(SportsRadio 610) - While the Texans say they’re not making excuses, they certainly could if they wanted to, given the myriad of injuries they’ve suffered on the offensive line.
However, second-year running back Dameon Pierce doesn’t want to hear any of that nonsense.
“Guys are eager to get back in the field ... missing the field just as much as we miss them on the field,” Pierce said of his injured teammates. “It hurts, it sucks, but that’s part of the game and you know, everybody is working to get better.”
With right tackle Tytus Howard and rookie center Juice Scruggs not slated to return from injured-reserve until week five, the Texans are hopeful that left tackle Laremy Tunsil can return to help balance out the line a little bit this weekend in Jacksonville.
Tunsil’s return to the lineup is in doubt after his participation in practice this week was limited. He’s officially been listed as questionable going into Sunday’s tilt against the Jaguars.
Nevertheless, the Texans say they’ll remain steadfast in their approach to the run game despite their lack of success through the first two weeks of the season.
Call it stubborn. Call it hardheaded. Call it necessary.
They currently rank as the fourth-worst rushing offense in the NFL, with just 124 yards on the ground, including a league-worst 2.5 yards per carry.
Pierce has amassed just 69 yards through two games on 26 carries and no touchdowns. His longest run this season has been 10 yards, once.
“It’s a simple fix, it’s not like we have guys lacking or not giving an effort,” Pierce said. "As we stay adamant with it and intentional with it, then we’re going to see more and more runs pop."
The unwavering support of a subpar offensive line by both Pierce and Stroud through two weeks is admirable and expected.
For Pierce, the patience he’s had with a patchwork offensive line is one thing, but he’s said his approach this season has been to be more patient when he runs as well.
“The patience part for me comes in, it’s as simple as going from seven-and-a-half yards alignment, to eight yards,” Pierce said.
The Texans' former fourth-round pick says he and running back coach Danny Barrett spend a lot of extra time together. While other running backs are busy with special teams meetings or in the training room, Pierce and Barrett are trying to find something to improve on.
“Every week, me and DB (running back coach Danny Barrett) always steal a lot of reps, steal a lot of film,” Pierce said. “It comes down to me. He doesn’t want to slow me down because that’s how I play. That’s one thing I like about DB. He keeps me in the framework of my game, but also within the framework of this offense and what they’re asking of me. Both of them mesh together.”
The balance for Pierce to be himself and remain that instinctual type of runner while being patient enough to allow the linemen to set blocks or waiting for a cutback lane to open was as simple as stepping an extra half-yard back pre-snap.
“This week, you might see me a little deeper,” Pierce said. “We saw that, you know, when I was deeper as opposed to closer, I naturally feel the cut anyway, I was finding it regardless. The timing was a hair of a second off or a split-second too early or we’ll mess up in a fit or something.”
While Pierce and Barrett have worked tirelessly to find the best way to kick-start a run game through the things they can control, offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik may have to deviate from when and how the Texans utilize the run.
As continuity on the offensive has suffered due to injuries, Slowik has to find a different way to get to the run. Whether that be through a faster tempo offense and/or using the passing game to set up the run.
The Texans neutered themselves of a run game early and often last season when they opted to give Rex Burkhead prime carries in high-leverage moments instead of Pierce.
Through two-games this season, while injuries, poor line play and large deficits have limited Slowik’s game plan and willingness to run the ball, it’s time he finds a way to unleash the angry runner.