Why I Am Worried About Steve Slaton

Robert VegaCorrespondent ISeptember 20, 2009

HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 13: Running back Steve Slaton #20 of the Houston Texans fumbles the ball as he is hit by cornerback Donald Strickland #27 of the New York Jets at Reliant Stadium on September 13, 2009 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

There was a recent article here about how we shouldn't worry about Steve Slaton because one bad game does not a sophomore slump make.  For the record, I agree with all the points put forth there.  The role of a running back, however, is more than just running the ball, and it is in these other areas, that I am concerned about the Texans back.

The first of these roles is blitz pickup. Anyone who disagrees that blocking in general was the single biggest offensive problem in the Jets game probably still thinks we should have drafted Vince Young.

For Slaton, his responsibility is to identify the blitz and pick up the most immediate danger. He did not do this well as he often missed the blitz all together or didn’t get the right guy.

We can’t say with any degree of confidence whether or not this is a result of Slaton himself or a result of the scheme, but my hunch is Slaton. The reason I say that is that when I saw Slaton shift out to become a check down option, it looked like he was looking for a pickup first and then rolling out.

If Slaton can’t improve his blitz recognition, and by extension his blitz pickup, his rushing numbers aren’t going to improve because he'll get replaced by someone who can. Remember that at the end of last season, Schaub and Kubiak both got upset with Slaton for his failure to properly pick up the blitz, so this isn't new.

Even if he improves here, though, I think it’s officially time to worry about Slaton having a fumbling problem. I don’t say this based solely on last week’s game, but rather based on his last handful of games. In both the Green Bay game and the Chicago game last year, Steve lost a fumble.

In the Tennessee game, he lost another, but it got called back because his knee had already touched down. Suddenly we’re looking at fumbles in three of Slaton's last five games.

The silver lining here is that these games have come against the tougher and most difficult defenses in the NFL, but if Slaton wants to be considered amongst the game's best, he must perform in these situations.

I'm nowhere near ready to pull the plug on Slaton, and I do think he will still be a very effective rusher, but if he doesn't improve the other areas of his game, it will be difficult for Kubiak to keep him on the field.


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