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Florida Gators in the NFL: Do we really have to free Dameon Pierce again?

The Texans’ remarkable rookie has been remarkably quiet in recent weeks.

Houston Texans v Miami Dolphins Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

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.

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.

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.

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.

Gardner-Johnson is in good spirits and optimistic his time off the field will lead to success in his other professional career.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

You could tell Neal really wanted that sack based on the exaggerated shoulder slump that followed.

Two plays later, Neal blitzed again. This time he came up in the middle instead of off the edge and brought down Jacoby Brissett.

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):

The Good

  • 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%)

The Limited

  • 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

The Inactive

  • 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