One of the weakest positions on the Houston Texans, and this will be another group that will need some improvements. With probably one starter among the group, the Texans will have to rethink what they want to do with the outside linebackers.
For a three game stretch and with his best game against the Seattle Seahawks, Mercilus looked like he was going to be a big contributor to the Texans defense. Despite 7 quarterback sacks, it was a tough season for the second year player and first year every week starter. There were times that he looked lost and thinking too much on the field and it slowed down his game on the field.
Mercilus’ game is speed of the edge, but it felt like he was never utilized like that on game days. Against the run, Mercilus still has trouble setting the edge and teams were not scared to run it at him. Playing undisciplined and not keeping contain led to giving up some big plays for the defense.
Trying to find what Mercilus does well is a priority next season and rushing the passer is why the Texans drafted him in the first round in 2012. Mercilus has to get stronger so he can do a better job of moving offensive tackles off their spot and win more one on one situations. He should be a penciled in as a starter for the 2014 season with this coming year as the show me year.
The edge setter of the group, Reed does what he has to against the run at a decent level. The biggest issue with Reed is his lack of edge presence in pass rushing, and it was never more evident when the Texans needed something of the edge. His lack of speed and burst off the edge was disappointing and he was invisible on defense for majority of the year
Reed started OTAs working at inside linebacker, but with the failures of the younger outside linebackers on the roster pushed Reed back to outside linebacker. With his skill set a move to inside linebacker looks like the best possibility for Reed to succeed, and he did play on the inside in certain situations during the 2013 season.
Getting Reed to produce in some way is big for the defense to take a step forward in 2014, but finding out what position he works best at is still yet to be seen.
A bright spot for the Texans in 2013, Tuggle was one of the more consistent special teams player for the team. Moved around from the inside and outside linebacker position, Tuggle could fit into either one of the positions for 2014. He will have a chance to keep making his mark on special teams and will have to keep working to get a chance to contribute on defense.
It is players like Tuggle that make good depth on the team, and doing it as an undrafted free agent was just as impressive.
One of the biggest disappointments for the Texans in 2013, the drafted rookie out of Connecticut could not catch up to NFL game in training camp. He was overmatched from the onset of camp and struggled getting acclimated with the Texas heat. A foot injury landed him on the injured reserve before the season started, and he was a non factor in his rookie season.
Speed is Williams game and in the last preseason game of the year, Williams put on a sneak peek of what he can do on the field. Williams has had a complete year to be in a NFL locker room and a training program to go along with it. Getting Williams on the field in some capacity for 2014 should be interesting to see and get another young body into the mix.