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Texans look for more running success in 2008

HOUSTON (AP) -Various injuries have slowed Houston's running game the past three years. Now the Texans have more depth than ever - if their top two backs can stay healthy.

Ahman Green is the starter and Houston added Chris Brown in the offseason. Both have had success in the NFL, but have been hampered by injuries. Green has missed 23 games the last three years and Brown has sat out 15 the last two.

Houston averaged 99 yards rushing a game last season, 22nd in the NFL. Ron Dayne filled in for Green last season and was the team's leading rusher with 773 yards, but he was not re-signed.

The Texans added Brown as insurance for Green, who signed a four-year, $23 million contract before last season, but had only 70 carries for 260 yards in 2007. But Brown sat out Monday's practice with cramps in his back after missing Friday's practice for personal reasons.

Coach Gary Kubiak hoped he'd return Tuesday.

"He is already a day behind and needs to get back out here," Kubiak said.

Brown is looking to put his struggles behind him and find success in Houston.

"Definitely a fresh start," he said. "No one has an opinion of me and they know I can go out and play. I can go out and start all over and go out there and have a good time."

He blames his injuries on bad luck and being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"It's definitely frustrating when you're having a good season or you're trying to turn your season around and someone falls on you wrong and slows you down," he said. "It's very frustrating, but you just have to keep going and move on."

As for Green, he's looked good in practice after dealing with knee problems most of last season. Houston is hoping the 31-year-old Green regains his form from two seasons ago when he ran for 1,059 yards.

That's not to say the Texans think he has to run for 1,000 yards for the team to be successful. He certainly needs to be on the field more than he was in his Houston debut.

"I think to put that on one player, I don't know if that's the right thing to do," Kubiak said. "But is it a necessity that we run the ball extremely well to become a better football team? You bet that's a necessity, so I would imagine that means we need to have one. Somebody's probably got to be that guy and step up and do that. But regardless if we do it as a group or with one guy, it doesn't matter to me. I just know we've got to run the ball well."

Though he's on the back end of his career, Green said he's still excited to play and believes he can contribute.

"My hunger to play is there," he said. "The hunger is always there. If I didn't have that hunger, I wouldn't play no more."

Along with Green and Brown, the Texans plan to use rookie Steve Slaton as a change of pace or third-down back. Slaton ran for 1,051 yards and 17 touchdowns and had 350 yards receiving last season at West Virginia. Houston also has former Notre Dame standout Darius Walker.

Brown described Slaton as "a young guy with a lot of talent."

"He definitely has the speed," Brown continued. "I've even seen him turn that corner a little bit."

The Texans are so crowded at running back that Chris Taylor has moved to fullback. Taylor showed promise as a rookie before missing all of last season with a knee injury. He'll compete with Vonta Leach and Jameel Cook at the position.

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