One familiar face is gone and the Texans are looking to get more athletic on the edge so they brought in a young group to help.
Rumors of the third year linebacker moving to the inside were being spoken loudly after the draft and during OTAs Reed was working on the inside. Reed does look like a natural on the inside and looks more in shape this season than previous. His value for the team at the moment still lies starting at outside linebacker week one against San Diego. His ability to set the edge in the run game is key for the defense and keeping him there will only help the Texans for the season.
Outlook: Taught the inside linebacker position just in case the injury bug happens again. Reed makes the defense better being on the outside at the moment.
He filled in admirably last season when Reed went down with a groin injury. This season he replaces the departed Connor Barwin in the starting lineup and the Texans will need his pass rush ability in a big way. Even in limited playing time, Mercilus finished third on the team in sacks. Mercilus has the pass rushing ability but will have to work on a counter pass rush move to go along with his speed move around the corner.
Outlook: The defense has gotten more athletic with Mercilus in the lineup and he will be relied on heavily to create pass rush from the edge.
Braman is another player for the Texans that is a special teams star but limited on what he can do on defense. He is gifted athletically and it shows on special teams where he played on a Pro Bowl level. Braman is a leader on special teams and creates big plays in that department. As for the defensive side, he is a backup outside linebacker who will only get playing time in an emergency.
Outlook: He is a special teams ace for the Texans and will continue to help on that part of the coverage game.
The drafted rookie out of Connecticut made his living in the college ranks rushing the passer. A track star in his early years shows the type of speed Williams possesses, and it should be a big help to the team on the special teams and defensive side of the ball. Williams will be working hard to gain playing time during training camp but there will be a slight learning curve for the pass rusher. He will have to show he can play the edge against the run to get his look during the regular season.
Outlook: Williams is another piece to freshen up the roster with speed and youth. Expect him to be part of the special teams unit with spot pass rush opportunities or maybe more.
Showed up to rookie mini-camp out of shape but he slowly got into shape by the time the break before training camp came. Montgomery had plenty of question marks surrounding him heading into camp on the position that he was going to play. There has been plenty of learning going on for the rookie out of LSU, and Wade Phillips and Reggie Herring have been paying special attention to Montgomery on the field coaching him up. It will be interesting to see where he is with his conditioning when camp opens up on Friday.
Outlook: If there is one player who enjoys competition, it's Montgomery. Putting the pads on in training camp will show what he can be for the Texans.
The former quarterback in college, Tuggle, the son of All-Pro Atlanta Falcons linebacker Jessie Tuggle, is a sideline to sideline player. Only playing on the defensive side of the football for 1 1/2 seasons at Kansas State, he is still learning the position. Tuggle runs well for his size and his athletic traits stand out especially in space in coverage. Tuggle will have to prove he can play the outside linebacker position at the NFL level holding up against the run and rushing the passer.
Outlook: Tuggle will have to work hard to make an impression during camp. Practice squad has to be his goal at the moment.
The former wide receiver is the most athletic outside linebacker of the group and he has shown some impressive skills during practices. His most impressive was the interception that looked like the J.J. Watt interception of the playoffs. At 6-5 and 233 lbs., he can run and cover ground impressively but the real test will come for Jefferson against bigger offensive tackles. He is one to watch. The Texans are always looking to get more athletic and Jefferson fits the description.
Outlook: Jefferson will be fun to watch but he will have to produce every time he gets on the field.