Texans look to young LBs as injuries mount

Texans look to young LBs as injuries mount
November 28, 2012, 6:47 pm
Share This Post

HOUSTON (AP) Injuries have left the Houston Texans thin at linebacker.

With star Brian Cushing (knee) out for the season and starter Brooks Reed out indefinitely with a groin injury, young players Whitney Mercilus and Darryl Sharpton will be counted on to keep the defense rolling as the Texans (10-1) play for postseason positioning.

``How far we go, how well we play, how we hang on here and keep working has a lot to do with how they play,'' coach Gary Kubiak said. ``We have confidence in them.''

Adding to the trouble, inside linebacker Bradie James, who has started every game for Houston this season, is day to day with a hamstring injury.

``That's the way this game is,'' said James, a 10-year veteran. ``I've never been around a team that had that many injuries in one position like we've had this year. But we're big boys. That's the NFL. Guys will step up, I'm sure.''

Sharpton missed the first nine games of the season after tearing his right quadriceps in October 2011. He had seven tackles against Chicago before starting against Detroit and finishing with six.

Kubiak has been impressed with Sharpton's effort, but said he and the other young guys have some things they need to work on this week.

``We need to eliminate some mistakes we made last week,'' Kubiak said. ``We're trying to really isolate those guys. Sharpton's getting a ton of practice.''

Tim Dobbins missed last week's game after injuring his left shoulder against the Bears. He is practicing again, and his return should be a boost to the group. Dobbins has started four games in Cushing's old spot since he was injured Oct. 8.

The Texans have turned in two of their worst defensive performances of the season in the past two weeks, both overtime wins by Houston. They have allowed 983 yards and 68 points in the past two games, after yielding just 28 points in their previous three games combined.

The Texans will try to shore up the unit by putting rookie first-round pick Mercilus in at starter on the weak side this week, and moving Connor Barwin from the weak side to the strong side to fill in for Reed.

The 6-foot-4, 254-pound Mercilus was a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme at Illinois but has moved to outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' 3-4 alignment. He has appeared in each game this season, but his first start will come this week.

He has 17 tackles, has forced two fumbles and has defended one pass this season. His teammates have seen enough of him to believe that he will fill in just fine as a starter.

``I'm fully confident in Whitney,'' Reed said. ``He works very hard and now he's going to get his chance to show why we drafted him in the first round. I think it will be fun to watch to see what he can do.''

Kubiak liked what he saw from Mercilus against the Lions and said he is improving each week.

``Whitney did some good things in the game,'' Kubiak said. ``He has played his best football for us the past month and we need that to continue.''

The injuries to Houston's linebackers are also taking a toll on the Texans' special teams. Mercilus has played virtually every play on special teams this season, and Sharpton and fellow linebackers Bryan Braman and Barrett Ruud are also key contributors to the group.

Now that Mercilus and Sharpton are moving into starting roles, Kubiak said he'll have to shuffle some things around to make sure they aren't playing too much.

---

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-

Texans - Team News
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney (knee) said he be surprised if he doesn't play in Sunday's game... Clowney hasn't played since tearing his meniscus in Week 1. He says he plans to "push through" the soreness that's still in his knee. If the training staff lets...
Oct 23 11:41AM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Ryan Fitzpatrick admitted he "didn't get it to Andre [Johnson] nearly enough early"... Johnson finished with 5-77-0 on nine targets, but had just one catch for four yards through the first three quarters. After the game, coach Bill O'Brien said that Johnson...
Oct 23 8:03AM Read More
Brian Cushing - LB
Texans ILB Brian Cushing will miss at least one week with a knee injury. It's a blow to an already vulnerable Houston run defense, and a nice upgrade to Bishop Sankey's Week 8 matchup. Justin Tuggle and Mike Mohamed figure to start at inside...
Oct 22 8:32PM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson (ankle) was limited in Wednesday's practice. The Texans are limiting Johnson's reps coming off Monday night's loss. He'll remain a WR2 for Week 8 against the Titans.
Oct 22 5:22PM Read More
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster was limited in Wednesday's practice. The Texans listed Foster as "not injury related," but he missed practice time last week with a groin issue. Foster has a matchup with the Titans' No. 22 ranked run...
Oct 22 5:15PM Read More
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
According to HoustonTexans.com, there's a "decent chance" Jadeveon Clowney (knee)... "He feels good," coach Bill O'Brien said Monday. "Well see how it goes this week in practice. We'll be able to make a determination pretty soon about whether...
Oct 21 3:58PM Read More
Garrett Graham - TE
Garrett Graham caught two passes for 24 yards in the Texans' Week 7 loss to the Steelers. Graham was targeted three times, but dropped the other. It can be considered one of Graham's better statistical games of the season, which obviously means he's nowhere near...
Oct 20 11:31PM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson caught five passes for 77 yards in the Texans' Week 7 loss to the Steelers on... Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins each saw a team-high nine targets. There was nothing special about Johnson's night. His biggest play was a 24-yard grab on a deep in route in...
Oct 20 11:25PM Read More
DeAndre Hopkins - WR
DeAndre Hopkins caught six passes for 108 yards in the Texans' Week 7 loss to the Steelers on... Hopkins and Andre Johnson each saw a team-high nine targets. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw it to whichever receiver was working against embattled Steelers CB Cortez Allen. ...
Oct 20 11:16PM Read More
Alfred Blue - RB
Alfred Blue rushed for 14 yards on five carries and caught an 11-yard touchdown in the Texans'... Blue was the vulture on the opening-drive 11-yard score after Arian Foster managed 59 rushing yards to get the Texans near the goal line. Foster is an every-down back,...
Oct 20 11:09PM Read More
Ryan Fitzpatrick - QB
Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 21-of-32 passes for 262 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception... Fitzpatrick played well for much of the first half, leading the Texans on three consecutive scoring drives to open the game. It was a train wreck thereafter. One play...
Oct 20 10:56PM Read More
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster rushed for 102 yards on 20 carries in the Texans' 30-23, Week 7 loss to the... Foster got off to a blazing start, rushing for 59 yards on the Texans' 94-yard opening touchdown drive, but was vultured by Alfred Blue for the 11-yard touchdown catch to...
Oct 20 10:47PM Read More
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
Jadeveon Clowney (knee) is inactive for Monday night's Week 7 game against the Steelers. Clowney's lateral agility wasn't where the Texans wanted it to be in pre-game warmups. He's been out since undergoing knee surgery after Week 1. Whitney Mercilus is...
Oct 20 6:09PM Read More
DeAndre Hopkins - WR
DeAndre Hopkins (hand) is probable for Week 7. The Texans listed Hopkins on the injury report, but his status was never in doubt. He'll be a WR3 for Monday night against the Steelers.
Oct 18 2:54PM Read More
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster (groin) is probable for Monday night's game against the Steelers. Foster was limited on Thursday, but practiced in full the last two days. He should have another heavy workload against a Steelers defense that's allowing 4.4 yards per carry...
Oct 18 2:48PM Read More