Through two games, there has been one constant of the Houston Texans' offense: a struggling Steve Slaton. So far this season Slaton has rushed for 51 yards on 26 carries, an average of 2.0 yards a carry. His yards-per-carry average ranks him behind backup running back Chris Brown's 3.6-yard average. Has Slaton's poor start been a product of good defense by Houston's opponents, or is it due to Slaton himself?
The New York Jets held Slaton to 17 rushing yards in Week 1. Last weekend Slaton faced the Tennessee Titans and rushed 17 times for 34 yards after topping the 100-yard mark on the ground twice against them in 2008.
Slaton struggling so far
In each of his games this season the second-year back has caught three passes, totaling 60 yards. Alarmingly, Slaton has fumbled three times in just 26 carries this year. If he is unable to rectify this problem, expect to see Brown toting the rock more often.
Regardless of Houston's early-season opponents, Slaton owners have expected more out him after two weeks, but should they panic?
Houston lost arguably their best offensive lineman - at least their pillar of stability - in left guard Chester Pitts (knee), who had started 114 consecutive games. He will be replaced by third-year backup Kasey Studdard. The offensive line played beyond their means last year, but upside is present and a return to their 2008 form isn't out of the question. Given their zone-blocking scheme's propensity to produce fantasy-worthy ball carriers, don't completely write off Slaton just yet.
In Slaton's upcoming four games, he faces a few teams that are playing well against the run but are far from invincible.
Table: Slaton's upcoming opponents vs. the RB position (Weeks 1-2)
As you can see, the Jaguars and Raiders pose reasonable matchups for Slaton on the ground as well as through the air. Against the Jags in 2008, the then-rookie back rushed 31 times for 163 yards (5.3 per carry) and two touchdowns in two games. Most of his production came from a 130-yard, two-score effort in Week 13. Through the air, Slaton victimized Jacksonville's defense to the tune of 10 receptions for 135 yards (13.5 per reception) and one trip to paydirt.
Slaton racked up 102 total yards on 23 touches against Oakland in Week 16 but didn't find the end zone. Versus the Bengals last season (Week 8), the former West Virginia Mountaineer finished with 17 touches for 66 yards and a rushing touchdown.
Arizona and Cincinnati are playing very well against the running back position on all fronts, but will it continue by the time the Texans come to their respective towns?
Fantasy football outlook
The next two weeks should be very indicative in determining if Slaton can get on track. If he can't get it done versus the Jaguars or Raiders, it's probably time to give up on expecting him to turn it around.
Savvy fantasy owners are targeting Brown as a handcuff to Slaton or a stash option if their roster permits such.
Point-per-reception owners should make sure he finds a place in their starting lineup this week, and Slaton owners in standard performance-scoring leagues should consider him as at least a flex option.
Editor's note: Marco Romanell contributed to this report.
About Cory J. Bonini
Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.
Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.
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