Standing at his locker Friday morning at NRG Stadium, Dameon Pierce smiled during an upbeat conversation about his pending increased workload and touches that’s been prioritized by Texans coach Lovie Smith.
Utilized sparingly in his NFL starting debut last Sunday during a 20-20 tie against the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium, Pierce is expected to play significantly more this week in a road game against the Denver Broncos.
“That’s cool,” the powerful rookie running back said. “It’s always great when you have a coach who has confidence in you. I love coach. I love the things he’s doing here and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Pierce wound up playing just 29 percent of the 70 offensive snaps, 20 plays overall, against the Colts. 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 on eight targets.
“I just got to be in position mentally and physically to take advantage of it,” Pierce said. “There’s definitely things I could have did better, but ain’t no way to get better than if you don’t learn from it. I took everything from last game, built on it and added to my repertoire and try to get better for Game 2.”
The Texans gained 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.
As he reviewed his first NFL regular season game, the fourth-round draft pick from Florida saw some definite areas he can improve upon.
That includes taking his time and allowing the play to develop in front of him. Reflecting on that game, Pierce believes he was too excited and anxious and that led to missed opportunities.
“Patience, bro,” Pierce said. “First game going fast, know what i”m saying. Slow dow,n take better steps, just little stuff, nothing big, but little things that add up in the league and something you can’t get away with. Just like steps, take time on the reads, show patience and just have fun out there and relax.”
Smith said that Pierce needs to keep getting better at pass protection and other nuances of the game to have more playing time.
“Of course, that’s something I’m constantly building on,” Pierce said. “I’m thing about catches, steps, pass protection, how the O-line is thinking, how to get better as a unit. The best thing for me to do is embrace those challenges, go with them with a full head of steam. I know I have guys around me who support me.”
Going forward the Texans want to get Pierce more involved following an impressive preseason during which he rushed for 86 yards on 11 carries with one touchdown.
“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,” Smith said.”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.”
In talking with running backs coach Danny Barrett, Pierce said that he realizes what he needs to change.
“As a running back, you have to have patience,” Pierce said. “I felt like I was too fast last game. One thing we worked on and put emphasis on this week. (Coach Barrett) was like, ‘Slow down. You’re one cut away.’”
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com.