Texans Running Back Steve Slaton Continues to Struggle with Fumble Issue
But amid the giddiness and talk of improvement and contending for division titles, there has been one consistent, strange story: that of running back Steve Slaton and specifically, his issue with fumbles.
Slaton, a 1,000-yard rusher as a rookie in 2008, finished last season on injured reserve, but much more than his return from a injury, the theme around Slaton has been his seven fumbles last season. That became more of an issue in the preseason opener Saturday against Arizona, when he again fumbled – this time into the end zone.
When is a preseason fumble something more? When it's part of a trend.
"I just need to hold on to the ball," Slaton told Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle. "I've been playing this game for a long time. I just need to go out there and play the way I know how to play."
True, but as Solomon points out, it does seem as if the issue is becoming something more than a sidebar in Slaton's career. After fumbling twice as a rookie, it became an increasing problem last season, and when discussing it in training camp, Texans coaches are hardly brushing it casually aside.
Solomon noted that it's not as if this is a career-long trend. In 37 games at West Virginia, he touched the ball 729 times and lost six fumbles.
"We're trying to stay positive with him," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's had a great offseason and a great camp. He was a big part of a nice 15-play drive, then with one play and you can go, 'Oh, no.' We have to keep that 'oh no' out of his head and just get him to stay focused on protecting the ball.
"He's given us and his teammates everything he's got. We have to stay positive. His confidence is back and I think he feels very good."
Kubiak told Solomon the Texans like Slaton's attitude in camp, and liked his approach after Saturday's fumble. Solomon noted that Slaton's "does have a different presence this season," that he has lost weight and has shown flashes of the player he was in 2008.
"My head is where it needs to be," he said. "I just know I have to focus on holding onto the ball. That's what preseason is for and what practice is for. I just have to make sure that by [regular] season game time is here, I have it fixed."
Slaton and the Texans know that if he doesn't, even the best attitude and approach won't help.