Finding Compliment to Slaton high on Texans’ list

Posted by Administrator On April - 14 - 2009

The Texans ranked a franchise-best third in NFL offense last season, averaging 382.1 yards a game, yet were 17th in scoring with 22.9 points a game. Why the discrepancy? Start with their two major deficiencies.

The Texans couldn’t protect the ball; they were minus-10 in turnover ratio, tied for 29th.

And they treated the red zone like quicksand, finishing 30th in red zone scoring (78.3 percent success rate) and 26th in red zone touchdowns (45.9 percent).

“We’re looking for more good players,” coach Gary Kubiak said about the NFL draft, which comes April 25-26. “Our offense has made improvement all three years, more so this past year than any. We feel good about where we are.

“Can we get better? You bet. We’re going to try to get better on offense, but obviously, we’ve got to make some big-time improvement on the defensive side of the ball.”

Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan enters his second season in his current position. Kubiak is giving him the play-calling duties full time. Assistant head coach/offense Alex Gibbs, who oversees the running game, enters his second season.

The Texans still need more good players on defense than offense. In free agency, they signed one offensive player, backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky, compared to four defensive players.

What they’ve done in free agency on defense may allow the Texans to fill their biggest need on offense as high as the second round. The priorities are a running back to complement Steve Slaton and an offensive lineman who can play center and guard.

If Kubiak and general manager Rick Smith want to go for a back in the second or third round, they might have a shot at Donald Brown (212 pounds), Shonn Greene (227), Rashad Jennings (231) or Cedric Peerman (218). All are heavier than Slaton (205).

Good prospects who are Slaton’s size are LeSean McCoy (204), Javon Ringer (205) and Kory Sheets (206).

The Texans drafted Slaton even though he hadn’t played in their zone blocking system, in which the back gets the ball, makes one cut and takes off.

“You don’t see many colleges running the zone scheme, so you have to project,” Kubiak said. “We were fortunate that Steve became an every-down back and was able to stay on the field, but there were a few things that really stood out to us.

“First, he was so productive in college. Second, he was real bright. We figured he’d be able to pick up the system pretty fast. He also had good hands, and we were looking at him as a third-down back starting off.”

Ideally, the Texans will get a back like Ahman Green, who was released after two injury-plagued seasons, or Cedric Benson, who turned down their offer and re-signed with Cincinnati. Green and Benson are in the 220-pound range and productive between the tackles.

The Texans need a back who can help them in the red zone and in short-yardage situations. They have Ryan Moats playing behind Slaton. They also have Chris Brown, who spent his first season with them on injured reserve.

The Texans will draft a back. The only question is in which round. They have two fourth-round picks.

“It’s similar to other positions in where you can find value in rounds three, four and five,” Smith said. “In Denver, we had great success on second-day running backs.

“You saw a ton of backs last year come out of the draft and play at a very productive level. And I think a lot of that’s due in large part to teams understanding what they’re looking for and drafting players who fit their systems.”