The Texans (0-0-1) head to the Rocky Mountains this weekend for a matchup with the Broncos (0-1). It's the first meeting between the two teams since 2019, and it's the first trip to Denver for Houston since Week 9 of 2018. The Texans were victorious that day, winning 19-17. Here are five things to watch when the two teams kick off at 3:25 p.m. CT at Empower Field at Mile High.
1. More for Pierce
Dameon Pierce carried 11 times for 33 yards last Sunday against the Colts, and that wasn't enough, according to Lovie Smith. The Texans Head Coach said on Monday it was a "mistake" the rookie running back didn't get the ball more.
"The plan of course was for him to get more" Smith said. "You get into the game and situations make you go a little bit different direction."
During the preseason, Pierce averaged 7.8 yards per carry.
For his part, Pierce said "there were definitely some things" he could've done better in his first contest, and that he took the time to learn from it. Primarily, "patience" was something Pierce said he needed much more of moving into the future. He's thankful for the chances that look to come his way this weekend with more touches.
"I've just got to be in position mentally and physically to take advantage of them," Pierce said. "It's always great to have a coach who has confidence in you."
2. O-line shuffle
Justin Britt started at center in Week 1, but will be inactive because of personal reasons on Sunday in Denver. In his place, the Texans will likely start Scott Quessenberry, Jimmy Morrissey or Justin McCray.
"We have some different options," Smith said Friday. "I don't go into starting lineups of exactly who's going to play. We'll look at our options and go from there."
While it's always a challenge to lose a starter before a game, Smith pointed out that the Texans were able to get three practices in this week, and this wasn't a day-before-the-game type of surprise.
Of Quessenberry's 10 career offensive line starts, one came for the Chargers in a Week 13 game at Denver in 2019. Morrissey, meanwhile, started four games at center for the Texans last season, and McCray has started 28 games on the interior of the offensive line since entering the NFL in 2016.
Regardless of who's snapping the ball, right tackle Tytus Howard has confidence in them.
"All the centers have done a good job of stepping up," Howard said. "Whoever's in there for the game at center is going to do a pretty good job of communicating and getting the offensive line in the right position to succeed."
3. More for Mills
Quarterback Davis Mills found Tight End O.J. Howard for a pair of touchdown passes in last week's 20-20 tie with the Colts. Nine different Texans caught a pass from Mills, who completed 23-of-37 attempts for 240 yards, without an interception.
Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton saw some things he liked, and also saw some areas for improvement.
"I felt like there were moments when we had a rhythm," Hamilton said. "We were able to move the ball efficiently. We had a few big plays, but we left quite a few big opportunities out there on the field. Just the overall communication and play speed, we hope that that will improve the more our group plays together."
Mills explained what he wants to do better this week.
"Continue to stay efficient, get through my reads, be ready to step up in the pocket and use my legs a little bit to help out the offensive line and open some guys up on the defense," Mills said.
The Broncos are impressed with Mills, and Denver Defensive Coordinator Ejiro Evero thinks Mills is a "good player" who has "the ability to throw accurately".
4. Wrangle Russell
Quarterback Russell Wilson has faced the Texans three times in his career, and his team was victorious in each of those contests. Last season, he and the Seahawks handed Houston a 33-13 defeat in Week 14 at NRG Stadium. Wilson completed 60 percent of his passes, wasn't sacked or picked off, and tossed for a pair of scores.
Always a threat to extend plays with his legs, the Texans hold Wilson in very high regard.
"He knows the game," Safeties Coach Joe Danna said. "There's nothing that he sees on Sunday that he hasn't seen before. Obviously, a good decision maker, good athlete, got good arm strength. Really the total package, so we'll have our hands full."
In the Monday night road loss against his old team, Wilson completed 29-of-42 passes for 340 yards with a touchdown and zero picks.
"Dual-threat," Cornerback Steven Nelson said. "He can create a lot of time. It means from the back end, we have to cover a little longer. Definitely adds a different element."
5. Tighten up vs. the run
While Wilson has potent wide receiver targets in Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy, he also is backed by a run game that was good for 5.3 yards per carry in the season opener. Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon are a dynamic duo, as the former ran for 903 yards in 2021, while the latter gained 918 yards last season. Each is a capable receiver, as well, as the tandem teamed up for a combined 71 catches and 529 yards in 2021.
"They've got two good backs," Defensive Lineman Roy Lopez said. "They run hard. They run fast. You've got to do your job. You've got to do your 1/11th and be in your gap and make the play when it comes to you."
Browse no fee tickets for Texans-Chargers on October 2 @ 12:00 PM.