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With Jonathan Taylor, James Robinson and Derrick Henry currently dominating defenders in the AFC South, the Houston Texans finally grabbed a bruiser for themselves — former Florida Gator Dameon Pierce — with the second pick in the fourth round.
“He plays with a lot of joy,” Texans general manager Nick Caserio said following the draft. “He plays with a lot of fight. He plays with a lot of toughness, and his personality, I would say, transfers over to the football field.”
Pierce said, “I like to fight for my yards. I like to punish the defense. I don’t like taking hits. I like giving hits.”
In 2021, Pierce ran for 574 yards on only 100 carries.. He had 13 rushing touchdowns and a total of 1,806 yards in his career. According to PFF, he was first among all running backs in college football with a 92.0 PFF grade.
What makes him the best back in the draft is his production. Let’s go to the film to understand why Pierce is the Texans’ three-down back of the future!
Last year, the Texans averaged 3.2 yards per carry. They ended up 31st in rushing first downs (4.5) and last in the NFL in rushing yards per game (83.6). Texans desperately needed a runner who could keep drives alive when the passing game was lacking. Pierce can be the guy who can set them up nicely on early downs or convert a new set of downs on third or fourth and shorts.
In the clip below, it’s the first quarter and the Gators are looking to extend the drive on second-and-5. Pierce does a great job following his blockers, stretching the field wide and then making a quick cut north and south to convert a new set of downs.
Before he even hits the line of scrimmage, he is forced to avoid tackles and has a great bounce-cut to get away from defenders.
The Texans now have a guy who they can rely on when needing a few extra yards. We should also expect him to be the go-to back when in the red zone as well.
Here he is getting a touchdown against the stacked Georgia defense. Once again, he has a lead blocker to run off of — tight end Kyle Pitts.
Whether its short distances, red zone touches, or against stacked boxes, Pierce should be able to handle it all. Doug Farrar highlighted before the draft just how dominant Pierce was against seven or more defenders in the box. Per Sports Info Solutions, he faced seven or more defenders on 39 carries, and on those 39 carries he gained 169 yards, had 98 yards after contact, 12 touchdowns, three broken tackles, four missed tackles forced, and just eight stuffs when he was hit at or behind the line 19 times.
Pierce doesn’t have many miles under his belt. In Dan Mullen’s offense at Florida, Pierce only saw double digit touches twice last season, which were in the last two games (after Mullen was fired). He wasn’t given a high workload, which means if Pierce beats out his teammates in camp, he can be given a good number of touches early-on without any fear of a burnout from college.
Power in gap runs
Pierce is a prototypical gap-style runner. He likes to stretch the field wide and then cut off his offensive lineman’s back.
Here’s another reason why Pierce was the perfect choice for the Texans in the fourth round. With the 16th overall pick, they selected, Texas A & M, left guard, Kenyon Green. In the clip below, here he is jumping off the line of scrimmage, preforming a pull across the line, clearing out a defender for the runner.
Steelers fans, let Texas A&M G Kenyon Green introduce himself. What a pull!
Green has played every position along the OL but center, too. Definitely a possibility at 20. pic.twitter.com/UvPB6Ir1po
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 27, 2022
Green was considered one of the most athletic offensive linemen in the draft. He loves to get out in front of plays, picking up edge defenders and making a way for the ball carrier. Him and Pierce should come out on fire within a gap-style run scheme that will include pulls, so Green can also show off his athleticism in the open field.
Winning as a receiver
Pierce makes receiving look easy. He’s a natural catcher in open space who barely breaks stride when seeing the ball into his hands.
In the clip below, he motions to the flat and in one fluid motion, he catches the ball while already moving north and south.
Even though he has the safety coming down on the ball, he is able to maneuver his body taking the hit on his back, which puts himself between the tackler and the ball. Then his contact balance takes care of the rest.
Pierce is a weapon in space.
In the clip below, Florida runs play-action and Pierce goes to the flat. As soon as he catches the ball, he takes the ball to the inside in order to open space on the sideline to make his juke.
Pierce can catch cleanly, adjust his body for yards after the catch, and make defenders miss in the open field.
If there is still any doubt in your mind that Pierce is not the Texans three-down running back of the future. He can also dominate in pass protection.
In the clip below, its day 2, at the Reece’s Senior Bowl, and Pierce is in a one-on-one pass protection drill. He is putting his body on the line against a pass rusher in open space.
Florida RB Dameon Pierce put in a shift on Day 2 of the Senior Bowl. His toughness and effort in pass protection was really impressive pic.twitter.com/BIiAL0wWAu
— Jack Brentnall (@Jack_Brentnall) February 3, 2022
He shows this same physicality in game. In the clip below, Pierce takes on Georgia linebacker, Nakobe Dean, who is coming around free off the edge. Pierce has no problem taking on contact square, then he holds the defender off using his legs.
The Texans could run two-back sets with Marlon Mack, or reverses for rookie receiver, John Metchie III, who has taken plenty of snaps from the backfield in Alabama.
Pierce can do it all.
Expect him to eventually win the job and begin sharing snaps with Marlon Mack, creating a pretty good duo with speed and power.