Will Dobbins return change Texans' draft plans?
The Texans' linebacking situation is already in much better shape than it was at the end of last season and the draft hasn't even happened yet.
Wednesday the news came that Tim Dobbins would be returning to the Texans for another season. Dobbins was placed on IR on Jan. 4 after playing in 14 games and recording 49 tackles. Dobbins was placed in an increased role after Brian Cushing's season ended in Week 5 against the Jets after suffering a torn ACL.
"Tim is reliable guy," said John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. "Plays hard all the time. Really plays the run well. Plays really well on special teams. They like having Tim's presence. Tim's a good guy. They now have a back up that has played in the NFL extensively."
Speaking of special teams, Dobbins was named a special teams captain by his teammates last season.
Cushing should be back to full strength for 2013 and that is obviously the biggest addition to a defense that still finished seventh in the NFL against the run last season. In pretty much just four games, Cushing was leading the team in tackles (43), had a forced fumble and an interception. Cushing will be on the field for three downs and will help in coverage down field. Something the Texans lacked a linebacker without him. Free agent acquisition Ed Reed plays more of a center field at safety and doesn't play in the box as much as you saw Glover Quin do last season. With Cushing out, Quin was forced to play closer to the line of scrimmage and with Cushing's return that won't be the case with Reed.
Without the addition of anybody else they have Cushing and Sharpton as the starters. Both were on injured reserve at the end of the season. Sharpton started the season on the PUP list and didn't hit the field until Nov. 18. That's when he showed why he's a great fit next to Cushing, recording 39 tackles in just seven games. In his first start of 2012 Sharpton set a career high in tackles with 13 in a win over the Lions on Thanksgiving day. Sharpton then found himself on the IR again on Jan. 1. If Sharpton can stay on the field, he's been put on IR three times in the last year, the Texans are in good shape at middle linebacker. Now they'll have Tim Dobbins who was also hurt last year as the back up instead of being forced into a major role.
When it comes to the draft it's obvious that the Texans still need to draft a linebacker after the departure of Connor Barwin. The Texans can go with an inside linebacker. Or outside linebacker Brooks Reed has the ability to move to the inside if the Texans fall in love with an outside linebacker in the draft. McClain thinks that the Texans will not be forcing Reed to move inside.
"I think they'll draft another inside linebacker within the top four rounds," McClain said Thursday. "It won't be in the first round even if they were tempted now that they have Dobbins back."