What grade would you give the Texans' linebackers in 2013?
In our eight-part Making the Grade, we look back at the Texans' 2-14 season in 2013. We've already looked at the secondary and running backs. Up now: linebackers.
It's tough to break down the overall linebacker position for a 3-4 defense, so let's look at the inside guys, then the outside.
First, inside. The biggest injury loss of the 2013 season was also the biggest injury loss of the 2012 season. Brian Cushing was playing at a very high level before his season ended in Kansas City on Oct. 20. He looked healthy and back to his high level of play when he went down.
With Cushing gone, the Texans had to start Joe Mays and Darryl Sharpton inside. Neither were exceptional but it was a good thing the Texans signed Mays during training camp. If they didn't, this position would have been an even worse problem.
But one of the biggest issues with Mays and Sharpton, is their inability to cover. It got so bad, the Texans began to use Jeff Tarpinian, whom they signed of the street, in passing situations.
On the outside, Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus both had somewhat disappointing seasons. Neither were able to generate a whole lot of pressure. Mercilus, the first-round pick from a year ago, didn't take the step the team probably hoped he would in 2013.
Yeah, yeah, he only played seven games in 2013 but he played really well in those seven games. He led the team in tackles when he got hurt and scored the only defensive touchdown all season. When he went out, the defense very clearly missed him a ton.
It was pretty close between Mercilus and Reed but Mercilus just didn't live up to expectations in his second season. He did get better as it went on but he started the season thinking too much and hesitating. He had seven sacks, which isn't bad but he nearly got that many in a backup role as a rookie. Maybe the expectations were just too high.
Free agents: Mays, Sharpton
-- Dave Zangaro