents will see a steady diet of Leach charging at them and Green bouncing through.

"You know, I haven't had one (carry) yet, but maybe I'll get a chance to tote the football one day," Leach said. "I was a 5,000-yard rusher in high school. We'll see."

General manager Rick Smith did his homework before signing Leach last October. He also listened to advice from Sherman, who tutored Leach at Green Bay.

"At first glance, he didn't look like a football player when we had him at Green Bay, but he made progress in the time I had him and he's made more progress since he's been here," Sherman said.

Leach didn't shine in workouts early on. There's a reason, he says.

"When I first got here, we worked out in shorts," Leach said. "I'm a physical guy. You can't really do that in shorts. Now, I try to work on my technique when we're out there in shorts."

Green asks fans to wait a couple of regular season games before judging the new-look Texans running game.

"It's gradually building," Green said. "Once in a while you might see a team come out of the blocks and BAM the running game is on point. Usually, most teams, it takes three or four games in the preseason.

"When the regular season comes around and it's game two or three, that's when the running game starts going. You want to get it started early, but it's one game and one day at a time."

Keeping the 30-year old Green rested will be Sherman's challenge this season. Green goes along grudgingly. He's a workout junkie with routines that include yoga and Pilates in addition to his work with team trainers.

"I've been trying to get used to it for the past two years actually," Green said. "It's tough for me. I've never been used to coaches taking it soft on me. I'm old school. I practice hard and play hard."

Gado, Leach, Green and center Mike Flanagan all previously played for the Packers. Gado started five games for the Packers in 2005 and was traded to Houston last Sept. 13. Green followed this season.

Gado jokes that Green is holding back his career.

"I can't get away from this guy," Gado said. "I'm trying to start a career and as long as he follows me my career is not going up. But I called him and said congratulations.''

In reality, Gado has learned from Green.

"I enjoyed in Green Bay just watching him," Gado said. "He's been in the league for so long, for a young guy to come in and want to compete, you'd be a fool not to just watch him and do everything he does on and off the field.

Gado noticed that Green wore smaller pads so Gado now wears smaller shoulder pads. Green doesn't wear a back flap. Now, neither does Gado.

"It's almost shameful how much I copy him even from the way he dresses for games," Gado said.

The Green Bay connection is helping the Texans' offense, in its second season under Kubiak and Sherman.

"It helps us bring along the other guys who are trying to catch up with the verbiage," Green said.

"It's a variation of the West Coast mixed in with coach Kubiak's philosophy. It's a good mix and it can attack a defense at a lot of different angles."

Now that's a scary thought for any defense.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.

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