When Vanderbilit’s Zach Cunningham had his phone ring with a Houston area code, he had little idea that the Texans would be his next home. Cunningham went through the draft process with zero contact from the Texans. When the Texans selected the linebacker in the second round, Cunningham was in shock.
“No, I actually hadn’t,” Cunningham said of meeting with the Texans. “This is a huge surprise for me. So, I mean, right now I’m just taking it all in.”
Cunningham was the SEC’s leading tackler with 125 total tackles, finishing last season with 16.5 tackles for loss. One concern with Cunningham was his missed tackle rate, 21 to be exact, but the Texans liked that he was around the ball making plays.
The Texans know his deficiencies and have a plan to straighten out those missed tackles with coaching and work in the weight room.
“He is a tough kid. Are there things that he needs to work on? Certainly,” O’Brien said of Cunningham. “He has to get bigger and stronger and things like that. But, he is a rangy guy that is athletic and plays the game the right way.
Cunningham also knows that tackles are a part of his game he needs to correct but he refuses to let that define him as a player.
“There’s definitely some plays I wish I could take back. A lot of missed tackles, a lot of missed opportunities that I left on the field,” Cunningham explained. “But I definitely gave my all, and I think that showed up in the way I played, it showed up in how I played and what I was able to achieve.”
O’Brien sees a productive player who is coming to the Texans defense, an instant impact player, especially on special teams.
“I know he can help us on special teams. I think he will be a core special teams player and then I know that he can do several different things on defense,” O’Brien stated. “He can play in our base defense, he can play on third down. He is a versatile player.”
The pick caught Cunningham off-guard and he hasn’t had a lot of time to take in his fit with the Texans. However, he is coming in thinking about the bigger picture: helping the Texans win.
“Getting picked by the Texans definitely caught me off guard. Definitely wasn’t expecting that,” Cunningham said shortly after being selected. “I’m still kind of overwhelmed, definitely feeling excited, definitely feeling apprehensive, and just ready to get to work.”
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