Conspiracy Theory: Linebackers
Patrick D. Starr
In this series we look at the moves the Houston Texans have made since the free agency period and during the draft and let you know what is “really” going on at Reliant and with the team in 2012.
We all know that in Wade Phillips' 3-4 system that they require a lot of linebackers, but with the recent increase in outside linebackers being added in the last couple of years indicates that the Texans are preparing for more losses at that position. With the current cap situation the Texans could be bracing for the loss of Connor Barwin. Look at it this way the Texans knew long before fans that they would not be able to bring back Mario Williams especially after his franchise tag number reached 22 million. It was evident that behind the scenes the Texans staff began to prepare for their next phase in their transition without Williams.
In a way the Texans put all their eggs in one basket believing that they would make a deep playoff run if not a Super Bowl run. Unfortunately, they lost Williams a piece to the puzzle and later Matt Schaub, but fortunately they were able to recover from the loss of Williams without any drop-off with the addition of rookie draft pick Brooks Reed. Brooks Reed started off a bit slow because he was getting acclimated to the speed of the game and once that was achieved Reed took his game to another level with his relentless motor. By season's end the Texans front office saw all they needed to see from Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin to let Williams walk. The Texans did the public relations bit by saying all the right things about wanting Mario back, but secretly the knew he was too expensive for the production they were getting from him. Why pay 22+ million for Williams when they found a much less expensive option in Reed, that had roughly the same amount of production.
Now the Texans are in another situation where they drafted another outside linebacker in Whitney Mercilus that will be rotated into the lineup so not to push him into the fire too quickly. This is exactly how the Texans worked in Reed last year we just hope that none of the starters have injuries this year. Now if Barwin has another year like in 2011 he will be a prime candidate for a lot of 3-4 teams looking to add or upgrade their outside linebacker position. The Texans would be wise to try to extend him now before the season starts so that he won't hit the open market and get outbid for his services. If this happens the Texans would have to go back to next year's draft and look at getting another pass rushing outside linebacker to add depth unless someone like Bryan Braman steps up or maybe one of the UDFAs the Texans signed this year. Whether the Texans are looking to just add depth by adding Mercilus or preparing for Barwin's departure you still have to question the motive and why they used such a high pick on yet another pass rusher.
Another issue that pertains to the Texans linebacking corps deals with the inside linbackers (excluding Cushing). The Texans have brought back Tim Dobbins as a reserve linebacker just like in 2011, but at the same time they brought in Bradie James. You may think that he's just a camp body, a wily veteran to come in and help out. The way I see it its more about Daryl Sharpton's recovery and I have listed a few reasons why this is happening.
1. His recovery is taking longer than expected and they need someone to step in immediately with little to no drop off.
2. The Texans coaches believe Sharpton may be too small a guy to hold up in this defense, because of the pounding he'll take going up against bigger offensive linemen.
3. The Texans are going to replace Sharpton at the end of the year with another linebacker and James is a stop-gap until they find a suitable replacement.
I believe Sharpton was an excellent linebacker for the Texans, but injuries tend to break a lot of players careers up early, and if he had a hard time keeping healthy in his first season in this defense who's to say that it won't happen again. Sharpton will have a task on his hands trying to hold off James, and Dobbins. He may just be held to the end of the year then released, because after all his cap hit is minimal and he was only a fifth round pick.
It's easy to see why I have this theory, but it's very hard to ignore the recent movement in this area of the team without knowing something is going on behind the scenes.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you believe I made a compelling enough argument to back up this theory let me know.