HOUSTON – Dameon Pierce wasn’t slated to spend so much time watching from the Texans’ bench during his NFL regular season debut.
The Texans’ rookie starting running back wound up playing just 29% of the 70 offensive snaps, 20 plays overall, during a 20-20 tie to open the season against the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium. He rushed for just 33 yards on 11 carries with one catch for six yards and didn’t play in overtime as veteran backup Rex Burkhead got stuffed for a loss of two yards on a pivotal 3rd-and-1 leading up to a punt decision that led to the tie. While Burkhead played 71 percent of the snaps, 50 plays overall, he rushed for 40 yards on 14 carries with five catches for 30 yards.
Going forward the Texans want to increase Pierce’s workload following an impressive preseason from the fourth-round draft pick from Florida.
“Some of the other things we did in the game, looking on the offensive side of the football, I understand how many plays Dameon Pierce played,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said Monday. “The plan of course was for him to get more. You get into the game and situations make you go a little bit different direction. You learn from those mistakes like that, mistakes of those situations that you look at the day after.”
It was tough sledding for the Texans’ running game Sunday against the Colts’ stout defense.
It wasn’t the type of performance the Texans hoped for as they had high hopes following an encouraging preseason after having the statistically lowest ranked ground attack a year ago.
The Texans managed to gain just 77 rushing yards on 28 carries for a 2.8 average per run. Both Pierce and Burkhead’s longest run was eight yards against the NFL’s 10th-ranked run defense from last season.
Pierce got the start but had just 16 yards on five carries in the first half. In the fourth quarter, Pierce had three runs for 10 yards. In overtime, Pierce had zero touches.
What will it take for Pierce to get more touches? Pass blocking and receiving improvements?
“It would be all of those,” Smith said. “Sometimes though when you look back, you can’t defend the amount of reps our starting tailback got in some of those situations. I wish he had gotten more and we’re going to work to get him more of those opportunities but a young back, it’s some of those things. I wouldn’t say that just being a primary ball carrier is holding him back. Those are some things that we’re going to work on to make sure that that situation doesn’t happen again.”
A Senior Bowl all-star game participant who beat out Marlon Mack for the starting job after rushing for 86 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries during the preseason.
Pierce wasn’t discouraged by the lack of productivity.
“I felt like we did good, especially after we made adjustments at halftime,” Pierce said. “I feel like everything we did came down to one block and one cut. There’s nothing to point fingers about in regards to that. We were pretty solid in the run game outside of a few things we could have done different. Everything looks different on film when you slow it down.
“It felt good. That’s all I needed. Coach (Danny Barrett) was talking to me. He was like, ‘Just one cut away.’ Once I get to making those cuts, those actual game-breaking cuts, we’re gonna be rolling.”
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com.