The Patriots have been known to house cohesive veterans looking to add a championship to their resume. In the offseason, New England swung trades for disgruntled DT Albert Haynesworth and controversial wideout Chad Ochocinco. Football is a war of attrition and with injuries that occur to running backs, you can never have too many versatile pass catching halfbacks on the roster (ask Tom Brady). Which leads us to freshly available RB Steve Slaton. He's only 25 years old and has not yet absorbed the career-ending blows that most in his position begin to accumulate.
In his rookie season out of West Virginia, Slaton rushed for 1,282 yards, nine touchdowns, and gained 60 first downs on nearly five yards per attempt. By comparison Slaton out-gained the likes of fellow AFC Pro Bowl running backs Jamaal Charles, Maurice Jones Drew, and Chris Johnson in their full first years.
Fumbling problems from the opening gate of the 2010 season fused with a consternating coach in Gary Kubiak, led to Slaton's benching a little over halfway through the year. A shoulder injury ultimately ended his season. As he fell out of favor, Arian Foster began to egress and the rest is history.
Slaton excelled and he offers above average protection in the passing game and is exceptional as a receiver. In his first full season, Slaton caught 50 receptions at an average of nearly 8 yards per reception. More importantly, however, 14 of them were first downs;helping Matt Schaub transition to a full-time starter after backing up Michael Vick in Atlanta for 3 years. He was on pace to break the mark during his second season with 44 through 11 games before injuring himself.
He excels at slipping through seams, shifting gears in open space and continuously churning his legs in tight measures. He does a good job of staying balanced upright as pass rushers converge on him and at the most precise moment he's able to insert himself under the defender's shoulder pads and effectively defend his quarterback's blind spots.
Healthy and motivated, Slaton's arrival in New England could spell trouble for the AFC East defenses who rank in the bottom half of the NFL's rushing defenses, highlighted by the Jets crestfallen rank of 30th courtesy of the league's leading rusher Darren McFadden's eye opening 171 yards on over nine yards a carry. AFC East teams have given up 100 yards on the ground in every week of the adolescent NFL Season and the trend seems unlikely to change with New England traveling to Oakland to face McFadden and Co. and with the Jets pitted against Ray Rice and the Ravens. In addition, he has less than 430 carries on his body whereas Corey Dillon already racked a whopping 1,865 carries before his stop in New England.
With youth, surreal speed, and a light workload the Patriots should at least make a concerted effort to kick the tires on Steve Slaton.
The last time the Patriots added a starting-caliber running back was during their Golden Era in which Corey Dillon joined forces after a love-hate relationship in Cincinnati.
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