Rookie running back Dameon Pierce is already making big plays and showing plenty of personality.
Davis Mills is the Houston Texans' quarterback hope. Will that last through the season?
Houston Texans coach Lovie Smith and general manager Nick Caserio are attempting to make the Texans relevant again.
Cal & Hannah McNair at the Houston Children's Charity gala. (Photo by Gary Maltz, Alexander's Fine Portrait Design)
Well, at least Davis Mills looks pretty good in a baseball cap. Whether it’s the camouflage that he sports on the sidelines or the El Do hat he wears to the postgame press conference. Mills’ time in the hats goes much better than his time on the football field on this Saturday night.
The Houston Texans’ young quarterback hope leads two drives that seem to be stuck in reverse during the Texans’ preseason opener — a 17-13 win over the Saints for those interested in meaningless preseason final scores. The first one opens with Marlon Mack getting dropped in the Texans backfield for a two yard loss and ends with Mills throwing a seven-yard hitch to Chris Conley on third-and-13. The second drive starts with a holding penalty and ends with Mills throwing a eight yard pass on third-and-12.
Not exactly the stuff offensive dreams are made of. In fact, the Texans largely look like what they’re expected to be during their first public audition of 2022. The Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Texans as the favorites to finish with the worst record of football this season for good reason.
Preseason game one certainly shouldn’t change anyone’s mind. The Texans’ starting offense looks like the offense of a four win team. Yes, No. 1 wideout Brandin Cooks and Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil don’t play. But neither does the Saints first team defense.
“Overall, I think we shot ourselves in the foot a little bit too much tonight,” Mills says. “A lot of penalty yards. Those add up and put us in third-and-long situations that you don’t want to live in.
“I had to play out of that a lot last year — and it’s tough.”
Things figure to be tough for the Texans again and new coach Lovie Smith may not find even matching old coach David Culley’s four wins easy. But the season can still be a relative success if the Texans come out with at least one new star.
Rookie running back Dameon Pierce is already providing some hope on that front. The biggest problem for the Texans from a box office perspective isn’t just that they’re bad. It’s that they’re now the most anonymous team in the NFL.
Pierce might give them a chance to change that. The 5-foot-10, 218-pound back with a love for contact went almost shockingly underused at Florida. Which is why the Texans could grab him in the fourth round — and maybe why few Saints could corral him on this night.
His first carry goes for 20 yards with a little dart of a cut and a would be tackler shrugged off. And Pierce never really slows down. His shortest carry is a six yarder. He finishes with 49 yards on five carries and leaves everyone waiting for more. There’s your flash of hope.
“Dameon Pierce definitely caught my eye and everybody’s eye that was watching it,” Lovie Smith says. “And that’s what we’ve seen in training camp also. He’s a good football player.”
He might just give Texans fans someone to latch onto. Pierce is almost as dynamic in the Texans’ snazzy locker room, holding court under a red hoodie.
“Man, if you only knew what these last 24 (hours) were like for me,” Pierce says, the enthusiasm almost pouring out of him. “My head was racing. My heart’s been pumping. I’ve been jittery since last night.
“As the game got closer, I just started letting loose. I started relaxing.”
Forget the never-ending fantasy football implications blabber. Dameon Pierce is real life fun.
The Dameon Pierce Experience
Dameon Pierce still needs to supplant vet Marlon Mack, who somehow looks almost old at 26 (those running back years are harsher than dog years in the NFL) to even become a starter. But Texans fans at least have reason to potentially wish upon a new potential star.
The biggest problem for the Texans from a box office perspective isn’t just that they’re bad. It’s that they’re now the most anonymous team in the NFL. Maybe Dameon Pierce can help change that.
The Texans are still too early in general manager Nick Caserio’s rebuild to truly worry about wins. But building the littlest of buzz would be a start.
A full lap around the concourse in the third quarter revealed just how far this Texans rebrand still needs to go. I spotted 11 J.J. Watt jerseys, four Andre Johnson jerseys, three Deshaun Watson jerseys (yes, some people will still wear them), a DeAndre Hopkins jersey, an Earl Campbell jersey in that sweet Oilers baby blue, a Whitney Mercilus jersey and a DeMeco Ryans jersey. As for current Texans represented?
I spotted one Davis Mills’ No. 10 and one Brandin Cooks’ No. 13 jersey. When your ex-players are way more popular than your current players, the buzz around your team is virtually nonexistent.
Reducing the concession prices on a number of core items this season — which includes the price of a hot dog dropping from $5.50 to $3.75, chicken tenders baskets falling from $10 to $7.75 and a 16 ounce beer from $8.69 to $7.95 — is a very nice gesture. It’s another way for the Texans to prove they’re committed to being more fan friendly.
But it’s not the type of thing that makes more people want to come to the games.
At least not fans who want to cheer for the Texans. On this night, there are more jerseys in the stands of current Saints players than current Texans. When Saints cornerback Brian Allen picks off a pass from third string Texans quarterback Jeff Driskel with 4:10 remaining in the fourth quarter, the roar is loud enough to make you think you’re in the Superdome for half a second.
The “announced” crowd is 69,437 for this one, but there is little traffic on Kirby Drive an hour before the game.
Davis Mills throwing short on third down won’t supercharge this scene. Neither will his hat collection. A legit rookie running back phenom just might be a start, though.