While J.J. Watt is still the star name on the Texans’ defense, fellow pass-rushing specialist Whitney Mercilus will have to carry his weight for Houston once again this year.
Over the past few years, the Houston Texans have consistently had one of the most steady defenses in the NFL. Anchored by J.J. Watt in the trenches, Houston always finds a way to compete to be one of the top teams in the AFC.
One of the names that does not get enough credit year in and year out for Houston is edge rusher Whitney Mercilus.
Mercilus was a first-round pick of the Texans in 2012. Back in 2015, he broke out with 52 total tackles, 14 for loss, 12 sacks and 16 hits on the quarterback. A few years later, Mercilus is still setting the edge for Houston in a 2019 that saw him have 48 tackles, nine for loss, 7.5 sacks, 16 quarterback hits and a career-high two picks.
One of the reasons why Mercilus did not get as much credit as he deserved throughout his first eight years in the league was the fact that he played with a few stars while on Houston’s defense. Watt is still there, but former Texans like Tyrann Mathieu and Jadeveon Clowney were looked at as the leaders and stars in H-Town.
The current day Texans look a bit different on defense. Inside linebackers Benardrick McKinney and Zach Cunningham run the middle of the defense while Justin Reid has developed into one of the best young safeties in the game. Vernon Hargreaves, Lonnie Johnson and Bradley Roby will probably get most of the reps at cornerback.
While these names do not ring out like the Mathieu’s and the Clowney’s, they are all solid in their roles. Each of the aforementioned players are still establishing themselves, and Watt is clearly the franchise player on the defense.
And then there is Mercilus. A guy you will never hear from in the presses, but plays his role on the edge better than most. Going into his age-30 season, Mercilus will be looked to as a leadership presence for Crennel’s defense.
Watt has spent the last few years battling injuries, but he looks to be healthy going into 2020. With a lot of the focus on Houston’s front line going towards him, Mercilus will have his time to shine this year coming up.