Slaton May Still Start Against Tennessee

A week ago, the Texans had a running back group, led by four-time Pro Bowler Ahman Green. Now, the team has three running backs with a total of two NFL starts between them.

With Green nursing a sprained ankle, coach Gary Kubiak had planned to start rookie running back Steve Slaton on Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens. With that game being postponed, the Texans may still have to start Slaton Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. The team is still listing Green as day-to-day.

If that becomes the case, Slaton will be the fifth rookie running back to start a game for the Texans since 2002.

The Texans hope the rookie experience goes smoother for Slaton than most of the other rookies in their initial starts. Jonathan Wells (2002), Domanick Davis (2003) and Wali Lundy (2006) all lost their first starts as rookies.

Darius Walker is the only one who has captured a victory in his first start. Walker, the team's No. 3 back this week, started Dec. 13 against Denver last season. He had 13 carries for 66 yards (5.1 yards per game) to help lift the Texans to a 31-13 victory.

He ended up starting two games as a rookie, and understands the emotions Slaton is dealing with this week.

"Oh, man, I tell you it's exciting and it's scary at the same exact time and at the same levels too," said Walker, who was moved up from the practice squad this week. "You don't know if you should be overly excited or overly scared. But to get in there so early is a great thing because it's always a learning process and that will make (Slaton) so much better down the line."

Similar to Slaton, Walker had played in just one other regular-season game before being thrust into the starting role. Slaton hopes the experience he received last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers will help him this week.

He had just seven carries for 14 yards in the first three quarters, but finished with 13 carries for 43 yards. The bulk of the carries came with the Steelers' backups playing on defense.

He is trying to make sure he is on top of the entire game plan and continues pass blocking well.

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

"Picking up the pass protection (is) the thing that has surprised me the most. Coming in, it was mixed up and I didn't really understand it too much. But now, it's getting a little easier for me."

The Texans have a lot of confidence in him, especially after what he did in the preseason. He finished fifth among rookies, averaging 46.0 yards per game and averaged 4.1 yards per carry.

"I think Slaton will be fine; he's a real confident guy," center Chris Myers said. "As long as he gets the ball and does what he's been doing during training camp and the preseason games, he'll be all right."

Behind Slaton, Chris Taylor will also see his first action since the season finale in 2006 when he was an undrafted rookie. Taylor spent all of last season on injured reserve with a knee injury.

Despite the limited experience from Slaton, Taylor and Walker, fullback Vonta Leach has blocked for all of them in a regular-season game before. He's looking forward to seeing what they can do when given the opportunity this week.

"Whether it's going to be Taylor, Slaton or Walker, I've got confidence in all those guys," Leach said. "I've blocked for all those guys before and I know what they can do."


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