The Houston Texans players will be back in the building on Tuesday following Sunday's 30-24 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15. Here are three takeaways from Head Coach Lovie Smith's Monday press conference.
1. Looking back at Dameon Pierce's rookie campaign
The Texans placed rookie RB Dameon Pierce on the Reserve/Injured list over the weekend. The fourth-round draft pick averaged 4.3 yards per carry, scored four touchdowns and led all rookie running backs with 939 rushing yards. He also caught 30 passes for 165 yards and caught one touchdown pass in his 13 starts this season.
"He had an outstanding year," Smith said. "Let's start with that. Anytime you are a rookie and you get playing time, is saying an awful lot. To be one of the best running backs in football during that rookie year says even more. He was everything we'd hoped and wanted him to be. Just excited about his future. He'll eventually get well and be back in the backfield for us, being our starting tailback."
On Sunday against the Chiefs, the Texans turned to Royce Freeman, who led the team with 11 carries for 51 yards, as well as Dare Ogunbowale and Rex Burkhead in the ground game.
2. Anyone not on IR has the potential to come back this season
The Texans placed their No. 3 overall pick, Derek Stingley Jr., on IR as well. Kenyon Green missed the Week 15 matchup but Smith expects the rookie lineman to return at some point.
"Yes, we do," Smith said. "The guys that we put on IR, they can't. But if we haven't, we're expecting those players to come back. We have football left to go. We're talking about who we're playing, so yes we're hoping that those guys can go."
Currently, the Texans have a number of players who missed Sunday due to injury including Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins and Steven Nelson.
Jonathan Greenard played his first game since Week 4, sidelined on IR for eight games due to a calf injury.
"Talented player, but practice matters, playing in games matters," Smith said. "When you haven't, it takes a little bit of time to get back to form, and that's been the case. I thought Jonathan (Greenard) did some good things, but there some things, especially up front defensively, we'd like to have back on what we did yesterday."
3. Goal for the final three games vs. AFC South teams
The Texans will close out their final three games of the 2022 season against AFC South opponents: Titans at Tennessee (Dec. 24), home vs. Jaguars (Jan. 1) and then at Indianapolis against the Colts (Jan. 7 or 8).
"As you look for things, the other guys are going to show up, but what can we really aim for? To finish up with a winning record in our division," Smith said. "That's what it's down to for us right now. That is what is getting us motivated. Eventually, we want to win our division and be the division representative in the playoff. To have a chance to see, yeah we're playing better ball right now, see how we matchup against them. I'm going to say they're playing better ball also. Tennessee has been right in there. I know they've lost three or four games, but they've been leading our division most of the year. Jacksonville has really risen up on how they're playing. They're playing their best ball right now, and same thing with the Colts. Of course, the Colts had a big lead on a playoff team, so we're anxious to see how we can finish this up against them."
Saturday's kickoff against the Titans is set for noon CT on CBS and SportsRadio 610.
Tap to browse tickets for the Houston Texans final home game vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars here.