Houston Texans: Analyzing the depth at inside linebacker

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 09: Dee Virgin /

The battle for the final spots at inside linebacker for the Houston Texans will go down to wire.

The weak point of the Houston Texans’ defense for several years had always been at inside linebacker.

Brian Cushing has certainly lost a step after suffering back to back knee injuries during the 2012 and 2013 NFL seasons.

To top it off Cushing never really had a competent linebacker aside him while he struggled with those injuries.

Fast forward to the 2015 NFL Draft and the Texans got a steal in the second round with Benardrick McKinney.

McKinney was supposed to be the successor and eventual replacement as the leader of the middle of Houston’s defense.

However, with Cushing as the MIKE linebacker and McKinney as the WILL linebacker, the Texans have a solid duo at inside linebacker.

Both are solid run stuffers with enough ability to blitz and pressure opposing quartebacks.

In the first year of Cushing and McKinney commanding the middle of the field, the duo amassed 173 tackles in 2015.

Last season they recorded a total of 194 tackles combined.

It is evident that McKinney will be the future at inside linebacker, but Cushing still serves a clear role in a defense that finished number one in the NFL.

Rotational Inside Linebackers:

Zach Cunningham

With Cushing and McKinney cemented as the starters, rookie Zach Cunningham will have the privilege to learn behind two solid vets.

Drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Cunningham is viewed as a complete inside linebacker prospect.

Cunningham was a tackling machine at Vanderbilt and led the SEC in tackles. He has the athleticism to cover running backs and tight ends on passing downs .

He was knocked for his light frame and missed tackles coming out of college, but those aren’t viable issues that can’t be fixed in the NFL.

Brian Peters

Brian Peters is an underrated football player. PERIOD.

No one knew who Peters was when he was signed off of the Minnesota Vikings’ practice squad in 2015.

Yet the moment he came to Houston, Peters became one of the better players on the Texans’ special teams unit.

In 2015 Peters ended the season tied for the most special teams tackles with 17.

Throughout his tenure with the Texans, Peters has displayed his value on special teams.

In 2016, he handled kickoffs against the Vikings and long snapper in the pre-season while Jon Weeks was injured.

The Dilemma

The Texans have normally carried five inside linebackers into the regular season. With four inside linebackers listed above as near locks to make the final roster.

Only one spot remains while there are four intriguing options left to compete.

Dylan Cole

An undrafted rookie out of Missouri State, Dylan Cole put on a show at his pro day.

Cole certainly showed he has the athleticism for the position posting while also putting up 32 reps on the bench press to go along with a 39 inch vertical.

He also had the production in college, leading his team with 142 tackles during his senior year.

Cole’s height at 6-foot-1 will be a concern at the next level but he can serve as an upgrade on special teams in order to secure the final roster spot.

Sio Moore

Moore is a fifth-year veteran on his fifth team. He was impressive with the Oakland Raiders before flaming out due to injuries last season.

He has the physicality and instincts to serve as a two-down inside linebacker and special teams contributor.

Although health will be Moore’s biggest obstacle since he is currently sidelined due to a hamstring injury.

Shakeel Rashad

Second-year inside linebacker Shakeel Rashad fits the mold of a modern inside linebacker with the ability to play in coverage.

He stayed on the practice squad last season, so his knowledge can be an advantage as he looked to earn a roster spot.

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Avery Williams

An undrafted free agent out of Temple University, Avery Williams was part of a stingy defense.

A physical player for the position, at 5-foot-10, his size could be an issue at the next level.

Williams is a below average athlete for the position as he ran a 4.7 forty yard dash along with a 29 inch vertical. He will have to earn his money on special teams, but this year’s competition will put him at a disadvantage.

Comment below and tell us who you think will get the Texans’ final roster spot at inside linebacker.