The Missing Pierce
When the Texans drafted Dameon Pierce in the fourth round, I knew they were getting a steal. It was clear Pierce would win their starting running back job and get the opportunity to be a featured back that he never really did in Gainesville.
What was also clear was that Pierce was going to be stuck on one of the worst teams in the National Football League. And it has become increasingly clear these past two weeks that there is a limit to what even DP can do on and for these Texans.
GET DAMEON PIERCE HELP ️ pic.twitter.com/Ae2pgwn2cF— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) November 28, 2022
Against the Commanders and Dolphins, Pierce rushed for 16 yards on 15 carries. That’s a staggering 1.1 yards per carry. He’s caught five passes for a more robust 17 yards.
You can do the math: 20 touches to produce 33 yards. Woof.
Pierce knows opposing defenses have built their game plans around stopping him. In his trademark charismatic way, he described what he’s seeing at the line of scrimmage.
Texans rookie running back Dameon Pierce emphasized that opposing defenses are stacking the line and copying previous opponents' game plans to bottle up the running game @KPRC2 pic.twitter.com/I4HTHHFtXG— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) November 27, 2022
We know Pierce runs harder than anyone, and we can be pretty sure he’ll have some good days in the back half of this season. But for the most part, the electric performances that had him as an early favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year are going to be few and far between the rest of this year.
Get Well, Chauncey
C.J. Gardner-Johnson left Sunday night’s game with what at the time was deemed a rib injury. Turns out, Ceedy Duce suffered a lacerated kidney.
#Eagles safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson is out indefinitely after suffering a lacerated kidney in Sunday night’s win over the #Packers, per sources.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) November 29, 2022
It’s a non-surgical injury. Testing is ongoing, so timetable still TBD, but it is not expected to be season-ending.
That’s the kind of injury us normal folks might get in a bad car accident. But football has often been described as a series of car accidents each game; it’s a miracle these types of injuries don’t happen more often. Still, there’s no question this one is especially awful timing for CJGJ, who was having a career-season with a league-leading six interceptions.
The good news? It doesn’t look like Gardner-Johnson will need surgery and should recover with some rest. The bad news is that he’s likely to miss as many as six weeks. That would almost certainly derail his hopes of leading the league in interceptions or contending for Defensive Player of the Year honors. All-Pro and Pro Bowl berths are also in jeopardy.
Given the dangers of playing football, it’s much more important that he’ll make a full recovery. Even the longer recovery of six weeks will allow a return for what Philly hopes is a long postseason run.
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson on IG:— Thomas R. Petersen (@thomasrp93) November 28, 2022
"Passionate about what i do. I'll be back"
Hoping that means back this season #Eagles pic.twitter.com/H3isqF1dap
Gardner-Johnson is in good spirits and optimistic his time off the field will lead to success in his other professional career.
The Philadelphia Eagles’ veterans and newcomers have meshed into a championship contender thanks in part to their bonding over Grand Theft Auto roleplay.— Kris Rhim (@krisrhim1) November 25, 2022
Spent some time with @CGJXXIII, where he showed me how.
“It’s kind of like our secret sauce.” https://t.co/8250fo3sFD
Other Week 11 Notables
A month ago, the “experts” on Twitter were calling for the Panthers to cut Eddy Piñeiro after he missed game-winning extra point and field goal attempts against Atlanta. Since then, he’s gone 6-for-7 on FGs and 8-for-8 on XPs, continuing his steady, if not spectacular, season.
Pineiro is fifth in the NFL in field goal percentage at 91.7 — better even than future Hall of Famer Justin Tucker. For Pineiro’s career, he’s at 88.3% — which, if he had enough attempts to qualify on Pro-Football-Reference’s list, would be the third-best percentage in the history of the league.
I said it at the time and it’s still true now: Eddy is a damn good kicker and will be just fine after those misses. Plus, I don’t think his form on a crane kick is going to invite any auditions for the next season of Cobra Kai, so I think he’ll be able to keep the day job.
Best Special Team Unit in the league ✍ #KeepPounding@JHekker @ZGonzalez_5 @EddyPineiro @Panthers pic.twitter.com/2BjgTtvSZy— ✌︎︎ (4-8) (@JustAcceptJoe) November 28, 2022
Van Jefferson now finds himself as the No. 1 receiver for the decimated defending champs after injuries to Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson. It’s an anemic Rams offense, but Jefferson has nine grabs and two touchdowns in the past three games.
van jefferson’s second td in three weeks! pic.twitter.com/V3nFQQOAcf— NFL Fantasy Football (@NFLFantasy) November 27, 2022
He should continue to see plenty of targets and could put up some big numbers in the final six games. A strong finish to the season after the injury-delayed start will be a nice bounceback for Jefferson..
D.J. Humphries’ back injury is more serious than originally thought and the Cardinals put him on injured reserve. He’s out at least three more games. If Arizona falls out of playoff contention, I’d be surprised to see the veteran tackle back this season.
While Humphries is out, Max Garcia was back after missing four weeks with a shoulder injury. His return coincided with Kyler Murray’s and a resurgent Arizona run game. Garcia had his best game of the season according to Pro Football Focus as the Cardinals ran for 181 yards.
Max Garcia with a great block to help James Conner get seven yards and that first down.— Bob McManaman (@azbobbymac) November 27, 2022
Jean Delance got a look as a possible replacement for Humphries, but he spent one week on the Cardinals practice squad before being released last week.
Quincy Wilson was also a practice squad casualty as the Steelers released the veteran without ever elevating him to the active roster.
Marcell Harris was released by the Jets but quickly signed to their practice squad a couple days later. Harris had played in all 10 games as a backup linebacker and special teamer. After a nice 2021 in San Francisco, I’ve been surprised how little playing time he’s had in New York.
Player of the Week
Nice way to start Thanksgiving seeing Alex Anzalone grab a deflected Josh Allen pass for his third career interception.
The rook tipped it, the vet picked it!#BUFvsDET | CBS pic.twitter.com/E4w9bLcf3O— Detroit Lions (@Lions) November 24, 2022
As usual, Anzalone was all over the field, leading the Lions in tackles with nine. He almost had a second pick of Allen later in the game too.
I’ve written about how Anzalone doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a solid, dependable linebacker. For the season, he is Detroit’s leading tackler with 86 — which is 19th in the NFL. He’s also tied for the team lead in pass breakups with five.
Play of the Week
Keanu Neal came so close to getting his first sack of the season in the third quarter against Cleveland.
.@Keanu_Neal @ANelly98— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) November 27, 2022
: #TBvsCLE on FOX pic.twitter.com/WIot961BOl
You could tell Neal really wanted that sack based on the exaggerated shoulder slump that followed.
Keanu Neal’s body language following his almost-sack really got me— Collin Haalboom (@SI_Buccaneers) November 27, 2022
Great to see him follow it up with a real one on the very next play. pic.twitter.com/zfLzxLgsDB
Two plays later, Neal blitzed again. This time he came up in the middle instead of off the edge and brought down Jacoby Brissett.
Another sack, courtesy of Keanu Neal pic.twitter.com/Or72srF2yv— Sports by Tampa Bay Times (@TBTimes_Sports) November 27, 2022
Neal has looked explosive and fierce when Tampa has used him near the line of scrimmage. His physicality has always been his best asset. When he’s put in a position to use it, he’s a force.
Here are all of the Week 12 stats (ranked and tiered in order of performance):
- Alex Anzalone, DET, LB
Week 12: 1 INT, 4 yards, 9 tackles, 1 PD, 77 snaps (100%)
- Keanu Neal, TB, S
Week 12: 0.5 sack, 8 tackles, 2 QB hit, 63 snaps (80%), 7 ST snaps (23%)
- Van Jefferson, LAR, WR
Week 12: 3 rec (7 targets), 29 yards, 1 TD, 47 snaps (87%)
- Marco Wilson, ARI, CB
Week 12: 8 tackles, 1 PD, 1 TFL, 57 snaps (86%)
- Marcus Maye, NO, S
Week 12: 5 tackles, 70 snaps (100%)
- Brandon Powell, LAR, WR
Week 12: 2 rec, 6 yards, 1 rush, -1 yards, 3 KR, 26.0 avg, 26 snaps (48%), 14 ST snaps (58%)
- Eddy Pineiro, CAR, K
Week 12: 3/3 FG, Long 42, 2/2 XP
- Evan McPherson, CIN, K
Week 12: 2/2 FG, Long 47, 2/2 XP
- Jawaan Taylor, JAX, RT
Week 12: 63 snaps (100%)
- C.J. Henderson, CAR, CB
Week 12: 4 tackles, 50 snaps (83%), 8 ST snaps (27%)
- Max Garcia, ARI, G
Week 12: 66 snaps (100%)
- Carlos Dunlap, KC, DE
Week 12: 3 tackles, 1 PD, 20 snaps (37%)
- T.J. Slaton, GB, DT
Week 12: 3 tackles, 27 snaps (34%), 13 ST snaps (42%)
- Trent Brown, NE, RT
Week 12: 55 snaps (100%)
- Dameon Pierce, HOU, RB
Week 12: 5 rush, 8 yards, 3 rec, 8 yards, 34 snaps (56%)
- Demarcus Robinson, BAL, WR
Week 12: 1 rec (4 targets), 17 yards, 43 snaps (60%)
- Jonathan Bullard, MIN, DT
Week 12: 2 tackles, 31 snaps (56%)
- Jon Bostic, WAS, LB
Week 12: 2 tackles, 27 snaps (47%)
- Taven Bryan, CLE, DT
Week 12: 1 tackle, 51 snaps (74%), 8 ST snaps (26%)
- Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, PHI, S
Week 12: 1 tackle, 11 snaps (22%), left with rib injury
- Tommy Townsend, KC, P
Week 12: 1 punt, 49.0 avg
- Dante Fowler, Jr., DAL, OLB
Week 12: 1 tackle, 19 snaps (30%)
- Zach Carter, CIN, DT
Week 12: 22 snaps (39%), 5 ST snaps (17%)
- Kaiir Elam, BUF, CB
Week 12: 21 snaps (30%)
- Malik Davis, DAL, RB
Week 12: 14 ST snaps (61%)
- Stone Forsythe, SEA, T
Week 12: 6 ST snaps (18%)
- Jonotthan Harrison, ATL, OL
Week 12: Active but did not play
- Kadarius Toney, KC, WR: Inactive (Hamstring)
- Feleipe Franks, ATL, TE: Inactive (Calf)
- Teez Tabor, SEA, S: Inactive
- Kyle Trask, TB, QB: Inactive
- D.J. Humphries, ARI, LT: Injured Reserve
- Kyle Pitts, ATL, TE: Injured Reserve
- Jonathan Greenard, HOU, DE: Injured Reserve
The Practice Squad
- Marcell Harris, NYJ, LB
- Jabari Zuniga, NO, DE
- Antonio Callaway, DAL, WR
- Tyrie Cleveland, DEN, WR
- Jarrad Davis, DET, LB
- Fred Johnson, PHI, OL
- Freddie Swain, MIA, WR
- La’mical Perine, MIA, RB
- Jeff Driskel, HOU, QB
- David Sharpe, BAL, T
- Jeremiah Moon, BAL, LB
- Duke Dawson, PIT, DB