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Texans Rookie Set To Rush For 1000 Yards

Can Rookie Dameon Pierce become the first 1000 yard rusher for the Texans since Carlos Hyde?

A Solution At Running Back

The last time the Houston Texans has a running back eclipse the 1,000 yard rushing mark was 2019. That season, Carlos Hyde carried the ball 245 times for 1,070 yards (4.4 yards per carry).

In the two full seasons since then, the leading rushers on the Texans — David Johnson and Rex Burkhead — logged 691 and 427 yards respectively. Last season, the Texan running backs combined to average 3.4 yards per carry — good enough for dead last in the league.

Suffice to say, running back was a position of need for Houston heading into the 2022 NFL Draft.

By all accounts, the Texans knocked the draft out of the park, landing five sure starters with their first five picks. With their sixth selection — Round four, Pick 107 — Houston drafted Florida running back Dameon Pierce.

Pierce played significant downs all fours years at Florida in a timeshare scenario. He finished his collegiate career averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Bottom line: When Dameon Pierce touched the ball in college, he produced.

Becoming The Texans True Workhorse

Heading into the 2022 NFL season, Pierce is part of a running back room that includes Marlon Mack, Rex Burkhead, Royce Freeman, Dare Ogunbowale, and Darius Anderson. Dameon Pierce is younger and has a higher upside than all of those players at this point in his career. His the logic choice to win the starting job and earn the majority of the carries.

In 2021, the Texan running backs carried the ball a total of 378 times. 209 of those carries were by player who are no longer on the Houston roster (Mark Ingram, David Johnson, and Philip Lindsay). Burkhead carried the ball 122 times.

Dameon Pierce’s path to 1,000 yards begins with the number of carries he’s going to get. We’ll start by projecting him to absorb 150 of the carries that went to Ingram, Johnson and Lindsay in 2021. Then let’s say he eats into Burkhead’s carries and takes 70 of those. Pierce is now sitting at 220 projected carries.

Another projection we can make (if you’re an optimist) is that the Houston offense will be better than a year ago, and as such will be running more and passing less late in games. Let’s take that and spitball another 20 carries onto Pierce’s projected total. That would give Pierce 240 projected carries in 2022 — a number that would have been tied for sixth most in the NFL in 2021.

If Dameon Pierce gets 240 carries in the 2022 season — something not out of the realm of possibility — he would need to average just under 4.2 yards per carry to hit the 1,000 mark. He never averaged fewer than 4.7 yards per carry in any of his four collegiate seasons, and he topped 5.6 yards per carry in each of his other three campaigns at Florida.

With Dameon Pierce having the build, the tread on the tires, and the talent to handle that kind of workload, I can realistically see head coach Lovie Smith and the Texans staff leaning on Pierce, with little worry about the draft capital they have invested in him, and making him a bell cow back in 2022.

If he doesn’t reach 1,000 yards on the ground in the upcoming season, we can assume a number of things to be true, including an offense that regressed, a possibly injury to Pierce, or him simply not living up to his potential. Any of those outcomes likely means the Texans are drafting another running back early in 2023 and Pierce would have burned his chance to secure a long-term starting role in Houston. For now, it seems as though the job is his to lose.

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