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DeMeco Ryans: Dameon Pierce, Texans RBs will be 'excellent' in Bobby Slowik's run game

C.J. Stroud's play as a rookie will ultimately determine how quickly the Houston Texans' latest rebuild gets up to speed, but he'll get a little help along the way from the running game.

New head coach DeMeco Ryans brought offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik over from San Francisco with designs on running the Shanahan system, a scheme that historically has generated successful rushing campaigns.

"Similar run game with our outside zone scheme," Ryans noted Monday when asked about the similarities between the Texans' and 49ers' run games. "We'll start there. We'll have many varying runs, but we'll start there. That's our home base, but Devin (Singletary) and D.P. (Dameon Pierce) -- both guys have done a good job. They'll be excellent in our zone scheme and with our gap scheme, as well. They'll be fine, so they're both doing a really good job."

Of course, other clubs have tried to poach play-callers from Kyle Shanahan without finding similar success. Mike LaFleur crashed and burned with the New York Jets. Mike McDaniel's offense was explosive in Miami last year, but the running game wasn't dynamic (particularly early in the season).

The hope is that an explosive second-year back like Pierce can provide the baseline for the Texans' offense.

As a rookie, Pierce displayed power and nimbleness to bounce off defenders. The back generated 939 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 220 carries in 13 games. Pierce led the Texans with 1,104 scrimmage yards in 2022 (fourth among rookies).

Those numbers would have been better with improved blocking. Pierce was hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on 118 of his 220 carries (53.6 percent) in 2022, per Pro Football Focus. He generated 38 forced missed tackles on such carries, second in the NFL behind Nick Chubb.

Pierce had 62 forced missed tackles on runs in 2022, fourth in the NFL, per PFF, behind only Josh Jacobs (90), Chubb (83) and Derrick Henry (69). However, each of those three RB had 300-plus carries in 2022. Pierce had 220. The rookie's 28.2 percent forced missed tackles rate last season led the NFL.

Combining power, vision and gymnast-like balance at contact, Pierce profiles as an ideal workhorse in Slowik's system.

Ryans believes production out of the backfield will help Stroud make strides as a rookie.

"I think the biggest thing is (for) the offense to get going, you have to be able to run the football," he said. "You have to be able to establish the run game, have to get tempo going early, whether it's (the) run game or having successful completions. Whatever it takes just to get your offense moving, and the run game definitely helps that."

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