3 takeaways from the Texans’ snap counts in 20-20 tie with Colts

The Houston Texans came to a stalemate against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday during a bizarre 20-20 tie game after 10 minutes of overtime. The opening day of the 2022 NFL season gave Houston fans a longer than expected glimpse at the new roster and how Lovie Smith and the coaching staff may plan to use some of the available weapons.

Quarterback Davis Mills, left tackle Laremy Tunsil, and defensive standouts Jalen Pitre and Derek Stingley were guaranteed to see 100% snap counts as staples of the team. However, more was learned about the rest of the roster that will have a significant impact on Houston both winning games and the ways in which they’ll try to do so.

There are a few key takeaways to walk away with after the first full-game featuring the Texans starters.

1. TE O.J. Howard is brimming with potential


Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Howard was only signed with the Texans 10 days ago after sending the entire preseason with the Buffalo Bills. He stepped into an entirely new offensive system with both a host of teammates and a playbook that he wasn’t familiar with.

It didn’t matter.

Howard had two catches for 38 yards and two touchdowns during his Houston debut. These numbers came in just 12 snaps, or only 17% of the Texans’ offensive plays. This could spell major future contribution for Howard as he continues to develop chemistry with quarterback Davis Mills and is able to get on the field more often to compete with more than 60% snap shares that both Brevin Jordan and Pharaoh Brown saw on Sunday.

2. RB Rex Burkhead's offense

(AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

The talk of Houston’s preseason revolved around rookie running back Dameon Pierce. The fourth-round back from Florida dazzled in the preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints and was named the starting running back by the time the team closed against the San Francisco 49ers.

Smith, the fantasy football community, and the entire Texans team was raving about the powerful runner that projected as the No. 1 option for Houston’s run-oriented offense.

That was, of course, until Houston actually played a meaningful game.

Pierce drew the start but played only 20 snaps (29%) to Burkhead’s 50 (71%) despite a favorable game script for Houston. It would appear that Smith and the coaching staff aren’t yet fully comfortable on passing downs and like Burkhead’s pass protection next to Mills.

Pierce may be the more talented of the two by a good bit, but for now the offense still appears to resemble 2021’s in that Burkhead is the feature running back.

3. Defensive lineman by committee

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the preseason the Texans’ starting defensive line was talked in terms of young edge rusher Jonathan Greenard and the rest of the team. However, on Sunday, Smith and the defensive staff showed that Greenard is just as much part of the rotation.

No defensive lineman for Houston played more than 67% of the snaps and the Texans played eight different lineman on the day. It will be interesting to watch if the talent of Greenard and Hughes relative to their peers may increase their snap counts as the Texans progress further into the preseason.

In the meantime, it doesn’t appear like Smith will even pretend the team features an elite pass rusher and will opt to play the freshest guys where possible.

Story originally appeared on Texans Wire