How Punishing Texans Running Back Dameon Pierce Is Emerging as Rookie of the Year Candidate

Dameon Pierce's physical, punishing running style is not just garnering attention in Houston, but also as a potential Rookie of the Year candidate.

HOUSTON — Dameon Pierce’s stellar tackle-busting display, violently punishing the Jacksonville Jaguars defense and their feeble arm tackle attempts, didn’t alter his no-days-off mentality.

The Houston Texans‘ rookie running back was right back in the weight room Monday, squatting 425 pounds, after scoring the game-winning touchdown and rushing for 99 yards on 26 pounding carries. It was a designated day off, but not as far as Pierce was concerned, and his work ethic was referenced by Texans general manager Nick Caserio as emblematic of the rookie class’s approach to the game.

Offensive Rookie of the Year Candidate Refuses To Be Tackled

“We’ve gotten decent production out of that group, but I think the attitude and the mindset probably stands out more than anything,” Caserio said. “We’ll use Pierce as an example.

“So, Monday is the off day for players, and yesterday, he’s in squatting 425. People wonder why is he successful on the field. Well, he’s successful because he works hard, he’s got the right attitude, he’s a good teammate, he trusts the people around him, he gives credit to his teammates, the offensive line, to the tight ends, doesn’t make it about himself.

“I think more players with that attitude, more players with that mindset collectively in this building and in this program, ultimately, that’s what it takes,” Caserio continued. “It’s not about one player, it’s never going to be about player or one person or one draft class or anything like that. It’s a collective effort of over the course of time. When those guys have had opportunities, they’ve done some good things.”

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The Texans’ powerful rookie running back just wouldn’t go down Sunday, busting through tacklers like a runaway truck. He shrugged one defender off of his shoulder pads with a roughneck shake of his head and shoulders, sending him falling to the ground.

Pierce spun like a whirling dervish away from Jaguars safety Rashawn Jenkins in the backfield before bulling through Foye Oluokun, Tyson Campbell, Darius Williams, Shaquill Grifin, Andre Cisco, Devin Lloyd, and Dawaune Smoot until he was finally tackled by Campbell and Cisco on their second try as Smoot grabbed his right ankle and held on for dear life.

Pierce displayed toughness, strength, vision, and willpower. His sheer determination kept him on his feet as he churned through defenders to set up his 1-yard touchdown during a 13-6 road victory for the previously winless Houston Texans.

Pierce created strong runs despite facing at least seven defenders in the box on 22 of his 26 runs, which is tied for the most such carries in a game this season, according to Next Gen Stats.

“It was a good play,” Caserio said. “In the context of the drive, we were able to get the ball in the right area, the ball on the goal line, get the ball in a scoring situation. I think collectively, as an offense, we had an opportunity to get the play started, and then once you get into the second level, being able to make tackles miss. He has good lower body strength, good toughness, he’s got good playing strength, and I think you saw some of those things on that particular play. There is a certain level of want-to-finish plays.

“We talk about this, (offensive line) coach (George) Warhop talks about this, just straining on the offensive line, straining to finish. I think it’s a good example of DP straining to finish and really doing everything in his power just to try to keep the ball moving forward.”

Ball Security Improvements by Pierce

Pierce nearly fumbled before his score but was ruled down on contact. Pierce fumbled twice against the Chicago Bears earlier this season while trying to gain extra yards, but said he learned a lot about how to do that the right way while strongly protecting the football with both hands in close quarters.

“I’d say the best thing about that play, I mean the next play wasn’t as good, but the best part about that play was the ball security with all the traffic, with breaking tackles, being able to secure the ball,” Caserio said. “The next play we were near the goal line, we were fortunate that his ass was on the ground by about that much before the ball came out.

“Nothing is more important than ball security. Especially down near the goal line, you want to make sure you take care of the football. Because taking care of the football hopefully leads to points. It was a great effort on his behalf, and hopefully we can take more of that as a team.”

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“Go country boy, go,” Pierce said when asked what he was thinking about during this epic angry run. “It’s all about getting that touchdown, man. And I know I had them big boys coming defensively. They were going to rally behind me at some point, so I just tried to fight and get in the end zone.”

The native of Bainbridge, Ga., is true to his roots. The 5-foot-10, 218-pound fourth-round draft pick from Florida runs with a rugged style all his own. He’s an emerging NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate.

“It’s a little early,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said. “He’s a rookie and he’s playing well. I haven’t seen all of the rookies out there. I just know that our rookie, we’ve loved him from the start. It’s not a bandwagon-type thing. We believed in this guy and what he can do.

“He’s letting other people kind of see it a little bit. Again, for us to be talking that way, the offensive line and the guys that are blocking for him, they have to be doing their job. I just know after a quarter of football, we like where he is. Much more to go, but I like the way he’s trending.”

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