The resurgence of OLB Whitney Mercilus has been exactly what the Houston Texans needed this far into the season. After a big 2015 year, former All-Pro Mercilus production has decreased since then and he’s looking to prove himself for a contract extension. is expectations were high, especially due to the offseason trade of OLB Jadeveon Clowney to Seattle for a 2020 3rd round pick and players Jacob Martin and Barkevious Mingo.
Leading the team in sacks and forced fumbles, Mercilus has been rewarded a player of the week award but more importantly, he’s back to being the dominant pass rusher we’ve seen from him in the past; currently 5th in the league for sacks. What does this mean? First, the more he continues to dominate, the more help offensive coordinators will use protection to stop him which will allow other players on the defensive front; like DJ Reader and J.J Watt, to get going. Secondly, his play will help a front seven aid the secondary and make their jobs easier.
The pass rush was a concern to start the year because of the Clowney trade; however, contract years are historically some of the best years for defensive players. Mercilus has 11 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, his first interception, 4 QB hurries, and 9 pressures.
Bill O’Brien decided to trade Clowney right before the season which led to many head scratching questions but Mercilus has made his coach and organization look like geniuses so far. He’s match his total sack number from the previous year and is on pace for a career year. Sunday’s match-up against the Carolina Panthers may be another big game for Mercilus. The Panthers have allowed 8 sacks in 3 games and has already rotated Daryl Williams for Greg Little at Left Tackle position. Mercilus has been vital to a Texans defense that is currently holding opposing offenses to 38 percent on third conversions.
The Texans take on the Panthers this Sunday, 9/29 at home and look to get their first win against the NFC south for the year after a crushing loss against the Saints to open the season on Monday night.