Sean Pendergast

Houston Texans' Snap Count Curiosities From Colts Tie

Rex Burkhead saw way too much action in the tie against the Colts.
Rex Burkhead saw way too much action in the tie against the Colts. Photo by Jack Gorman
We are one week into the Houston Texans' 2022 regular season, and already the extremely fan friendly and likable head coach Lovie Smith is in hot water with the team's fan base. There are two reasons for this. The first one was covered extensively in my Monday recap of the game, and that was the decision to punt the ball late in overtime on 4th and 3 at midfield, essentially conceding the 20-20 tie to the Colts. People want wins, not ties!

The other thing that had Texans fans worked up after the game was the extreme disparity in carries and snaps between pedestrian veteran running back Rex Burkhead and potentially explosive rookie running back Dameon Pierce. The exclamation point on the usage, or misusage as most felt it was, was Burkhead's getting stuffed on 3rd and 1 just before the punt heard round the world.

Well, on Monday, we got the exact numbers on the play count disparity between the two players, along with some other interesting nuggets, when the snap counts for each player in Sunday's 20-20 tie with the Colts were published:
Here are a few takeaways, running back related and non running back related, from the game's snap counts on Sunday:

The whole Burkhead-Pierce thing feels even worse
Man, I know we saw way too much of Burkhead on Sunday, but I had no idea the disparity was so great. 50 snaps for Burkhead, and just 20 snaps for Pierce, that was the final count. For a player to whom the team seemed to be ready to hand the baton of "frontline running back," Pierce seemed to give Lovie Smith and OC Pep Hamilton some cold feet on Sunday, and after rewatching the game twice, I honestly can't figure out why. One more stat on how ridiculous Burkhead's usage was — Jonathan Taylor, the Colts lead RB and possibly the best back in the league, played 76 percent of the Colts' offensive plays. Burkhead, a 32 year old back who might not be in the league if not for the Texans, played 71 percent of the Texans' offensive plays. Huh?!?

Kenyon Green's time is coming
As one of the team's two first round picks in the 2022 draft, all eyes were going to be on former Aggie Kenyon Green. He got off to a slow start in training camp, due largely to a concussion suffered at practice. Eventually, he got on the field for the final preseason game, and did some good things. Veteran Justin McCray started the season opener against the Colts, but ultimately Green ended up playing 54 percent of the snaps to McCray's 46 percent. Lovie Smith all but said on Monday that Green is going to be "the man" at left guard, full time, sooner rather than later. Expect him to join the "100 percent snap club" in the very near future.

Derek Stingley and Jalen Pitre's time is here
On defense, there were six players that played all 92 defensive snaps — linebackers Christian Kirksey and Kamu Grugier-Hill, along with the entire starting secondary, Jonathan Owens, Steven Nelson, Jalen Pitre and Derek Stingley, Jr. The latter two are high profile rookies, who have been running with the first string from the time they arrived on campus at NRG Stadium. They are both the real deal, two picks it looks like GM Nick Caserio nailed.

A couple more interesting nuggets
A couple more interesting nuggets, from a snap count perspective. First, safety Eric Murray, the final "Bill O'Brien horrible contract" holdover, got ZERO snaps on defense (thank God), and is now essentially one of the highest paid special teamers in the NFL. Also, after Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins, the wide receiver with the next most snaps was Chris Moore, who saw action for nearly half the Texans' offensive game (49 percent of the offensive snaps), ahead of veteran Phillip Dorsett who only saw four snaps total.

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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