When the Houston Texans took outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus with their first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, some were skeptical as to whether or not the one-year wonder would be able to carry his senior season production over to the big leagues.
While Mercilus was anything but a disappointment in his rookie campaign, the Texans will be expecting much more from the Illinois alumnus during his 2013 sophomore season.
“I am excited about his future,” Texans GM Rick Smith said of Mercilus at the 2013 NFL Combine. “I think he had 6.5 sacks in limited playtime, but when you look at him production per play, it’s up there. He adds explosiveness, he’s adds pass rush, he adds speed to our defense and I’m excited to see him.”
With a year of NFL experience under his belt, Mercilus will be expected to up his contribution significantly in 2013. Especially considering that there’s a good chance Connor Barwin leaves via free agency and Brooks Reed moves inside, Mercilus will have every opportunity to earn a starting spot on the outside. What he does with those opportunities, though, is the big, unanswered question.
Despite limited snaps in 2012, Mercilus managed 25 total tackles, six sacks (according to NFL.com; Mr. Smith might have missed on that one) and two forced fumbles. He played in the situational pass-rusher role and did a great job of providing consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
In 2013, he’ll be expected to do more of the same, except on a much larger scale. The Texans drafted Mercilus to be a pass-rusher, which means that producing sacks and pressures is his No. 1 objective. In order to live up to his billing as a first-round talent, he’ll have to build on his six sacks and become a more efficient rush linebacker.
Mercilus has the talent to deliver. In 2013, he’ll have his chance to do damage.