Alfred Blue becoming a more complete RB

August, 15, 2014
Aug 15
12:29
PM ET
Earlier today, we reporters from NFL Nation joined forces to give you a look at skill position battles throughout the league. My apologies for not being able to provide more clarity there, as the Houston Texans are still sorting through their backup running back situation -- really the only skill position battle this preseason.

It's an important one, though.

[+] EnlargeAlfred Blue
David J. Phillip/AP PhotoRookie running back Alfred Blue has impressed Texans coaches through training camp and in Houston's first preseason game.
Keep an eye on rookie Alfred Blue as that process continues.

"Good teammate, hardworking guy, football smart, three-down back -- he's got to continue to improve catching the football," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said on Blue. "But good runner, good vision, good on special teams, understands football, asks good questions. I see some good things from Alfred."

Right now, after starter Arian Foster, the Texans rank Jonathan Grimes, then Blue, then grizzled veteran Ronnie Brown and finally William Powell. Running back depth charts are heavily dependent on preseason games.

Blue might have been a star at LSU, but just as he was taking over the starting spot, he suffered a season-ending knee injury. When he returned, Jeremy Hill had taken over as LSU's starter. It's a big part of why Blue was available for the Texans in the sixth round.

At this level, for Blue to beat out Grimes, it's going to take an improvement in two areas: pass protection and pass catching.

"Mentally, I've just got to stay focused out there, staying focused and not being so fast at turning around and taking my eyes off of the ball," said Blue, who dropped a third-down pass in the Texans' first preseason game. "It's just for me, focusing on catching the ball first, and then trying to react to a defender."

Picking up blitzes is usually the most difficult part of transitioning to the NFL for running backs. It takes an understanding of the defense you're facing, the reactive skills to then know what to do and the blocking ability to handle the blitzing linebacker or safety.

"It's a different deal than it is in college," O'Brien said. "I think it is getting better. It is not as consistent as we want it to be with Alfred, but he is working at it and it'll continue to improve with him."

Blue's process involves lots of film-watching and peppering running backs coach Charles London with questions, he said. And while the Texans are waiting for more consistency from Blue in that aspect, Blue felt pretty good about how he did with it in Arizona.

“I only had one blitz pick-up, but I think I did pretty well with that one blitz that came my way," Blue said.

The preparation helped. The play unfolded exactly as he expected.

More of that and Blue's career could unfold just as his coaches hope.

Tania Ganguli

ESPN Houston Texans reporter

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