The Houston Texans took Zach Cunningham from Vanderbilt with their second-round selection and already like what they see from the rangy inside linebacker. Cunningham showed his movement skills during camp in pursuit drills and chasing down the football sideline to sideline, an attribute the defense has not had in the middle for sometime.
Cunningham, along with the rest of the rookies at camp, has jumped feet first into NFL football 101. He is keeping his nose to the grindstone, trying to soak up as much as he can from him coaches and new teammates.
“Just pretty much coming together and the team concepts,” Cunningham said of what he is learning. “Getting to start getting to know the people around you, getting to know the players that you’re coming in with and the players that are going to be on the roster.”
O’Brien went in-depth on what they liked about Cunningham and approves of what he has seen from him during rookie mini-camp.
“We saw a guy at Vanderbilt that was a productive guy, but with all due respect to Vanderbilt, this is a whole different ball game. So, he’s coming in here. He’s learning our system. He’s a guy that’s athletic. He’s a hardworking guy,” O’Brien commented. “He needs to come in here and go to work just like every other rookie. He’s a good kid – hardworking guy.”
Cunningham led the SEC in tackles but had 21 missed tackles in 2016 and 34 during the past two seasons for the Commodores. The Texans attribute his missed tackles to the lack of upper body strength and intend to help him correct it.
“He needs to spend a lot of time in the weight room. He’s got a long way to go, but we see, obviously, potential there. Potential is a dangerous word,” O’Brien said of Cunningham.
Cunningham acknowledged the clear message sent to him about getting strong and that is what he intends to do.
“Definitely one of my biggest goals would be, like they talked about, living in the weight room,” Cunningham explained. “That’s definitely what I’m looking forward to.”
It is clear that the Texans are looking for an impact from Cunningham on defense and special teams. Getting him on the field in year one is a priority for the Texans and getting Cunningham caught up with what the defense is asking him to do will be work ahead for both him and the Texans.
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