That's all folks! The popular Warner Brothers refrain at the end of a Bugs Bunny cartoon applies now to the 2022 preseason.
Training Camp over.
Preseason games over.
It's now for the whole enchilada after the Texans finished the preseason 3-0 with a shutout over the San Francisco 49ers. Here are my last Harris Hits from the Thursday night win over the Niners.
In my humble opinion, the offensive line was the story on the offensive side of the ball. Human beings wearing white jerseys were struck, moved against their will, bruised and beaten throughout the Texans win. THAT, more than anything, stood out. Double teams. Combination blocks. One-on-one blocks. It was impressive to watch, to say the least. I asked Lovie Smith about physicality after the game. Well... I told him that exact observation to see if I wasn't blind or missing something. Thankfully, he agreed with me wholeheartedly. The physicality of the whole team is just different. Totally and completely different, and it's HIGHLY evident.
One of the reasons the run blocking went to a different level on Thursday night was the return of rookie Kenyon Green. The young man from Atascocita High School is nothing if not an absolute hammer in the run game. I tried to focus on him throughout the night for many reasons and he was instrumental in opening holes on the left side. He was next to fellow rookie Austin Deculus for a decent portion of the night. On Marlon Mack's best run of the night, a 24-yard in-and-out run off the left side, Green worked a double with center Jimmy Morrissey and then moved up to occupy the linebacker. That move to the linebacker opened up the hole for Mack. I flashed back to that 2018 Wild Card loss to the Colts when Mack hit the gas and broke to the outside on his longest run of the night. As soon as Mack broke out, I just yelled out "JUICE!" He still has some and if he runs like that - whoa.
Oh, one final note on Green and the OL… In the third quarter, QB Kyle Allen fired a dart to rookie Seth Green (Houston to Houston in Houston) on a 24-yard completion. That was a laser, and the rookie made the catch and took a hit. Though the offensive line/trenches side of my brain said that the play was a result of two rookies on that left side handling a T/E stunt. Those two haven't done much together but the way they handled that stunt was textbook. Green started to ride his defensive tackle up the field, and when the defensive end disappeared back inside, Deculus took over and Green slid back inside to handle the looping defensive end. It wasn't just textbook for a G/T handling that stunt but that much more impressive when you consider that those two are rookies who haven't played next to each other hardly at all, if ever, at camp this summer.
I know many of you will wonder why I started with the offensive line and not rookie RB Dameon Pierce. I'm just doing what Pierce would want - giving credit to his OL first. But, don't get me wrong. There's something special with that young man. Over the two decades plus of Texans football, there have been certain players that can get Texans fans out of their seats, craning their necks to watch.
Every time Will Fuller V ran a deep route.
Everything J.J. Watt did.
Every catch of Andre Johnson's career.
Pierce makes fans want to watch.
I've been asked more about him than any Texan the past three to four years. Family members across the country text me wanting to know if they should draft him in fantasy football. 11 carries this preseason for 86 yards. His touchdown run lit up the fans and his entire team. Every single offensive player shot up arms with the universal touchdown signal. A.J. Cann lifted him up in the air like Simba and Mufasa in the Lion King. Fellow RB Dare Ogunbowale and Rex Burkhead ran on the field to celebrate with him. His football character is contagious and refreshing.
But Pierce wasn't alone at the RB position. Mack was excellent as well, averaging 5.5 yards per carry on ten carries. Ogunbowale didn't get as many touches as he did last week but showed some wiggle, power and receiving ability. Royce Freeman played both running back and fullback. Burkhead is as reliable as it gets. Prior to the game, I felt pretty confident as to how the RB room would look after the 53-man, practice squad cutdown. But, after last night, I'm more confused than ever because I don't know how I feel about taking just three or four of this quintet at running back.
Again, maybe I've buried the lede not mentioning anyone from a defensive unit that shut out the Niners. Interior defenders Michael Dwumfour and rookie Kurt Hinish accounted for five TFL and two sacks. Desmond King II and rookie Jake Hansen had interceptions. The defensive front harassed starting QB Trey Lance throughout his stint on the field. Double-digit TFL (10). Two sacks. Two interceptions. Constant pressure.
The defense was not a one-man performance, but more like a Wu-Tang collective in which multiple guys got on the mic to spit bars. Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison got a few snaps on the field and, like I said all camp long, they've got juice. I mean, did you see Jerry chasing Trey Lance on a third down play? My gosh. The Texans didn't have to get exotic to get pressure. Different combinations of defensive linemen in the pass rush, defensive front players winning consistently in one-on-one matchups... White jerseyed 49ers offensive linemen had a rough night containing the Texans defensive linemen.
Starting the second half, I saw Davis Mills standing near the edge of the sideline box planning to go back into the game. I wasn't totally shocked and was totally shocked, all at the same time. I'm glad the coaching staff put him back in the game because he finished with another flourish. Overall, he didn't light up the night skies with gorgeous parabolas of footballs, but he did make one heck of a throw for a touchdown to Chris Moore. I went to the back of the end zone as the Texans got near the red zone and I stood nearly directly under the right upright. So, when Mills released the ball down the middle of the field, Moore was in my same vision line. He hadn't even made his turn to the inside of the field when Mills released the ball. Then, like football magic, Moore turned slightly to the inside and a Mills spiral-hit him between the one and the five on his jersey for the touchdown.
The numbers weren't overwhelming for Mills throughout the preseason but he produced two scoring drives in his six drives on the night. His interception was on a brilliant throw, actually. He put that ball in a perfect spot and 49ers CB Samuel Womack III just made an incredible play on the ball. I can live with a throw like that. Now, the four drives that the Texans didn't score? Umm, just one first down. Same thing happened in LA. When it was good, it was great. When it was bad, they didn't move the ball at all. Then again, there was no Brandin Cooks, Justin Britt, Laremy Tunsil and Pharaoh Brown. I'll worry a bit more when the whole gang's back together, producing just one touchdown drive out of six. The run game showing up on Thursday night gave me significant hope that once the regular season rolls around, the offense will find its identity and level.
DL Derek Rivers continued to put excellent play on tape. The stop on fourth down near the end of the third quarter was not all him, but darn close. He was all over the place again and his overall play forced me to ask Marc and Andre to come up with nine DL for the 53-man roster. It's so darn hard, honestly. Rivers didn't just flash in one moment or one game, he was consistently excellent throughout practice drills, practice team period reps and all preseason games. When he was coming out of Youngstown State as a rookie in 2017, I loved his ability to get to the QB. Then I saw him go down on the Greenbrier turf in a joint practice session with the Patriots and my heart sank for the young man. That injury began future injuries, and he could never really find his way, but in this Training Camp, he told Marc that he felt like he was finally back to his old self with new self confidence. That was highly evident. I was holding my breath that when he was down on the turf that he was going to be able to walk off and be okay. Still hoping that's the case because he can be a definite asset on this defense in 2022.
It's been a long month plus, but the Texans couldn't have finished it any better. Shutout win over a playoff team. Finished the preseason 3-0. Hopefully Rivers is okay so we can say no major injuries, other than losing John Metchie III prior to the start of Training Camp due to leukemia (big loss but here's hoping JMIII will win his fight with leukemia in a rout).
Now it's for real.
17 regular season games start in 17 days, and it's the Colts coming to NRG for the opener.
Thanks so much for reading all of my Texans Camp Harris Hits and the three I did for the preseason games. Time to recharge and get ready for Indy. See ya then, everyone!!
Browse tickets for Texans-Colts season kickoff on September 11 at 12:00 PM.
Check out some photos from the Texans, 49ers matchup in Preseason Game 3.