As the Houston Texans' training camp draws near, TexansDaily.com will dive into each position group looking at the sure things, battles to watch, and potential sleepers to keep an eye on as the summer progresses.
The linebackers may want to wear name tags during training camp given that in the course of the last few months, general manager Nick Caserio has added eight free agents and one rookie to this position group.
Zach Cunningham is the crowning jewel of this unit. The NFL's leading tackler in 2020 with 164 combined, he's somewhat of an unsung hero. In four years since arriving in Houston, Cunningham's recorded over 100 combined tackles in all but his rookie year.
This new 4-3 defensive system being implemented by defensive coordinator Lovie Smith should be extremely linebacker friendly and allow the likes of Cunningham more freedom to move around and make big plays.
However, given that pass coverage isn't Cunningham's strong suit, new arrival Kamu Grugier-Hill has a strong chance to start alongside him. That being said, Grugier-Hill isn't a certainty. In fact, other than Cunningham, no one is.
In theory, former Green Bay Packer Christian Kirksey should be a safe bet to start given that he was given one of the heavier contracts this offseason.
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But, again he faces stiff competition.
Houston has a plethora of veteran options to chose from, all of whom come with a decent resume. Kevin Pierre-Louis racked up the tackles in Washington last year, as did Neville Hewitt with the New York Jets.
Joe Thomas did a solid job filling in for an injury-plagued Dallas Cowboys defense in 2020 and could prove to be a valuable backup in Houston. Then there are Hardy Nickerson, Tae Davis, and Nate Hall, who will all likely be vying for depth spots.
Rookie Garret Wallow brings energy and potential as a defensive back, which should help his chances of finding a role.
Make sure to keep an eye on Wallow. As a fifth-round pick, he may not have garnered much media attention. But his leadership qualities combined with his playing speed and work rate should help him forge a role on special teams and eventually, possibly a role on defense.
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