Texans rookie Dameon Pierce takes inquisitive approach to football

Dameon Pierce adapts to everything in front of him on a football field in a decisive, improvisational manner: bulldozing linebackers with a punishing style, or eluding defenders with dynamic cuts to break into the open field.

Officially named the Texans' starting running back, the rookie from Florida keeps reminding himself to approach the game with patience and an ongoing thirst for knowledge.

Ironically, some of the most valuable counsel the fourth-round draft pick and Georgia native received during his first months as an NFL player was from the man he would beat out for the starting job to emerge as the Texans' RB1: veteran runner Marlon Mack, the former Indianapolis Colts 1,000-yard rusher.

Mack, toppled on the depth chart by Pierce and ultimately cut from the 53-man roster and, later, the practice squad, told Pierce to remain calm and poised in all situations.

"The best advice actually came from Marlon," Pierce said Wednesday inside the Texans' locker room. "Marlon told me early when I first got here and I was frustrated not knowing the plays as well as I should, he was like, 'Bro, the end days are all going to come. You can't force it.' 

"Before my first game, I was like, 'I'm nervous.' He was like, ''Bro, nerves are going to come and go. That's part of the game, so just learn how to charge everything into the game, embrace it. Don't be scared or run from it.'"

Pierce, ever since the Texans drafted him, has gone about his work diligently. He talked with his cleats, and his shoulder pads.

When the Pierce attacked the line of scrimmage with explosive cuts and a bruising style that combines quick cuts, outstanding balance and an aggressive manner of lowering his pads and delivering the blow, he served notice that he was the top option on the roster for a running game that was the worst statistically in the league last year.

Pierce plays the game with a lot of energy. It's reminiscent of how former Texans running back Mark Ingram displayed a fun, charged-up style.

“I haven’t seen someone recently with that much juice," Texans quarterback Davis Mills said. "Maybe that last guy you can compare him too is Mark Ingram. When he was here last season, you kind of feel that same energy, how he changes that mood of everybody around him every day. He’s always very positive, energetic. He displays that when he’s out on the football field making plays, so we are excited to see what he can do.

“It’s been great. He’s been one of the hardest workers all camp in the building. He’s one of the earliest guys here and last ones to leave. He’s ready for the opportunity. From what we’ve seen in the preseason and throughout camp so far, everybody is excited for what he’s going to be able to do. We’re all fired up for him.”

The arrival of Pierce signaled a steady climb on the depth chart, earning the right to be the Texans' primary running back. He rushed for 86 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries in two preseason games and is now a popular trending option for fantasy football managers.

The emergence of Pierce shifted the Texans' plan from initially having Pierce atop the depth chart for the majority of the offseason and preseason.

"It's just a great pleasure and a blessing," Pierce said. "It just showed all the hard work I put in paid off. I'm just ready to make plays. Like I always say, bro, I've learned how to take information from others and add it to my arsenal. Especially from the older guys, like the veterans, especially recovery, learning the playbook, how to act on and off the field. I took it all and it paid off."

Pierce rushed for 574 yards and 13 touchdowns last season in a Gators offensive system that platooned running backs. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry and caught 19 passes for 216 yards and three touchdowns. As a junior, he rushed for 503 yards and four touchdowns and caught 17 passes for 156 yards and one score. Now, Pierce is off to a fast start at the NFL level. 

"My individual goals kind of coincide with all the team goals," Pierce said. "I want to win the division. We want to go far. We want to win. Other than winning, I want to play the best ball I can play, stay healthy, stay happy and bring all my teammates with me."

Since joining the Texans, Pierce signed a four-year, $4.475 million contract that included a $815,432 signing bonus. He won a starting job, became a home owner and earned his older teammates' respect.

“It’s been awesome," wide receiver Brandin Cooks siad. "The way he’s been coming to work from the moment he has stepped into this building, you can see he’s about his business. He’s been running at a high level. One thing I continue to tell him is to never get comfortable, always find ways to improve, and I think he took that to heart because you see him go out there every day working on something.”

Pierce started against the San Francisco 49ers and rushed for 37 yards and a touchdown on six carries in one series during a 17-0 preseason victory at NRG Stadium. Pierce displayed an ultra-physical demeanor against the NFC West franchise.

Pierce was clearly the most impressive back in practice sessions and games, including a 49-yard rushing performance on five carries against the New Orleans Saints. With Pierce, though, it’s more about the kind of crisp runs he’s manufacturing and his hard-nosed approach more so than fancy statistics.

After seeing enough out of him against New Orleans, Pierce was held out of the Texans’ preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams.

Pierce's running style is fun to watch, and it's painful for defenders to deal with. He grew up watching former Georgia and Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley

"He is a unique person that has energy and I’m just anxious to see him take this next step," Texans coach Lovie Smith said. "As a rookie, he’s come into the building, and asked ‘What do I need to do coach?’ First day, ‘What do I need to do?’, and then gone to work, doing it, showing up, hasn’t missed anything, hasn’t worried about practice squad. 

"We had him on the special teams doing work. All different things we’ve asked him to do. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. He’s earned an opportunity to lead us. It was asked, is he our starting running back? He’s earned the right to line up there with the one’s, the first snap and I’m anxious to see him play.”

Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton hopes to build an upgraded running game after the Texans were statistically the worst rushing attack in the NFL a year ago.

Now, the Texans are hoping that Pierce can help them build a strong running game.

The Texans rushed for only 1,422 yards, 3.4 yards per run and eight touchdowns last season.

They're counting on Pierce to energize the running game.

"You got to roll with it," Pierce said. "You try to compartmentalize everything. You go to thinking about it too much you might get out of your mental routine and throw yourself off. I'm just trying to take it as I go. My first NFL camp, this is the NFL and I'm seeing I can play and seeing I fit in. All of that gives me confidence to play ball every day."

Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and a contributor to Sports Talk 790.

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans

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Texans sign Derick Roberson to practice squad

By Aaron Wilson

The Texans signed former Tennessee Titans and Sam Houston State linebacker Derick Roberson to their practice squad Thursday morning.

Roberson (6-foot-3, 250 pounds) is a San Antonio native who has 26 career tackles, 4 1/2 sacks and one forced fumble.

Signed by the Titans as an undrafted free agent in 2019, he had three tackles and a sack in a regular-season finale as a rookie. Last season, he had 11 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks. He has played in 16 career games with one stasrt.

The Texans worked out former Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Emeke Egbule on Wednesday, according to a league source.

The Texans also worked out former New England Patriots and Ohio State linebacker Rashod Berry and former Chicago Bears and University of Minnesota defensive tackle Micah Dew-Treadway. Berry has also played for the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Egbule played at the University of Houston and at North Shore High School where he was an all-district tight end.

Egbule had 162 career tackles for the Coogs before being drafted by the Chargers in 2019 in the sixth round.

He was cut by the Chargers last year and signed to their practice squad and then a reserve-future contract in January.

Egbule was waived by the Chargers on Aug. 30.

Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and a contributor to Sports Talk 790.

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