When Head Coach Lovie Smith named Dameon Pierce his starting running back for Week 1 game, many expected the rookie to get a lion's share of carries. Instead, it was veteran Rex Burkhead who finished with a team-high 14 carries and 40 rushing yards.
"Looking on the offensive side of the football, I understand how many plays Dameon Pierce played," Smith said Monday. "The plan of course was for him to get more. You get into the game and situations make you go a little bit different direction. You learn from those mistakes like that, mistakes of those situations that you look at the day after."
While Pierce did start in Sunday's 20-20 tie against the Indianapolis Colts, he finished with just 11 carries for 33 yards and a catch for six yards in his NFL debut. Burkhead rotated in and out of the game with Pierce. In some situations, the two even rotated on the same series. On the sideline, Pierce watched, using those opportunities to learn for when his number was called.
"I felt like this was a learning standpoint for me," Pierce said. "Getting to see how the vet does it, how the vet handles it so that when I am in there, I know how to handle situations, I know how to play situational football. Most importantly, I want to be comfortable when I go in. I don't want to go in there thinking. Seeing Rex, I get to see on film can see how he approaches things, how he expects pressures, how he picks them up."
Burkhead, now in his 10th NFL season and second with Houston, is the more experienced rusher, receiver and pass blocker. Smith says he wants to see improvement in Pierce's skillset skillset and increase his opportunities to handle the ball.
"Sometimes though when you look back, you can't defend the amount of reps our starting tailback got in some of those situations," Smith said. "I wish he had gotten more and we're going to work to get him more of those opportunities but a young back, it's some of those things. I wouldn't say that just being a primary ball carrier is holding him back. Those are some things that we're going to work on to make sure that that situation doesn't happen again."
With the tie, the Texans head into Week 2 at Denver with a 0-0-1 record. Kickoff from Empower Field at Mile High is set for 3:25 p.m. CT on CBS and SportsRadio 610.
Browse no fee tickets for Texans-Chargers on October 2 @ 12:00 PM.
Browse photos from the Texans, Colts Week 1 matchup.