Mercilus talks new defense, Clowney, Manziel

Mercilus talks new defense, Clowney, Manziel
April 11, 2014, 1:30 pm
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(USA Today Sports Images)

For the first two years of his NFL career, Whitney Mercilus played in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense.

But this year, he’ll have to learn a new system, Romeo Crennel’s two-gap 3-4, which is a little different. But the linebacker, heading into his third season, is excited about it.

“When I did see games, like when (Crennel) was with the Browns, he’s actually had some dominant pass rushers in his time,” Mercilus said on Thursday night at a Houston premier for the movie “Draft Day,” which features Arian Foster. “And I’ve heard nothing but great things from him. I just can’t wait to see what he has for us.”

Mercilus said he hasn’t had a chance to have any in-depth conversations about his role in the defense with Crennel. The most important thing, for now, is for him to learn the playbook.

Mercilus isn’t sure what he’ll be asked to do in Crennel’s defense but the coaching staff, particularly linebackers coach Mike Vrabel, is making sure each player knows all the positions.

“Learning now from Mike Vrabel, he’s allowing us to understand what each linebacker is doing instead of just focusing on ourselves,” Mercilus said. “So we’re understanding concepts. That helps us understand so that if we do have to move in a different position, we’re pretty much comfortable.”

Vrabel was a longtime player in the NFL and played under Crennel for many seasons. Mercilus thinks Vrabel’s playing experience will help him relate to his players and thinks his time under Crennel will help the rest of the team learn the defense.

The Texans obviously hold the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft. While Mercilus said he hasn’t really been paying attention to all the mock drafts and chatter, he admitted he wouldn’t mind if the Texans took defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

“I wouldn’t be opposed to having a great addition to the defense in Clowney,” he said. “The guy seems like he’s an animal and if we do happen to get him onto the team, he’s just a great addition to the 3-4 package that we have.”

Another potential first-overall pick is quarterback Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M. Manziel is certainly one of the more talked about players in this year’s draft. Mercilus was asked what it would be like trying to chase down Johnny Football in practice.

“That would be interesting if I had to chase him down,” he said. “That would be pretty fun actually.”

But what does he think of Manziel as a player? 

“What I see is somebody that is very determined, has a lot of fire within, for sure,” he said. “That’s a good thing. You want a player that has a lot of fire. He has self confidence to make sure he’s going to go out there and do his thing.”