Texans have good group of linebackers heading into 2018

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 14: Benardrick McKinney
CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 14: Benardrick McKinney /

The Houston Texans have a young and talented group of players at the linebacker position. A versatile group of young and experienced players who are set to thrive in Romeo Crennel’s defensive scheme. This type of balance is more than capable or producing desirable results.

The Youth

The young linebackers on the Texans displayed their abilities during a chaotic 2017 season. Rookie Zach Cunningham tallied a combined 82 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 16 games this season. Third year linebacker Bernardrick McKinney built off a successful sophomore campaign. McKinney totaled 95 tackles and three sacks in 16 games. Brennan Scarlett even contributed in five starts with 26 tackles and two sacks.

The group of Cunningham, McKinney and Scarlett made an impact this season when the Texans truly needed it. A high amount of missed games due to injuries or suspensions severely hurt the Texans. This trio certainly displayed that they are capable of stepping up when called upon.

The Vets

The group of veteran linebackers in Houston is quite impressive. Some contributed all season long, while others only contributed when they were available. Jadeveon Clowney is the standout of the group. Clowney racked up 59 combined tackles and 9.5 sacks. Clowney stepped up in the absence of other key defensive players. Whitney Mercilus only appeared in five games due to injury. When active Mercilus totaled 10 tackles and one sack. The final member of this group is Brian Cushing. Cushing was suspended for the first 10 games due to a PED violation. Cushing made 16 tackles and 1.5 sacks in five games. The future of Cushing in Houston is up for debate and will be a story to watch this offseason. Some speculate he could be released due to his contract. Even without Cushing, the duo of Clowney and Mercilus is quite impressive.

Outlook for the Texans

Like most issues with the Texans this past season the issue with the linebackers was availability. Injuries and suspensions hampered their effectiveness and ultimately decreased their overall impact. As long as the group can stay healthy they should improve the defense when compared to last season. Whether this is a result of Crennel returning to the defensive coordinator position or just overall health of the group will be an interesting debate. Of course the possibility of adding more players into the mix will also provide a boost. It will be intriguing to see how the group of players are able to grow next season. Until that time comes speculation over free agent targets across the board will grow.