By Jim McCurdy
Call it a case of the Young and Restlessness.
Seven days into organized team activities, Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats is starting to turn heads.
Moats was drafted with the 77th pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft out of Louisiana Tech. In three years with the Eagles, he ran for a combined 347 yards on 77 carries, spending the entire 2007 season on injured reserve after breaking his ankle in the preseason.
The Eagles waived Moats in late August last year. The Arizona Cardinals signed him to the practice squad 18 days later, only to turn him loose after a two-week evaluation. A week later, Moats' career was resurrected when the Texans signed him to the practice squad on Oct. 7, 2008. Following three weeks of practice squad duty, Houston added him to the active roster.
"I remember studying Ryan coming out, so I knew a lot about him," Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said in interviews with team insiders. "I liked his ability. Why it didn't work in Philly? You never know. The one thing that was constant when I talked to (Eagles coach) Andy (Reid) and a few of the guys that had him there, they were very positive about him. It just didn't work out for him."
In Houston last season, Moats played in eight games at running back and on special teams units, rushing 26 times for 94 yards and one touchdown. He caught three passes for 14 yards, all the while backing up rookie Steve Slaton. He returned nine kickoffs for 212 yards with a long of 32.
This year, Moats is determined to amp up his game, and the Texans are giving him that chance. The team did not select a running back in April's draft.
"Of course I have a lot to prove," Moats said. "At the same time, it did feel good to know they have a lot of confidence in me as a runner. I'm looking forward to capitalizing on that more. Opportunities only come around once in a lifetime, so I will be full throttle at everything I do."
No doubt, the Texans have put an emphasis on elevating their ability to run the ball, the noticeable signs pointing toward the blocking department—an area Houston has been forever dogged in the past. This year, the organization drafted a center in Alabama's Antoine Caldwell in the third round and chose a blocking tight end in North Carolina State's Anthony Hill a round later.
Last season, Houston ranked 13th in the league in rushing, at 115.4 yards per game, in large part due to Slaton. Come September, Moats intends to offer greater contributions himself. So far, the Texans like what they see.
"I think a lot of times you'll see players, (tight end) Joel Dreessen is a good one that comes to mind, it doesn't initially work for 'em, but they're hungry enough," Kubiak said. "They'll make it in this league, and I think that's what you're seeing from him right now. Hey, there's not many stops you get in this league. He's getting an opportunity, and he's taking advantage of it.
"The thing I see is a lot of progress from young players. That's very important as we move forward. We've got a very competitive roster, and it's going to be a very competitive training camp."