Midseason Report Card: Linebackers
Patrick D. Starr
Here is a look at the Houston Texans linebackers.
Before Mario Williams got hurt he was on pace for his best season as a professional and with 5 sacks in 5 games the sky was the limit in 2011. He commanded for the double team and that allowed for other rushers to get to the quarterback. Williams made this defense so much better, but the Texans are adapting without him which makes the expectations for the 2012 defense even better.
Brian Braman has been a special team guy only and has gotten zero defensive snaps and even with Williams going down the Texans promoted Jesse Nading to get snaps before him. He graeded out at a C because he slowly getting the hang of the special teams idea, but the fact he is not even getting a look defensively is a red flag on why he isn’t. Tim Dobbins and Jesse Nading have been limited in their work and have contributed on special teams, there is not enough to even give them a grade.
It is a shame that Darrly Sharpton went out with a torn quad on Sunday against the Jaguars, because he was playing some good football. Sharpton was giving Demeco Ryans time to get healthy and take some pressure off of him to be out there every snap. Sharpton provided a hard nosed player in the middle to go along with Cushing, but the Texans will have to get to work to replace him on the roster.
DeMeco Ryans is the “Captain” of the defense and will be expected to get back to his old form soon with the injury to Sharpton. Ryans has played good inside the box when he has to make plays inside of the box, but opposing teams have found out that he is not a fast he was pre-injury. Teams are trying to get Ryans in coverage and he has become a liability in the coverage game, because he can’t keep up. He got C for a reason, because we have all seen what he can do when healthy, but the fact he is coming off a Achilles injury, leaves doubt on whether he can get back to that point.
Brooks Reed has filled in some big shoes as Williams’ replacement, but he has made the Texans defense a balanced product on the field. Williams rushed majority of the time and with Reed and Connor Barwin on the field the offense can’t automatically adjust to the rusher because both can rush or drop back in coverage. Reed is not scared to put his nose into ball carriers and has shown he can get to the quarterback. Look for Reed to continue to grow as a player as the season continues.
The biggest improvement as a player as the season progresses has to be Connor Barwin. He has continued to become a force off the edge for the Texans, and his athletic ability to cover or rush is a necessity for an outside linebacker. His stat sheet is not loaded but he has been putting pressure on quarterbacks off the edge.
Is there a Texans player playing at a higher level than Brian Cushing, and with his play he has helped evolve the Texans defense into a real force in the NFL. At the halfway mark Cushing has 54 total tackles 1 sack, 1 interception and 3 pass deflections and plenty more football to go. Cushing has single handed put the Texans on the map and hardly comes off the field for a reason.