Thomas Campbell-US PRESSWIRE
Simply put: Whitney Mercilus needs to play a crucial role down the season's home stretch.
When backup quarterback Chad Henne throws for 354 yards and four touchdowns off the bench on your defense, there's reason to seriously re-evaluate the personnel.
Starters Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed aren't playing terribly. They've played too many good snaps of football this season to be thrown under the bus now. They do need help, however, and it's surprising that defensive coordinator Wade Phillips hasn't used his 2012 first-round pick more often.
Mercilus has seen spotty snaps on defense all year. Oddly enough, he has more sacks (three) than either Reed (2.5) or Barwin (two) in nearly a fraction of the snaps. He has been a solid special teams player for the Texans, but he wasn't selected 26th overall to star on teams.
The coaching staff likely has good reasons for their use of Mercilus, but it's getting to a point where there's not much to lose by putting him out there.
Week 11 against the Jacksonville Jaguars was rock bottom for the Texans' pass defense, and this is in a season where Aaron Rodgers threw six(!) touchdowns in a game against this defense.
Through 11 weeks, the rookie training wheels should be ready to come off. The Houston Texans will face Tom Brady and Andrew Luck twice in the final weeks. They'll see great quarterbacks in the playoffs too.
It makes too much sense for the Texans to ease Mercilus onto the defense more in the coming weeks. Week 11 should be a wake-up call, and the starters have seen a heavy load of snaps as it is.
Fans disappointed in the pass defense are anxious to see more Mercilus, and the team won't know how much the rookie can help going forward without game-day snaps.