Houston Texans Training Camp: Don’t overlook Zach Cunningham in 2020

Houston Texans, Zach Cunningham (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Houston Texans, Zach Cunningham (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

The Houston Texans have a player in linebacker Zach Cunningham who is on pace to keep having success.

For three seasons since 2017, Zach Cunningham, an inside linebacker for the Houston Texans, has improved his overall tackle numbers, but more important than that, he has become a better overall player entering his fourth season.

Cunningham made Texans news last season when in 2019 he totaled 142 overall combined tackles, but he also had a career-high two sacks in 16 regular-season games, all starts. In two playoff games last season, Cunningham continued to be a Texans news maker with 16 combined tackles (10 solo) with two tackles for loss, one QB hit and two passes defensed in games against the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs.

In three career playoff games, Cunningham has collected 24 combined tackles (16 solo), two tackles for loss and two QB hits. Cunningham also has tallied three playoff game starts and three passes defensed.

Looking closer at some of the numbers of Cunningham in 2019, the inside linebacker blitzed 52 times and had two QB hurries. Since 2017 Cunningham has played 2,507 snaps on defense, including 812 snaps in ’17, 753 in ’18 and 942 in ’19, as last season saw Cunningham play in a career-high 88 percent of snaps.

Houston Texans News: Zach Cunningham is more than just stats entering 2020

This training camp for the Houston Texans linebacker has seen head coach Bill O’Brien speak well of Cunningham in the past week. The head coach/general manager O’Brien said the following about Cunningham in a recent media press conference, with comments provided by NFL Communications:

"“We want Zach on our team. We want Zach to be a Texan for a long time, no doubt about it. He’s just a really good player. He’s very instinctive. He’s got good speed. He can do a lot of different things within our scheme. He plays on special teams. He’s on the punt team. Really good guy. Same guy every day. We think that it would be great if he was with us for a long time.”"

The contract of Cunningham is in the final year of a four-year deal as the ’20 season is worth nearly 1.1 million for the linebacker, so as some players have in the past, their very best effort has shown in a “contract year.” It will be interesting to see how Cunningham plays in his “contract year.”

As O’Brien mentioned, playing special teams is another aspect of Cunningham’s game which brings him even more value to the franchise, because the Texans news this offseason has seen that unit go through a position coach change due to the retirement of Brad Seely. Last season, Cunningham was involved in 134 special teams plays (31 percent), so he’s a very resourceful player for the Texans or any franchise that signs him.

All in all for Cunningham, don’t be as surprised to see an improvement in his overall play this season as Cunningham is already a solid player, and his play has improved each season with the team.

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Being he’s a free agent next season, the play of Cunningham for the Houston Texans will be fun to watch, and not only that, it will be beneficial to both parties involved when the regular season of 2020 begins.