Making The Grade: Linebackers
Texans' linebackers report card
Now that the Super Bowl is over and the NFL is into the offseason, we’re taking a position-by-position look at the Texans. We’ve already looked at the secondary, tight ends, O-line, special teams, running backs, coaches, defensive line and quarterbacks. Today, we’ll take a look at their linebackers.
Stud: Bradie James
We’re giving James the nod here because he was able to say on the field. That alone is pretty amazing for the 2012 Texans.
James did miss one game, but that’s a rarity. When he sat out with a hamstring injury against the Titans on Dec. 2, it broke his regular season streak of 153 straight games played.
James played next to Brian Cushing, who tore his ACL. He played next to Darryl Sharpton, who returned from the PUP list but was placed on the IR. He’s played next to Tim Dobbins, who was placed on the IR. And, he played next to Barrett Ruud, who came into the season after it was already underway.
All those inside linbackers came and went and James was the constant, the rock.
James finished tied in third place on the team with 77 tackles while wearing the headset and calling the plays.
Cushing, Dobbins, Sharpton, Brooks Reed. They were all injured this season.
The biggest of those injuries was obviously Cushing, who was the team’s leader on defense. He went down against the Jets in a 23-17 win. He was the victim of a chop block and tore his ACL, which required surgery.
It’s fair to wonder how the Texans’ season would have ended up had they not had injuries at the linebacker spots.
Free agents: James, Dobbins, Ruud, Connor Barwin, Keyaron Fox
Look ahead: The most pressing issue here should be re-signing James. No, he wasn’t great in 2012 but he was solid.
With Cushing coming back from an ACL injury, having one solid and sturdy inside linebacker in place is a big deal. The Texans are also probably flirting with the idea of moving Reed inside, which would probably work too.
Barwin is pretty interesting … so interesting that we’re going to feature him by himself in his own Making the Grade … so we’ll keep this brief. He missed his chance at a big payday and it’s hard to imagine the Texans spending a lot of money on him after 2012. He just wasn’t all that good. His sack numbers were low (even considering that he moved inside at times because of injuries) and he wasn't the same player he was in 2011.
The Texans were able to give rookie Whitney Mercilus a chance play a good amount in 2012 and he showed plenty of potential. He was third on the team with six sacks while playing in limited time.
They might try to resign Tim Dobbins. He’ll be cheap and he knows Wade Phillips’ system. He wasn’t great in 2012 but as long as the Texans are healthy, he won’t need to start.
The biggest key to this core’s success in 2013 is health. Cushing needs to return healthy. If he can, this defense is substantially better. Sharpton also provides depth inside if he can return healthy. He has had some injury problems since being drafted though.
Look for the Texans to turn to free agency to fill the linebacker hole. If not there, maybe they look to the draft. With all the injuries at this position last year, it’s hard to imagine the Texans not bringing in some new life, especially if they aren’t able to sign Barwin.