METAIRIE, La. -- When the Texans called a run play to the right and the ball hit the ground at an afternoon practice with the Saints, every member of the Texans’ press corps strained to see who the back in the middle of the mess was.
Slaton’s fumble issues last year were a big element of Houston’s ground-game struggles. He lost another at the goal line in the preseason opener in Arizona.
Even if Arian Foster is as good as the Texans think, they need Slaton to be a reliable contributor and they cannot accept fumbles. With second-round pick Ben Tate lost for the season with torn ligaments and a cracked bone in his lower leg, Houston’s got one less alternative.
“I think it’s driving the fans crazy, I don’t think it’s driving Slaton crazy,” fullback Vonta Leach said. “It was an unfortunate situation down at the goal line but he knows we can’t do that and he’ll be better.”
Coming off neck surgery Slaton is determined to prove he can still be the back who ran for more yards than Chris Johnson as a rookie in 2008 and is not really the one who struggled last year and went on IR in need of neck surgery.
“My job is to run the ball and the most important thing is not to put it on the ground,” Slaton said. “I’m taking more precautions and doing different little things.”
Slaton will take whatever role he is given, but he knows it’s probably not going to be a full-time job. Bell cow running backs are out of vogue, committees are the more popular way to go and if Foster keeps progressing he’s going to be in the mix.
“I think they would like to divide things up,” Slaton said. “It’s harder on the defenses and the running backs stay strong not having to take the whole thing.”
I don’t have a great read on Slaton yet and my two-practice snapshot Wednesday didn’t help too much. I do think the team will be hard-pressed to improve significantly on the ground without him as a factor.
If you want to do any looking back, I wrote about Slaton in March.
Matt Schaub is very willing to trade passing yards for better balance.
“Yes,” Schuab said, politely cutting me off before I could even finish a question about whether he’s confident the run game will improve. “Yes, I’m confident. It’s been good so far in training camp. We just need to keep running it and stay committed to it.”