HOUSTON, TEXAS – AUGUST 25: Dameon Pierce #31 celebrates with A.J. Cann #60 of the Houston Texans after scoring a touchdown during a preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers at NRG Stadium on August 25, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
The Texans knew they were getting a hardnosed runner when they selected Dameon Pierce out of Florida in the fourth round. It turns out they’re getting much more.
The video was everywhere. Having escaped a head tackle, a then helmetless Dameon Pierce threw caution to the wind running through three more Seminole defenders on his way to the end zone for Florida. It was all the description of grit and toughness anyone needed in the aftermath of Pierce being selected by the Houston Texans in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
A tough, hard running RB to join recently signed Marlon Mack and veteran pass-catching back Rex Burkhead, Pierce seemed a natural complement. Mack was a former 1000+ yard rusher himself, now a full season removed from major injury. Burkhead was the heady veteran jack-of-all-trades type. A punisher type back is exactly what the Texans needed. Turns out Pierce is much more than that.
Pierce has demonstrated in camp and during limited preseason game work, he has much better burst than anticipated. He runs with patience, allows the play to develop just enough for him to find the daylight, then explodes through those holes turning pinholes into craters with ease.
Pierce has demonstrated he is more than willing to put his shoulder down and truck a defender, as he did multiple times in the Texans final preseason game against San Francisco. He’s also shown, however, he has a greater elusiveness than previously thought. Pierce has made defenders miss, slipped tackles, shown the ability to cut sharply and suddenly. He’s not just a bowling ball looking to knock down whatever is in front of him.
While he hasn’t had many opportunities out of the backfield in the passing game in the preseason (he was only targeted 1 time in the first preseason game on a pass that was incomplete), Pierce has shown in practice that he also has good hands out of the backfield. Pierce has been lauded for his receiving work in practice and made some nice plays, particularly in red zone work catching the ball. Pierce is showing rapid advancement for nearly all the things that would make a traditional three-down back.
The Texans offense, playing without 3 starting offensive linemen and without its top wide receiver, cut through the 49ers defense on their first drive in the final preseason game with ease behind Pierce. Pierce finished the drive with 6 carries for 37 yards and capped the drive off with a touchdown run. He was then removed from the game, indicating the team intends for him to be RB1. The team then struggled to move the ball when relying on Rex Burkhead as a primary ball carrier the rest of the first half.
Pierce has been a legitimate difference maker on the field, and I can only expect that he will be better when the whole first-team offense is together. The only remaining question on Pierce’s resume is how well will he handle consistent pass protection duties if needed. That question can only be answered in time. It will be wait and see.
As far as who should be the primary ball carrier, there’s no need to wait. The future is now for Dameon Pierce and the Texans.