Houston Texans Positional Breakdown: Outside Linebacker

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Dec 28, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) runs as Houston Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus (59) defends during the first quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Whitney Mercilus, 6’4″ 258 Pounds, 24 Years Old

Just signed to a new multi-year deal is the first round pick out of Illinois from 2012, Whitney Mercilus. While he hasn’t lit the world on fire with his statistics, the team saw fit to reward him with a four-year $26 million extension. It looked as though the team would allow Mercilus to test free agency after declining his fifth year option, but instead they locked him up until 2019.

Some Background Info;

At pick 26, Mercilus was the highest selected Illinois defensive lineman since former Tampa Bay defensive end Simeon Rice in 1996. He started slowly in his rookie year only tallying 25 tackles in 16 games, four of which were starts.

Yet he still showed some explosiveness in those few tackles as six of the 25 were quarterback sacks. He followed up that performance by netting 47 tackles and seven sacks while starting all 16 games in 2013

Last season Mercilus looked to be more of a rotational rusher behind Reed and Clowney, but still started 13 games mostly due to the injury to the highly touted rookie. And like everyone not named J.J. Watt, he didn’t record many sacks at all in 2014, getting a career low five, despite a career high 50 tackles.

What To Expect This Year;

Mercilus is the clear cut starter regardless the health of Clowney, although having the athletic rookie start opposite him would free up much more space for the fourth-year player to operate. Mercilus has shown the ability to get to the quarterback occasionally, but personally I have never seen anything which warranted the long-term deal for the pass rusher.

I don’t expect him to go any higher than his career average of six sacks and roughly 45 tackles in 2015. Hopefully I am wrong, but I am not on board with his re-signing. I believe it would have been more prudent to force Whitney to play in a contract year and really show he deserved the big money deal he signed.

Next: Can The Top Pick Come Back From Injury?