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Mercilus is replacing Connor Barwin, who last year failed to come close to his 11.5 sacks in the 2011 season. The new “Will” or weak side linebacker is expected to build upon the six sacks registered in his ledger while backing up Barwin.
This particular position is supposed to generate a significant portion of the pass rush. It will have to live up to that expectation in addition to sealing the edge against the run and supplying some acceptable pass coverage. All in all, this is one of the more demanding roles on the defense.
910 snaps, 32 tackles, 7 sacks, 2 passes defended
Reed and Barwin were two of a kind, each falling short of their efforts from the previous season. The “Sam” or strong side linebacker of 2012 is back in the same spot, hoping for bigger and better things.
Since his pass rush is what fell off the most, Reed was thought to be better off at inside linebacker. There may be some formations where he plays alongside Cushing so that one or both could shoot the “A” gaps.
600 snaps, 22 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 passes defended
Special teams were a disaster for the Texans in 2012, and that is where Braman’s speed and passion for contact are needed. He may be a little too lean for regular work at outside linebacker.
The NFL is a situational league now, and what Braman brings could be useful in the proper time and place. Whenever Wade Phillips feels like bringing more than five pass rushers is when this special teams demon would be asked to fill in.
120 snaps, 9 tackles, 1 sack
This undrafted free agent is another one of those rare long shots that just might make it. He has been trying to eat his way into a job, and has gotten his weight up to 250 pounds without losing any of his exceptional foot speed.
Jefferson has actually exceeded the progress of draftees Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams. An active roster spot would earn him some situational snaps just like Bryan Braman.
250 snaps, 12 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 pass defended
Williams has found playing in the chaos of the strong side outside linebacker a tough transition. In college, he could use his speed to get upfield and not worry about anything else.
Now he has certain responsibilities whether a run or pass is the call. Coverage is a tough chore for any linebacker, as is sorting through the trash to get to the runner. Special teams will be his primary task while he learns the tricks of his new trade.
130 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 sack
The LSU product is in the same boat as Williams, except on the left side of the defense. He has a little less coverage to deal with, and a little more pass rushing to do.
Montgomery has been accused of being out of shape upon his arrival in Houston, and was injured during the Texans’ first practice. He has two more preseason games to show he has at least learned something along the way.
160 snaps, 8 tackles