CODY STOOTS/PRO FOOTBALL FOCUS

Mariota unimpressive, Watson taking shots ahead of Monday

Marcus Mariota had a rough game against the Colts. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Pro Football Focus grades each individual player's performance and assigns them a grade. All 32 teams use Pro Football Focus. 

Each week we will take a look at some of the key grades as well as some from the Texans upcoming opponent. They also do great fantasy analysis and draft coverage as well. Stats are for the previous game unless otherwise noted. You can join Pro Football Focus here

Brennan Scarlett - 94.4 Defensive Grade

Hello, secret weapon. Who knew he could play inside linebacker so well? The Texans it seems. And now, Washington. He only produced a handful of tackles but came up with an interception and did one heck of a job in coverage for the Texans. Scarlett has been a special teams weapon for almost the entire season and now in a pinch, the Texans found a good defensive use for him outside of his normal position. This is a testament to Scarlett and the coaching which helped get him ready. 

Greg Mancz - 29.5 Pass Blocking Grade

Mancz came in for an injured Zach Fulton and had a surprisingly low grade. Mancz had done well filling in for Fulton earlier in the season when he was injured. He allowed the most pressures on the team in this game with four. It may have been a bad matchup for him, much like the Giants were earlier in the season when he filled in at left guard. A rare bad game for Mancz in this spot as he had been solid. 

Deshaun Watson - 14.9 Yards Per Attempt on Blitzed Plays

Watson saw a blitz on 10 dropbacks and was sacked twice. On the other eight plays, he tried to make a big play. It was the only situation in which he had a double-digit YPA. Watson's YPA was short, the Texans had a lot of yards after the catch. This is something Watson is very capable of doing because the offensive line has been good recently and his feet let him extend the plays. With play-calling being fairly conservative, Watson taking advantage of the defense risking blitz is good to see. 

Marcus Mariota - 34.8 Offensive Grade

The Titans quarterback is hurt and coming off a horrible performance in Indianapolis. His worst of the season in fact. He passed for just 85 yards and was injured and replaced by Blaine Gabbert. The week before though he posted his highest grade of the season against New England. He's about average for the season and that's what the Texans just faced in Alex Smith. He didn't play against the Texans earlier in the year, but ahead of Monday, he has a chance to finally impress against the Texans. He's thrown just one touchdown pass in three games against Houston. 

As always, you can join Pro Football Focus here

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Dameon Pierce was a bright spot for the Texans on Saturday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans played a football game for the first time since January on Saturday, and while it was only the preseason, there were some things that should create a sense of optimism for fans.

One of those groups is none other than the running back position, which is unfamiliar territory for Texans fans to have any hope about that unit.

Since the turn of the new decade, the running back group has been abysmal for Houston, ranking among the bottom in the NFL, including 31st in 2020 and 32nd in 2021. Entering into the 2022 season, it seems like the tide has begun to shift, and that is due to rookie running back Dameon Pierce, who impressed in his first outing ever in a Houston uniform.

Pierce garnered some attention with his 49-yard rushing performance, including a 20-yard run in the second quarter. The fourth-round pick out of Florida looked like he was gliding in between the land of giants at times as he shifted through his own offensive linemen and opposing defenders.

He also displayed his ability to get to the edge and turn the corner on the outside as well, something that not many Houston backs have been able to do over the last few seasons.

Now it is early, and after one preseason game, there should be no reason to crown Pierce the second coming of Arian Foster. But the reason Houston fans should have optimism when it comes to the running backs is because of the potential Pierce has shown.

In 2021, Houston’s best running back for most of the season was Mark Ingram, and he spent half of the year with, coincidentally, the New Orleans Saints.

Running back Rex Burkhead took charge towards the tail end of the season, and finished as the team’s leading rusher with only 427 yards for the entire campaign. Pierce got roughly one-eighth of that in limited action against the Saints.

Running back Marlon Mack started the game for Houston. While he only finished with a lackluster six yards on three carries, it is also worth noting that starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil, starting center Justin Britt and guard Kenyon Green all did not play for the Texans against the Saints.

Burkhead is still on the roster. He also did not play against New Orleans, but going back to 2021, he proved that he still has the capability to make an impact on games in spurts.

With both Mack and Burkhead good veterans to help Pierce’s development throughout his rookie season, and the small sample the young back has put on film, there is reason to be enthusiastic about Houston’s running back group for 2022.

After all, the bar has been set pretty low following the past two seasons. The silver lining about hitting rock bottom is that eventually you can only go up.

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