Houston Texans Training Camp Profile: Whitney Mercilus
There are very few players in the NFL that wouldn’t be more fear-inducing with a nickname. Most guys have the typical cookie-cutter names so that even if you want to remember them without giving an alternative moniker you might have trouble. The Houston Texans, however, have a player heading into his second year in the league that is primed to make people remember his name without crafting some clever nickname.
Whitney Mercilus is ready to make the quarterbacks of the league understand that his last name isn’t just for show. With a burst off the line of scrimmage that is second to none, Mercilus is in opposing backfield before offensive linemen can even react. One of the knocks on him coming out of Illinois was his lack of instincts, but with another offseason under his belt, Mercilus should be ready to put those concerns to bed for good.
Just a year after losing Mario Williams in free agency, the Texans took yet another blow to their pass rushing unit with Connor Barwin bolting for the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason. That leaves only Brooks Reed ahead of last year’s first rounder on the depth chart which means an increased role for Mercilus this coming season.
In Wade Phillips’ defense, players like Mercilus tend to excel with their ability to harass opposing quarterbacks and wreak havoc on the regular. This year the team will be counting on him to really improve from a play recognition standpoint, and some additional work in the film room over the offseason should give him that extra leg up on the competition.
With only four starts in his rookie campaign, Mercilus showed flashes of his mercilessness (see what I did there?) by amassing six sacks with two forced fumbles in very limited work. The potential is clearly there for him to have a serious breakout year in 2013, and the Texans are going to need it to keep their defense among the top of the league.
This year there will be no need for a creative nickname in reference to one of the NFL’s top pass rushers. The name Whitney Mercilus speaks for itself, and plenty of quarterbacks around the league are going to get quite familiar with this breakout candidate in 2013.