Bring in the Youth

The Texans are already concerned with the status of Ahman Green. While other running backs missed practice time during the first two weeks of training camp with injuries, Green was healthy. He took a number of repetitions in practice every day and didn't miss any workout time.

Then, Green strained his groin on the very first play of the first preseason game. He didn't return. It was all very reminiscent of last season when Green injured his knee in the regular-season opener and wasn't able to fully recover until and eventually was placed on injured reserve.

"(My) biggest concern is No. 30," coach Gary Kubiak said after the team's 19-16 victory over Denver on Aug. 9. "That's a huge concern; we kind of lost him in the same scenario last year. It was the first play of the game against the Colts and we lost him, so he has been exceptional. Great at camp, but it is a concern. He's out there to help us so hopefully we can dodge the bullet and get him back out there."

Complicating matters even further, backup Chris Brown has been hurt more than he has been healthy in training camp. Back spasms have caused him to miss a significant amount of practice time. He dressed but did not participate against the Broncos.

Green is the biggest concern though. He appeared in six games last year and finished with 70 carries for 260 yards. The Texans hoped to have him back as the leader of an otherwise young running back corps.

"I was just out there trying to make a big play," Green said. "I just felt a little tug -- a little tightness and from that point on it was just to get down and not get hurt. When I caught the ball and turned around and exploded that's when I felt it. It doesn't feel bad. It's just a little sore. I still have a lot of strength, so I'm not really concerned about it. I got a lot of time to get better."

The Texans won't mind giving most of the repetitions in the preseason to their younger backs -- Steve Slaton, Chris Taylor and Darius Walker. But they would like some assurance that Green will be back.

The Texans are counting on having a quality running game this season after implementing the zone-blocking scheme in the offseason. It would be a first under Kubiak with the Texans. The team hasn't had a 1,000-yard rusher the past three seasons, and the running game has gone downhill since Domanick Davis' last season in 2005.

The Texans got their most production in the first preseason game from second-year back Walker, who averaged 3.6 yards per carry. He had eight carries for 29 yards. Rookie Steve Slaton also looked strong in the fourth quarter -- gaining 37 yards on 11 attempts (3.4-yard average).

Slaton is looking forward to getting more experience down the line, and the Texans need his learning curve to be as quick as possible.

"It helps out a lot because moving up to the NFL, you have a lot of doubts of what you can and can't do," Slaton said. "Just having that opportunity to go out there and make some plays was a big thing for me."

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