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Houston Texans Run Game Faces Stacked Boxes

With no passing threat, opponents neutralize the Texans run game.

Houston Texans v Miami Dolphins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Until two weeks ago, the Houston Texans had arguably the best rookie-led rushing attack in the NFL. Dameon Pierce was a top five running back and well on his way to a record breaking campaign.

After nine games, Pierce had 762 rushing yards, averaging 84.66 yards per game. Projected across the full season, the bulldozing rook was on track to hit 1,439 total yards on the year.

Over the last two games, Pierce has averaged eight yards per game. That’s not a typo. That’s not per carry, or yards after contact or anything else. That’s total yards per game.

John Dillon over at Texans Wire dropped a post yesterday with Pierce’s thoughts on this.

Dameon Pierce

Oh man, they’re stacking the line, putting five down linemen up there. Three-down linemen, two stand-up defensive ends and just letting the linebackers play the gaps. That’s hard to run against in any system, whatever you are running. That’s something we do though. That is something we are going to gameplan against, something we’re going to get better at. We just have to get used to it up front.

Obviously, if teams do something good against us, the other teams are going to copycat and put it in their repertoire and implement that against us. But we just have to start finding counters to the stuff that people are going to do to us, because we’re changing our tendencies. We’re trying to do tendency breakers – we just trying to get a better flow on offense. Ultimately, we are going to change that.

This weekend brings the Cleveland Browns run defense for Pep Hamilton to scheme against. The Browns currently have the 21st best rushing defense. They’ve given up 1,447 ground yards on 299 attempts for a 4.8 yard per carry average.

With Pierce’s recent ineffectiveness, he’s averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

It’s still easy to believe Pierce will get rolling against the Browns D, but with no real passing game to worry about, there’s no reason for Cleveland to do anything other than stack the box every down, just like the Miami Dolphins and Washington Commanders have done.

Kyle Allen, Davis Mills and anyone else they trot out under center simply isn’t a threat to light up any defense through the air. So, conventional wisdom leads one to believe the Browns will simply duplicate what the past two opponents have done.

Maybe it’s time for Lovie Smith and his band of lovable misfit coaches to put Pierce on the shelf for the rest of the year. Save his legs, save his potential and prepare to unleash it in 2023 when the Texans presumably have Bryce Young or some other quality quarterback.