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The Rookie Report: It’s Slaton Time

Welcome everyone to the fourth regular season installment to the 2008 Rookie Report. Each week during the regular season, the report will cover trends, news items and analysis of notable performances by the NFL’s 2008 Rookie Class to assist in your pursuit of dynasty championship gold.

In this week’s edition, we will take a look at the emergence of Texans rookie running back

Steve Slaton through the first four weeks of the season.

With Texans incumbent starting running back

Ahman Green’s health issues in both the preseason and in the first game of the regular season, the door opened for

Slaton to take a hold of the starter’s job. Slaton opened the preseason on the depth chart as the Texans’ third-down back; however, during the preseason he gained the trust of the coaching staff averaging over four yards per carry. Slaton also showed he could keep the ball secure after experiencing fumbling issues in OTA practice sessions.

After

Green suffered an injury against the Steelers in Week 1 and the Texans’ hurricane induced bye week in Week 2,

Slaton was given his opportunity to secure the starting job against the tough run defense of the Tennessee Titans. He did not disappoint, finishing the game with an impressive 18 carries for 116 yards, four catches for eight yards and a six-yard touchdown run. Throughout the game, Slaton exhibited the burst he lacked during his senior season around the edge as well as an elusive style between the tackles as he fought for tough yards. His best run against the Titans came on a play in which he broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and then kicked in his second gear as he sped past everyone until the safety caught him 50 yards downfield.

In Week 4 against another tough defense, Slaton followed with another impressive performance. While he could not get it going on the ground with only 10 carries for 30 yards, he showcased his skills as a receiver as the Texans split out Slaton wide in several formations. He finished the game with eight catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. Slaton scored after he split out of the backfield right and sprinted past the opposing defender for an open touchdown catch. Throughout the game, Slaton provided Matt Schaub with a reliable check down option in the middle of the field and fought for tough yards after the catch.

Slaton continues to show why the Texans drafted him in the third round as his rushing style is a perfect compliment for the one cut zone blocking schemes Alex Gibbs implemented this offseason. Slaton’s combination of speed, burst and shifty elusiveness translates well in the Texans system. Slaton is the clear starter in

Houston; however, coach Gary Kubiak will utilize him in a running back by committee approach to keep him most effective.

Moving forward, Slaton appears to be in line to keep the majority of the work load as the Texans starter, and there are several attractive matchups as the Texans schedule eases a bit after starting against three tough defenses. In three of the next four weeks, Slaton is presented with games against below average rushing defenses in the Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions and the Cincinnati Bengals. After watching Slaton exceed expectations in his first two starts, his fantasy owners should be excited about the prospects of the upcoming schedule as he appears to have upside of a RB2 on fantasy rosters especially in leagues that award points per receptions.

Well that wraps up this week’s edition of the Rookie Report. If you have any comments on this week’s article, please see the Article Discussions forum in the Shark Tank.

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