Rookie Notes

Mercilus struggling to find his role in Houston

Houston Texans 1st-round pick Whitney Mercilus was expected to be used as a pass-rush specialist this season, but he’s failed to carve out a niche for himself in the Texans defensive scheme so far.

Through two games Mercilus as been on the field for just 24 plays, 18 of them as a pass rusher. In those 18 plays, he’s recorded just one quarterback hurry and zero sacks according to Pro Football Focus.

It’s far too early to be concerned about Mercilus, but the Texans defense would definitely benefit from him emerging as a serious pass-rush threat at some point this season.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Rookie Notes, Texans Leave a comment

Case Keenum impressing Texans coaches

Undrafted free agent Case Keenum is making a strong impression in Houston Texans camp.

The undersized quarterback may be a long shot to make the roster but, according to the Houston Chronicle, head coach Gary Kubiak has been impressed with his performance thus far. Kubiak told reporters, “Guys kind of gravitate to him. We’ve got guys from all over this country trying to make this team, and he can take his group and get them going in the right direction.”

T.J. Yates already has the backup job locked up in Houston, but there is a chance the team decides to carry three quarterbacks, especially considering Matt Schaub’s recent injury history. And even if Houston elects to stick with just two signal callers, it sounds as though they would be happy to stash Keenum on the practice squad.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Rookie Notes, Texans Leave a comment

Mercilus earning more first-team reps in Houston

Houston Texans 1st-round pick Whitney Mercilus is currently listed as the backup weak-side linebacker, but after an impressive preseason debut and strong showings in practice, he’s pushing for a starting job already. “We’ll play him more and more with the first group to see how he does,” said defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

Mercilus is primarily battling veteran Connor Barwin, but could also take some playing time away from Brooks Reed. Regardless where the playing time comes from, the Texans are in an excellent position with three effective pass rushers who they believe are starter-caliber players. That type of depth can be invaluable over the long haul of the season, and is one of the reasons the Texans should be viewed as serious Super Bowl contenders.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Rookie Notes, Texans Leave a comment

Draft Grades: Houston Texans

This draft was an opportunity for the Houston Texans to solidify a few holes in an effort to make a deep playoff run in 2012. And despite spending just one pick in the first two rounds, the Texans did a decent job addressing needs without reaching to fill those holes.

Whitney Mercilus will help ease the pain of losing Mario Williams, and should excel in Wade Phillips’ defense. At this stage in his career, Mercilus is a pure pass rusher, but that’s all the Texans need from him in 2012. He’ll share time with Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin and may only be used in pass rush situations early in his career.

DeVier Posey was a forgotten man in the draft process, mainly due to the fact he missed much of the 2011 season due his suspensions at Ohio State. But Posey is a fairly polished product and has the potential to step into the third receiver role in Houston.

Brandon Brooks is a massive interior lineman who has the potential to be a dominant run blocker. However, he’s still very raw and has limited experience against top competition. Additionally, his weight has always been an issue, so the Texans will have to monitor his development closely.

Ben Jones played center at Georgia, but I have to wonder if the Texans plan to move him to guard. The Texans recently signed Chris Myers to a four-year contract extension, giving little hope to Jones of stealing away the starting job anytime soon.

Keshawn Martin fits perfectly in Houston as a slot receiver, and should see fairly significant playing time in three and four wide receiver sets.

Jared Crick could be a steal for the Texans. He’s a prototypical 3-4 end and should excel in the Texans defensive scheme. He could steal a starting job from Antonio Smith sooner rather than later.

I don’t have a problem with taking a kicker in the 5th round, but Randy Bullock should not have been the first kicker off the board. Blair Walsh and Greg Zuerlein were ranked ahead of Bullock on every board I saw, including my own. Bullock was my 7th-rated kicker.

Nick Mondek offers little value other than as a backup. The Texans will hope he can demonstrate enough versatility in training camp to win a job, but he’ll have to compete with Derek Newton for a roster spot.

Overall, this was a very solid haul for the Texans. They should get immediate productive from Mercilus and Posey, and have some solid developmental prospects in Brooks, Jones and Crick. This could prove to be one of Rick Smith’s stronger draft classes.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Texans Leave a comment