Sean Pendergast

Where Does Dameon Pierce's Rookie Season Rank in Texans History?

Red helmets and Dameon Pierce! Two reasons to be thankful this holiday season.
Red helmets and Dameon Pierce! Two reasons to be thankful this holiday season. photo by Eric Sauseda
Thankfully, for Houston Texans fans, the 2022 NFL season is winding down. Soon, we will be able to put the misery of what, for now, is a one win season behind us. If we're being honest, we've all been watching the sand slip through the hourglass since around Week 6. One of the only things sustaining us for the season was the emergence of tour de force rookie RB Dameon Pierce.

Unfortunately, as of this past weekend, Pierce's rookie season is over, as a high ankle sprain suffered against the Cowboys in Week 14 has put him on the shelf for the rest of the year. The silver lining in Pierce's absence is that he will take about 100 fewer hits on his body in a lost season for the team, but as far as reasons to watch the Texans go, Pierce is one of the best reasons, and honestly, one of the FEW reasons.

So we can close the book on Pierce's rookie year. He vastly outperformed his status as a fourth round pick, tallying 939 yards on 220 carries, on an offense with horrific quarterback play, no tight ends, no A-1 receiving threat, and a mediocre offensive line. It wasn't just all the yardage piled up by Pierce, but also that he did it while seemingly breaking five tackles on every play:
So where does Pierce's rookie season rank among all of the rookie seasons in Texans' history? We can slot him now that HIS season is over. First, let's give out a few honorable mentions — solid rookie seasons that rank behind Pierce's, in my opinion (in reverse chronological order):

Reid, a third round pick, was the Texans' top pick in the 2018 draft, the 68th pick overall, and he played like a first rounder. Reid had three interceptions, including a 101 yard pick six against Washington, and two fumble recoveries. He was a staple of a very good defense.

Watson was on track to run away with the Rookie of the Year award before tearing his ACL midway through the season. After making his starting debut in Week 2, Watson put up some historic numbers, with 19 touchdowns passes in seven games. We all know how the Watson story ended here, but it had a phenomenal start.

J.J. WATT, 2011
Some of you are probably saying "Honorable mention for J.J. Watt?!?" Well, yes. Watt was solid as a rookie, but not yet GREAT. Greatness truly came in 2011 playoffs, with the pick six against the Bengals, and then Watt began his meteoric rise off the charts in 2012. In 2011, he had 5.5 sacks in the regular season.

Robinson was a really good first round pick for the Texans, with 6 interceptions and a half decade of solid cornerback play after that. Eventually, he left in free agency ("Pay Me, Rick!") but Robinson was a solid leader in the secondary.

Similar to Watt, the future Hall of Famer got off to what, for him, would be considered a modest start, with 976 yards receiving and four touchdown catches. Eventually, he would become arguably the best receiver in football for the next ten years.

This is an appropriate jumping off point for comparisons to Pierce, actually. Williams had a very similar rookie season to Pierce statistically, and situationally (second year QB, franchise in second year of a rebuild, or initial build in the case of the 2003 expansion Texans). Pierce wins by a hair, probably because he is a delightful interview more than anything else.

So, here we go. I have Pierce's stealer rookie year, all things considered, fourth in franchise history behind these three:

Like Pierce, Slaton was a non-first round rookie that the team was hopeful would make contributions as a rookie. The thought was Slaton would be a tandem backfield with Ahman Green. However, somewhere on the way to a tandem, Green got injured (again) and Slaton became the bell cow, rushing for 1,282 yards and nine touchdowns. Slaton's season is the most prolific for any Texans' offensive rookie.

2. DeMECO RYANS, 2006
Ryans' 2006 season is interesting because he was a draft classmate of a number one overall pick, Mario Williams. While Williams would eventually become a Pro Bowler, Ryans established himself as the leader of the Texans' defense from the day he set foot in the building, and led the league in tackles with 126. he won Defensive Rookie of the Year for the 2006 season.

I rank Cushing, who also won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, ahead of Ryans, because of (1) the infusion of attitude he brought to the Texans, and (2) the number of true "splash" plays (four interceptions, four sacks), while also tallying 133 tackles.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast