Houston Texans 2016 outlook: Position grades

Aug 9, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Detailed view of a Houston Texans helmet sits on the bench against the Arizona Cardinals during a preseason game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 9, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Detailed view of a Houston Texans helmet sits on the bench against the Arizona Cardinals during a preseason game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jan 9, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans inside linebacker Brian Cushing (56) reacts with outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus (59) and inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney (55) after intercepting a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first quarter in a AFC Wild Card playoff football game at NRG Stadium . Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans inside linebacker Brian Cushing (56) reacts with outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus (59) and inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney (55) after intercepting a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first quarter in a AFC Wild Card playoff football game at NRG Stadium . Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports /

Linebackers: B-

The linebacking group as a whole was just above average, but outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus was the star of the group that gets them into the B range.

After averaging just six sacks per season, the former first round pick exploded in 2015 with 12 sacks and 52 tackles. John Simon was a nice surprise as he offered some good pass rushing opposite Mercilus while 2014 first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney was slow to return from microfracture knee surgery.

In the end, Clowney also looked to be much improved as he finished the year with 40 tackles and 4.5 sacks. His best work was in run defense, and the sky is still the limit for him.

The interior spots were manned primarily by Brian Cushing and Benardrick McKinney. The rookie second round pick, McKinney finished third on the team with 63 tackles and the veteran Cushing led the Texans with 110 tackles.

Between the two, they managed one sack and one forced fumble while recording no interceptions. The linebacking corps as a whole recorded zero picks, and they could stand to see some more play making from the group, especially the inside guys.

Next: Secondary

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