Lovie Smith updates injuries, new roles

Dec 11, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith stand on the field during warm ups prior to a game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Lovie Smith updates injuries, new roles

Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith addressed some of his team’s many injuries on Wednesday and how the team intends to fill those voids in Sunday’s matchup with the Chiefs.

The Houston Texans are a bit beat up for Week 15. They listed 15 players on their injury report, 10 of whom did not practice at all. Texans head coach Lovie Smith spoke on some of those issues on Wednesday.

“Wednesday practice. Since we talked last time, once you get to the practice field – we have some injuries. I think most of you know that. Dameon Pierce has an ankle injury. Nico Collins, Brandin Cooks, Derek Stingley, all those guys are getting better. Exactly when they’ll be back on the football field, we don’t know. It was good to get Jonathan Greenard; I know he practiced last week, back into the mix. A few guys can’t go, a few guys getting back on the roster. I think we’re no different than anybody else this time of year.”

Obviously, Lovie is downplaying the number of injuries they have, and critical injuries at that. Each player he mentioned in that statement is a key starter. Currently, the expectation is that Pierce, Collins, Cooks, and Stingley will all be out this week. The hardest to replace is Pierce, as the biggest drop-off from starter to backup exists at the running back position.

“First off, if Dameon can’t go, we know what he’s been to our offense this year. He’s one of the best running backs in football. There would be a void. When a player can’t go, the void is sealed by others. We look to all options. Our running back position right now, or what we can do at other positions. If you talk to most other positions when you lose a great player like that, need more from those positions. Need more from our offensive line. All of those things. We’re working through the game plan right now. We feel like we have a plan, so we’ll go from there.”

Realistically, they can’t get from Rex Burkhead and Dare Ogunbowale what they get from Pierce. Pierce has proven to be an absolute stud running back. Burkhead is an older, third-down type back. Ogunbowale is unproven and has also seen more success in the passing game. Lovie stressed he needs those guys to step up.

“As a general rule, it’s hard to get three running backs involved. And for us, we’ve been focusing in on – it’s sometimes hard to get one running back involved. You mentioned Rex (Burkhead), Dare (Ogunbowale), both of those guys have had success in the league. There’s a reason why they’ve dressed in every game when they’ve been healthy. So you start with those two options. It’s safe to say those guys are going to be a part of what we do running game-wise, and we’ll look for other options too.”

Other options could include RB Royce Freeman, who was with the team in the preseason and later added to the practice squad, or it could mean a greater role for a nontraditional ball carrier like QB Jeff Driskel or a wide receiver. I would expect a few more RPOs with Driskel getting to keep the ball and playing some 11 on 11 football offensively.

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