August 19, 2008
In Houston's muddied backfield, the third-round pick out of West Virginia might be the only one wearing rubber galoshes.
Proving his critics wrong, Slaton has emerged as the Texans' RB frontrunner. After cutting and slashing his way to 57 yards and a score on 13 carries (4.4 YPC) against New Orleans scrubs over the weekend (See the highlights at the 2:30 mark here), Houston head coach Gary Kubiak plans to take the training wheels off the youngster and see what he can do against stiffer competition. Per the Houston Chronicle:
"I think he's earned the right to get some reps with the first group," Kubiak said Sunday. "We're going to probably go three quarters this week with our first group. He'll definitely become part of that. He played pretty darn well. He's getting better every time we go out. He's a much better player this week than he was last week. He was better in protections. There are still some mistakes that concern you the closer you get to the season, but it's obvious he can be a big help to us."
"He's got such a good burst. I was excited to see him get out there and make some of those runs, make some of those cuts and get downhill. I remember watching him in college a lot. And you see that burst. And when he sees something, he hits the hole hard. You watch him and it's hard for the first guy to bring him down. He's always breaking a tackle and getting those extra yards and falling forward. That's something we always talk about - falling forward and not backward."
Despite the knocks against him, Slaton is a talented player with solid baseline skills. Highly intelligent - he posted one of the best Wonderlic scores at the combine - elusive and tough, he's unquestionably the most skillful player in the H-Town backfield. He's also the best fit for the Texans ground philosophy. In three collegiate seasons, he played in an almost identical zone-blocking scheme that Kubiak employs.
When asked back in July what capacity the rookie would be used, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan compared Slaton to Reggie Bush. In other words, because of his baby soft hands and evasiveness in space he was originally tabbed a glorified third-down back. But with Ahman Green a possible roster casualty, Chris Brown always reeking of Bengay and Marcel Shipp/Darius Walker/Chris Taylor not particularly exciting alternatives, Slaton seems to be Houston's most viable option.
Owned in just 17 percent of Y! leagues and going on average at pick 200.1 according to Mock Draft Central, the diminutive dynamo will likely be waiver/late-round gold.
Kubiak, who isn't shy of committees, may supplant him occasionally at the goal-line, but in statistical terms, the rookie could be a miniature version of Westbrook. But hopefully without the soul-destroying goal-line flops.
Pay close attention to his performance this Saturday. If he exceeds expectation against a firm Dallas frontline, Kubiak could name him the Week 1 starter (at Pit) immediately following.
Fearless Forecast (as the starter): 167 carries, 718 rushing yards, 33 receptions, 289 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns
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