Houston Texans rookie running back Dameon Pierce was electric in his team’s Week 1 preseason victory over the New Orleans Saints. Pierce led all Texans’ ball-carriers with 49 rushing yards on just five attempts. Pierce’s first career rush went for a 20-yard gain.
Pierce appears poised to make a significant impact as a rookie. Saturday’s performance offered an intriguing peek into what Pierce is capable of producing.
WE SEE YOU ROOK, @IRep229 👏
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— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) August 14, 2022
The No. 107 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, Pierce joined an underwhelming group of running backs in Houston. It shouldn’t take him long to leapfrog the competition. The former Florida product was easily the Texans’ most impressive running back against the Saints. Royce Freeman is a veteran journeyman that managed just 25 yards on 12 carries (2.1 yards per carry). Marlon Mack is a reclamation project that gained six yards on three attempts. Veteran rusher Rex Burkhead was rested against the Saints. That insinuates Burkhead is still appreciated in-house, but Pierce is the far more effective runner. The Texans can’t possibly believe the 32-year-old Burkhead is capable of being a workhorse.
Pierce first began impressing throughout organized team activities (OTAs) where he quickly gained reps with the first-team offense. Pierce has carried that momentum over to training camp, showcasing the same between-the-tackles ability that captured the Texans’ attention throughout the pre-draft process. Pierce may be the answer to last season’s historically poor run game that tallied a league-low 1,422 yards.
Texans general manager Nick Caserio did well to identify Pierce as a value selection in the fourth round. Pierce enjoyed a fruitful pre-draft process, including a standout stint at the Senior Bowl.
Pierce is a tough, physical runner with good vision and a compact build. His contact balance allows him to evade the first would-be tackler, which was evident on his 20-yard rush against the Saints. Pierce’s angry running style will quickly endear itself to Houston’s new coaching staff. Texans offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is a wise play-caller that will put Pierce in positions to succeed.
The Texans’ reworked offensive line may hold the key to Pierce’s first-year impact. Last season’s struggling unit contributed to a league-low 3.4 yards per play. The starting guard spots have been completely overhauled as a result.
Caserio drafted former Texas A&M offensive lineman Kenyon Green with the 15th overall selection in April’s draft. Green is expected to immediately slot into Houston’s lineup at left guard. Former Jacksonville Jaguar A.J. Cann signed a two-year contract as a bridge-type starting right guard. A healthy Laremy Tunsil at left tackle should also spearhead this group forward. Question marks are still present, especially at right tackle and right guard, but the Texans’ offensive line should be more effective than they were last season. It bodes well for Pierce’s outlook.
The Texans remain a franchise in transition. Hamilton is tasked with beginning to establish an identity on the offensive side of the ball. The Texans lack the firepower to willingly enter high-scoring shootouts with their opposition. Playing quality defense and controlling the clock with a bruising, menacing rushing attack remains Houston’s best chance at being more competitive in 2022. Dameon Pierce should be involved early and often.
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