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New Defense

Number19

Hall of Fame
There's been discussion on possible lineups for the OL. But I haven't seen discussion on the defensive front 7. Looking over our roster, we have Blacklock set as one DT and Cunningham set as the MIKE LB.

At the other DT position, we have long time Texan Brandon Dunn. But we also have newly signed Vincent Taylor, who is a shade quicker than Dunn. Should be a training camp battle.

For the strong side DE, I see Charles Omenihu, 6-5/280 lbs/4.92

Intriguingly, I see newly signed Derek Rivers listed as an OLB; but I can't find any mention of him playing anything other than DE. But he has prototypical size for the SAM LB - 6-5/250 lbs/4.61. For now, he has to be looked at, at this position. If not Rivers, I have Jonathan Greenard as our SAM at 6-4/263/4.87.

As the WILL LB, I have Whitney Mercilus at 6-4/258/4.68. But an intriguing possibility would be newly signed Christian Kirksey, 6-2/235/4.58.

For the weak side DE, that leaves us with newly signed DeMarcus Walker, 6-4/280/4.88. But we also have the option of dropping Mercilus into this position.
 

badboy

Hall of Fame
There's been discussion on possible lineups for the OL. But I haven't seen discussion on the defensive front 7. Looking over our roster, we have Blacklock set as one DT and Cunningham set as the MIKE LB.

At the other DT position, we have long time Texan Brandon Dunn. But we also have newly signed Vincent Taylor, who is a shade quicker than Dunn. Should be a training camp battle.

For the strong side DE, I see Charles Omenihu, 6-5/280 lbs/4.92

Intriguingly, I see newly signed Derek Rivers listed as an OLB; but I can't find any mention of him playing anything other than DE. But he has prototypical size for the SAM LB - 6-5/250 lbs/4.61. For now, he has to be looked at, at this position. If not Rivers, I have Jonathan Greenard as our SAM at 6-4/263/4.87.

As the WILL LB, I have Whitney Mercilus at 6-4/258/4.68. But an intriguing possibility would be newly signed Christian Kirksey, 6-2/235/4.58.

For the weak side DE, that leaves us with newly signed DeMarcus Walker, 6-4/280/4.88. But we also have the option of dropping Mercilus into this position.
I am slightly optimistic that draft picks Greenard and Blacklock will do much better this season under better coaching. I don't expect many starts until 2022.
 

Rich Schmidt

Myopicone
There's been discussion on possible lineups for the OL. But I haven't seen discussion on the defensive front 7. Looking over our roster, we have Blacklock set as one DT and Cunningham set as the MIKE LB.

At the other DT position, we have long time Texan Brandon Dunn. But we also have newly signed Vincent Taylor, who is a shade quicker than Dunn. Should be a training camp battle.

For the strong side DE, I see Charles Omenihu, 6-5/280 lbs/4.92

Intriguingly, I see newly signed Derek Rivers listed as an OLB; but I can't find any mention of him playing anything other than DE. But he has prototypical size for the SAM LB - 6-5/250 lbs/4.61. For now, he has to be looked at, at this position. If not Rivers, I have Jonathan Greenard as our SAM at 6-4/263/4.87.

As the WILL LB, I have Whitney Mercilus at 6-4/258/4.68. But an intriguing possibility would be newly signed Christian Kirksey, 6-2/235/4.58.

For the weak side DE, that leaves us with newly signed DeMarcus Walker, 6-4/280/4.88. But we also have the option of dropping Mercilus into this position.
I think Shaq Lawson will be in the mix for sure. Blacklock has a lot to prove too, Maliek Collins may have a revival here. Hard to predict what the coaches will do, but unless Mercilus went to the fountain of youth, he needs to be surplanted. Former players have no leg up here, new regime and system, and noone in the front office has any chips on former draft picks or contracts, so I finally feel the best players will get PT
 

Number19

Hall of Fame
I think Shaq Lawson will be in the mix for sure. Blacklock has a lot to prove too, Maliek Collins may have a revival here. Hard to predict what the coaches will do, but unless Mercilus went to the fountain of youth, he needs to be surplanted. Former players have no leg up here, new regime and system, and noone in the front office has any chips on former draft picks or contracts, so I finally feel the best players will get PT
Agree on both counts. Collins will definitely be in the mix for the second DT spot; and Shaq should be pushing Mercilus. It'll be another camp battle to keep an eye on.
 

steelbtexan

King of the W. B. Club
Contributor's Club
I think Shaq Lawson will be in the mix for sure. Blacklock has a lot to prove too, Maliek Collins may have a revival here. Hard to predict what the coaches will do, but unless Mercilus went to the fountain of youth, he needs to be surplanted. Former players have no leg up here, new regime and system, and noone in the front office has any chips on former draft picks or contracts, so I finally feel the best players will get PT
The benefits of having a new GM calling the shots.

Hopefully even more DL/edge help is on the way via the draft.
 

Number19

Hall of Fame
I really don't see that as a battle because Mercilus is pretty much done. Lawson should win that spot easily.
Can you, or anyone, tell me, did Mercilus play strong side or weak side, last year?

And why do you say he is done? He couldn't stop the run? He couldn't cover? He couldn't pressure/sack the QB?

The thing is, we've had a house cleaning, so why is he still on the roster if he under performed? There is a difference in not having standout statistics, but performing his duties and assignment.
 

Texansballer74

Hall of Fame
Can you, or anyone, tell me, did Mercilus play strong side or weak side, last year?

And why do you say he is done? He couldn't stop the run? He couldn't cover? He couldn't pressure/sack the QB?

The thing is, we've had a house cleaning, so why is he still on the roster if he under performed? There is a difference in not having standout statistics, but performing his duties and assignment.
He played strong side LB majority of the time. He's done because he was extremely horrible in stopping the run. Dude couldn't even stop Big Ben for beating him around the edge. That's how slow he's gotten. He was atrocious at setting the edge. A lot of the big runs last season was to his side in which he didn't set the edge.

He was terrible at putting pressure on the opposing quarterbacks.

The reason why he's still here is because of the cap hit the Texans will receive is massive. And no one is trading for a OLB who doesn't get constant pressure, is terrible in the running game and cant cover a sloth.
 

Number19

Hall of Fame
He played strong side LB majority of the time. He's done because he was extremely horrible in stopping the run. Dude couldn't even stop Big Ben for beating him around the edge. That's how slow he's gotten. He was atrocious at setting the edge. A lot of the big runs last season was to his side in which he didn't set the edge.

He was terrible at putting pressure on the opposing quarterbacks.

The reason why he's still here is because of the cap hit the Texans will receive is massive. And no one is trading for a OLB who doesn't get constant pressure, is terrible in the running game and cant cover a sloth.
Thanks.
 

badboy

Hall of Fame
Can you, or anyone, tell me, did Mercilus play strong side or weak side, last year?

And why do you say he is done? He couldn't stop the run? He couldn't cover? He couldn't pressure/sack the QB?

The thing is, we've had a house cleaning, so why is he still on the roster if he under performed? There is a difference in not having standout statistics, but performing his duties and assignment.
Mercilus is still on the roster because he counts 8 million dead money with just over half a million in cap savings.
I am hoping that after this last season of his contract we might get a late-round comp if he goes elsewhere.
 

badboy

Hall of Fame
He played strong side LB majority of the time. He's done because he was extremely horrible in stopping the run. Dude couldn't even stop Big Ben for beating him around the edge. That's how slow he's gotten. He was atrocious at setting the edge. A lot of the big runs last season was to his side in which he didn't set the edge.

He was terrible at putting pressure on the opposing quarterbacks.

The reason why he's still here is because of the cap hit the Texans will receive is massive. And no one is trading for a OLB who doesn't get constant pressure, is terrible in the running game and cant cover a sloth.
Yep, I am hoping that he was just disgusted with everything going on last season and realizing this is his year to play for a new contract somewhere he cranks it back up. Is it a reasonable hope that remains to be seen.
 

steelbtexan

King of the W. B. Club
Contributor's Club
Possible Texans starting defense.

Walker- Dunn or Blacklock) Omenihu- Lawson

Jenkins-- Cunningham- Kirksey

Mitchell- L. Johnson- Reid - Roby
King will either be the nickel or the FS. Maybe a little bit of both.

I think they draft another CB too. Could even be in the 3rd. The LB's should be much better this yr. Depth and maybe even another starter is badly needed.

There really aren't any difference makers in the bunch. But the tackling should be better. Don't forget about Taylor at DT, he's got potential.
 

Texansballer74

Hall of Fame

"The defense, it just wasn’t tight enough," said Reid on Friday. "Too many holes, too many pitch-and-catches. We tried to put some emphasis on the ball but we didn’t do a good enough job last year, plain and simple.

"We were one of the bottom tiers in the league."
 
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banned1976

sleeper mode
For what it's worth, the last 3 games of 2018 the Texans allowed an average of 95.7 rushing yards per game. A really good 89.6 for the season. Last 3 games of 2019 RPG = 178.3, 123.7 for the season. Last 3 of 2020 = 194.7 RPG, 160.2 for the season. In a division in which two of the teams love running the ball, the Texans must expend tremendous effort and assets in shoring in this atrocious run defense. It is the biggest Achilles Heal of the entire team.

Who are the (proven, not wishful thinking) run stoppers for this team?
 

OptimisticTexan

2021 Building Block 1 / Go Texans
Maybe Caserio finds a way to sign S- Bobby McCain (MIA). Had a down year in 2020 but that down year could be an All Pro type of season for the Texans.
 

TheRealJoker

Hall of Fame
I have been thinking a bit more on the LBs the last two days. To me, the two best LBs on the roster are Cunningham as clear #1 with Kirksey at #2. Clustered together not too far from Kirksey are Kevin Pierre-Louis and the newest addition Neville Hewitt.

Cunningham and Kirksey can play any of the 3 LB positions. While (imo of course) Pierre-Louis is strictly a WILL while Hewitt is strictly a MIKE.

If the team is looking to play its 3 best LBs it appears on the surface to be a competition between KPL and Hewitt for 3rd best LB. KPL is a coverage specialist who falters against the run while Hewitt is a thumper against the run but weak against the pass.

But in Lovie’s Tampa 2 the WILL is traditionally the stud playmaking LB of the unit (EX: HOF Derrick Brooks in late 90s/early 2000s Tampa defense, Darius Leonard in modern era Colts Tampa 2 defense).

With that being the case, it seems that the best alignment would have Cunningham is best suited to play WILL. Cunningham as the roaming stud would be set up for a career year in this position. Which would put Kirksey at SAM and Hewitt at MIKE. With maybe Kirksey and Hewitt coming off/KPL coming on the field in pass heavy nickel alignments.

I think the LB unit is the most intriguing competition in camp to watch this year. And I fully expect Cunningham to play his best football for as long as Lovie Smith is DC.

With these 4 LBs and the rookie Wallow the Texans have a solid group of LBs to run this system. Dare I say its the strongest unit on defense. Still can be upgraded of course, but not the liability of say our DTs as they stand right now.
 

TheRealJoker

Hall of Fame
Which brings me to the DT unit that imo is the biggest weakness on this team.

The Colts have Deforest Buckner and Grover Stewart causing havoc in the middle of their defense. Buckner is one of the best DTs in the league coming off a 10 sack 1st team all pro season, he’s their Warren Sapp.

Grover Stewart is one of the best run stuffing DTs in the league tying up blockers so their LBs can run free and flow to the ball (Leonard can collect All pro seasons). He’s their Booger Mcfarland.

The Texans, in contrast have nothing close to either. Which is a problem as we shall see this season...

The team signed Maliek Collins to a 1 year/6 million deal this offseason. That’s starter money. At his best, Collins was one of the best pass rushing DTs in the league, but one of the worst run stopping DTs while in Dallas (who also runs a Tampa 2 style scheme). Last year with the Raiders, he did neither well. If this signing hits we’ll get consistent penetrating against the pass but still have run defense issues.

They have a similar player in Ross Blacklock. Though I think Blacklock has the superior athletic ability to be at least average against the run while being a menace against the pass. But he also has to meet that potential. He did neither last season so the jury is still out.

Collins/Blacklock are going to battle to be the Warren Sapp penetrating DT for this defense... We also have players like Demarcus Walker and Omenihu competing to play 5/3 technique on passing downs when the run stuffer gets pulled, though they are technically considered DEs.

For the run stuffing NT duties we’ll have Brandon Dunn, Jaleel Johnson, Vincent Taylor and rookie Roy Lopez competing to be our Booger. All I have to say is that I hope Lopez outplays his draft status. If he can drop anchor and not be moved i’ll consider the pick a massive success. I do not think the 3 vets have shown at any point in their time in the league that they can be considered anything better than a JAG as their ceiling.

Short version: I suspect DT will be addressed in the 1st round next year. Especially if the team gets picks for DW4.
 

steelbtexan

King of the W. B. Club
Contributor's Club
I have been thinking a bit more on the LBs the last two days. To me, the two best LBs on the roster are Cunningham as clear #1 with Kirksey at #2. Clustered together not too far from Kirksey are Kevin Pierre-Louis and the newest addition Neville Hewitt.

Cunningham and Kirksey can play any of the 3 LB positions. While (imo of course) Pierre-Louis is strictly a WILL while Hewitt is strictly a MIKE.

If the team is looking to play its 3 best LBs it appears on the surface to be a competition between KPL and Hewitt for 3rd best LB. KPL is a coverage specialist who falters against the run while Hewitt is a thumper against the run but weak against the pass.

But in Lovie’s Tampa 2 the WILL is traditionally the stud playmaking LB of the unit (EX: HOF Derrick Brooks in late 90s/early 2000s Tampa defense, Darius Leonard in modern era Colts Tampa 2 defense).

With that being the case, it seems that the best alignment would have Cunningham is best suited to play WILL. Cunningham as the roaming stud would be set up for a career year in this position. Which would put Kirksey at SAM and Hewitt at MIKE. With maybe Kirksey and Hewitt coming off/KPL coming on the field in pass heavy nickel alignments.

I think the LB unit is the most intriguing competition in camp to watch this year. And I fully expect Cunningham to play his best football for as long as Lovie Smith is DC.

With these 4 LBs and the rookie Wallow the Texans have a solid group of LBs to run this system. Dare I say its the strongest unit on defense. Still can be upgraded of course, but not the liability of say our DTs as they stand right now.
It would help if Cunningham could step up in the hole and tackle people instead of his drag down from the side style of tackling that would make Jay Foreman proud.
 

steelbtexan

King of the W. B. Club
Contributor's Club
Which brings me to the DT unit that imo is the biggest weakness on this team.

The Colts have Deforest Buckner and Grover Stewart causing havoc in the middle of their defense. Buckner is one of the best DTs in the league coming off a 10 sack 1st team all pro season, he’s their Warren Sapp.

Grover Stewart is one of the best run stuffing DTs in the league tying up blockers so their LBs can run free and flow to the ball (Leonard can collect All pro seasons). He’s their Booger Mcfarland.

The Texans, in contrast have nothing close to either. Which is a problem as we shall see this season...

The team signed Maliek Collins to a 1 year/6 million deal this offseason. That’s starter money. At his best, Collins was one of the best pass rushing DTs in the league, but one of the worst run stopping DTs while in Dallas (who also runs a Tampa 2 style scheme). Last year with the Raiders, he did neither well. If this signing hits we’ll get consistent penetrating against the pass but still have run defense issues.

They have a similar player in Ross Blacklock. Though I think Blacklock has the superior athletic ability to be at least average against the run while being a menace against the pass. But he also has to meet that potential. He did neither last season so the jury is still out.

Collins/Blacklock are going to battle to be the Warren Sapp penetrating DT for this defense... We also have players like Demarcus Walker and Omenihu competing to play 5/3 technique on passing downs when the run stuffer gets pulled, though they are technically considered DEs.

For the run stuffing NT duties we’ll have Brandon Dunn, Jaleel Johnson, Vincent Taylor and rookie Roy Lopez competing to be our Booger. All I have to say is that I hope Lopez outplays his draft status. If he can drop anchor and not be moved i’ll consider the pick a massive success. I do not think the 3 vets have shown at any point in their time in the league that they can be considered anything better than a JAG as their ceiling.

Short version: I suspect DT will be addressed in the 1st round next year. Especially if the team gets picks for DW4.
If Mills is the guy at QB I would suspect that Edge/CB will be addressed in the 1st rd next yr, followed by DT in the 2nd/3rd, depending on how the DT's holdup next yr.
 

Number19

Hall of Fame
I have been thinking a bit more on the LBs the last two days. To me, the two best LBs on the roster are Cunningham as clear #1 with Kirksey at #2. Clustered together not too far from Kirksey are Kevin Pierre-Louis and the newest addition Neville Hewitt.

Cunningham and Kirksey can play any of the 3 LB positions. While (imo of course) Pierre-Louis is strictly a WILL while Hewitt is strictly a MIKE.

If the team is looking to play its 3 best LBs it appears on the surface to be a competition between KPL and Hewitt for 3rd best LB. KPL is a coverage specialist who falters against the run while Hewitt is a thumper against the run but weak against the pass.

But in Lovie’s Tampa 2 the WILL is traditionally the stud playmaking LB of the unit (EX: HOF Derrick Brooks in late 90s/early 2000s Tampa defense, Darius Leonard in modern era Colts Tampa 2 defense).

With that being the case, it seems that the best alignment would have Cunningham is best suited to play WILL. Cunningham as the roaming stud would be set up for a career year in this position. Which would put Kirksey at SAM and Hewitt at MIKE. With maybe Kirksey and Hewitt coming off/KPL coming on the field in pass heavy nickel alignments.

I think the LB unit is the most intriguing competition in camp to watch this year. And I fully expect Cunningham to play his best football for as long as Lovie Smith is DC.

With these 4 LBs and the rookie Wallow the Texans have a solid group of LBs to run this system. Dare I say its the strongest unit on defense. Still can be upgraded of course, but not the liability of say our DTs as they stand right now.
I've been taking another look at the LB's today and finding that I still agree largely with TheRealJoker's analysis of May 8th.

Let's take a look at Cunningham and Kirksey. They are clearly our two best linebackers.

Cunningham, over his 5 yr career, has had 503 total tackles; 6.5 sacks; 4 forced fumbles; 3 fumble recoveries; 1 interceptions; and 15 passes deflected.

Kirksey, over his 8 yr career, has had 542 total tackles; 13.5 sacks; 4 forced fumbles; 3 fumble recoveries; 4 interceptions; and 20 passes deflected.

Their measurables are close - with one exception. Kirksey may be a step quicker. Cunningham's 40 was 4.67 and Kirksey's 40 was 4.58.

Reading up on the Tampa 2, the Middle Linebacker is considered the heart of the defense, requiring better-than-average speed for dropping into deep middle coverage, supporting the OLB's, and playing the run.

The SAM linebacker needs to blitz, play the run and take on blockers. He also needs to cover the TE and RB's in pass coverage.

Cunningham and Kirksey will play these two positions. Although WILL may be the "playmaking" linebacker, MIKE and SAM are the more critical for the defense.

I agree with TheRealJoker that Kevin Pierre-Louis and Neville Hewitt are likely our next two best veterans, but both seem to be jags.

NH, over his 7 yr career, has only 343 total tackles. He does have 7.5 sacks, 3 int's and 13 passes deflected. His 40 is the slowest of these four, 4.69.

KPL, over his 7 year career, has only 184 total tackles; with 2 sacks, 1 int and 8 passes deflected. His 40 is the fastest of the four, 4.51.

In a 43 Tampa 2 defense, the linebacks need to be above average tacklers and are usually the primary tacklers in the defense. IMO, both NH and KPL may prove to be a liability, but with Hewitt seemingly having a clear advantage over KPL.

And this brings me to our newest rookie linebacker, Garret Wallow. His measurables: 4.65 40-yd; 1.64 10-yd split, 2.68 20-yd split; 4.12 20-yd shuttle (outstanding); 6.87 3-cone (outstanding); 22 reps.

"He landed first-team All-Big 12 honors as a junior. He led the conference in tackles with 125 and ranked ninth in the FBS with 10.4 tackles per contest while also leading TCU with 18 tackles for loss (including 3.5 sacks), intercepting a pass and breaking up two others. Wallow was once again a first-team all-conference pick in 2020, leading the Horned Frogs with 90 tackles, nine for loss (with three sacks), and three forced fumbles in 10 starts." by Chad Reuter

Strengths (Lance Zierlein)

Tackle collector with plenty of solo finishes.
Good football IQ with time at both safety and linebacker.
Team captain and undisputed leader of the defense.
Good patience and pace when scraping.
Steps downhill and doesn't wait for blocks to find him.
Possesses NFL-caliber pursuit range.
Recovers from blocks well to find tackle chances.
Has athleticism to slip around blocks quickly when he wants.
Has traits to play special teams.

Weaknesses (Lance Zierlein)

Will get in hurry to get downhill at times.
Guessing and chance-taking can pull him out of position.
Play strength is below average.
Makes himself a static target for blockers to find.
Gets washed away by angle blocks.
Allows blockers to get too deep into his frame.
Needs better take-on technique.
Angles to the ball and open-field tackling are highly problematic.
Doesn't have desired coverage talent.

Wallow still has to prove himself, but can he prove to be a strong candidate to win the WILL position? And what about his coverage talent. The bar is set pretty low for NH and KPL.

Can any of the other LB candidates sneak into the competition to take the 3rd starting slot?

And finally, comments on how well these linebackers will perform in the Tampa 2, which places a premium on speed.
 

steelbtexan

King of the W. B. Club
Contributor's Club
I've been taking another look at the LB's today and finding that I still agree largely with TheRealJoker's analysis of May 8th.

Let's take a look at Cunningham and Kirksey. They are clearly our two best linebackers.

Cunningham, over his 5 yr career, has had 503 total tackles; 6.5 sacks; 4 forced fumbles; 3 fumble recoveries; 1 interceptions; and 15 passes deflected.

Kirksey, over his 8 yr career, has had 542 total tackles; 13.5 sacks; 4 forced fumbles; 3 fumble recoveries; 4 interceptions; and 20 passes deflected.

Their measurables are close - with one exception. Kirksey may be a step quicker. Cunningham's 40 was 4.67 and Kirksey's 40 was 4.58.

Reading up on the Tampa 2, the Middle Linebacker is considered the heart of the defense, requiring better-than-average speed for dropping into deep middle coverage, supporting the OLB's, and playing the run.

The SAM linebacker needs to blitz, play the run and take on blockers. He also needs to cover the TE and RB's in pass coverage.

Cunningham and Kirksey will play these two positions. Although WILL may be the "playmaking" linebacker, MIKE and SAM are the more critical for the defense.

I agree with TheRealJoker that Kevin Pierre-Louis and Neville Hewitt are likely our next two best veterans, but both seem to be jags.

NH, over his 7 yr career, has only 343 total tackles. He does have 7.5 sacks, 3 int's and 13 passes deflected. His 40 is the slowest of these four, 4.69.

KPL, over his 7 year career, has only 184 total tackles; with 2 sacks, 1 int and 8 passes deflected. His 40 is the fastest of the four, 4.51.

In a 43 Tampa 2 defense, the linebacks need to be above average tacklers and are usually the primary tacklers in the defense. IMO, both NH and KPL may prove to be a liability, but with Hewitt seemingly having a clear advantage over KPL.

And this brings me to our newest rookie linebacker, Garret Wallow. His measurables: 4.65 40-yd; 1.64 10-yd split, 2.68 20-yd split; 4.12 20-yd shuttle (outstanding); 6.87 3-cone (outstanding); 22 reps.

"He landed first-team All-Big 12 honors as a junior. He led the conference in tackles with 125 and ranked ninth in the FBS with 10.4 tackles per contest while also leading TCU with 18 tackles for loss (including 3.5 sacks), intercepting a pass and breaking up two others. Wallow was once again a first-team all-conference pick in 2020, leading the Horned Frogs with 90 tackles, nine for loss (with three sacks), and three forced fumbles in 10 starts." by Chad Reuter

Strengths (Lance Zierlein)

Tackle collector with plenty of solo finishes.
Good football IQ with time at both safety and linebacker.
Team captain and undisputed leader of the defense.
Good patience and pace when scraping.
Steps downhill and doesn't wait for blocks to find him.
Possesses NFL-caliber pursuit range.
Recovers from blocks well to find tackle chances.
Has athleticism to slip around blocks quickly when he wants.
Has traits to play special teams.

Weaknesses (Lance Zierlein)

Will get in hurry to get downhill at times.
Guessing and chance-taking can pull him out of position.
Play strength is below average.
Makes himself a static target for blockers to find.
Gets washed away by angle blocks.
Allows blockers to get too deep into his frame.
Needs better take-on technique.
Angles to the ball and open-field tackling are highly problematic.
Doesn't have desired coverage talent.

Wallow still has to prove himself, but can he prove to be a strong candidate to win the WILL position? And what about his coverage talent. The bar is set pretty low for NH and KPL.

Can any of the other LB candidates sneak into the competition to take the 3rd starting slot?

And finally, comments on how well these linebackers will perform in the Tampa 2, which places a premium on speed.
Cunningham and Kirsey will most likely be 2 starting LB's

Dont forget about Grugier-Hill. There's going to be a 4 man competition for the Will and the 1 thing all of these guys have in common is they can run. A big change at the LB position from previous yrs.
 

Number19

Hall of Fame
Cunningham and Kirsey will most likely be 2 starting LB's

Dont forget about Grugier-Hill. There's going to be a 4 man competition for the Will and the 1 thing all of these guys have in common is they can run. A big change at the LB position from previous yrs.
I didn't forget Grugier-Hill, I just couldn't see anything in him except his speed. He simply hasn't produced in his 5 years with the Eagles and Dolphins.

Who are you seeing as the 4 competing for WILL?
 

Number19

Hall of Fame
KPL/Wallow/NH/GH
At the combine, GH ran a 4.45 forty at 208 lbs. His current weight is a bit uncertain. ProFootball Reference has him listed at 230 lbs, as does Houston Texans.com. NFL.com has him listed at 223 lbs.

What I wonder is, how fast does he run the 40 yds at this higher playing weight? Or better asked, what has he lost with this increased weight?

If he's weighing in at 230 lbs now with the Texans and still running, say at 4.5, or there abouts, I think I could get on board with him playing WILL.

How's his tackling? That would be the final determining factor. But I'm beginning to think better of Kamu Grugier-Hill. And from his interviews, he certainly thinks he's a good fit in Lovie's defense.

(edit) Found this at https://www.miamidolphins.com/news/kamu-grugier-hill-2020-nfl-free-agent-analysis

"Explosive, quick-twitch athlete. Has superior chase speed and burst to the ball carrier. Possesses above average stop/start quickness. Combines quick feet and loose hips for plus agility. Range to ball carriers will be well above average. Instant reaction time once he diagnoses the play. Finds the ball after the snap and stays locked in. Wrap up tackler who likes to body up as a finisher. Aggressive enough to stay at linebacker as a pro. Has burst to become dangerous blitzer."...Lance Zierlein

And this: "...has never allowed a touchdown on 357 coverage snaps. His passer rating against checks in at an impressive 83.6..."
 
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TheRealJoker

Hall of Fame
I've been taking another look at the LB's today and finding that I still agree largely with TheRealJoker's analysis of May 8th.

Let's take a look at Cunningham and Kirksey. They are clearly our two best linebackers.

Cunningham, over his 5 yr career, has had 503 total tackles; 6.5 sacks; 4 forced fumbles; 3 fumble recoveries; 1 interceptions; and 15 passes deflected.

Kirksey, over his 8 yr career, has had 542 total tackles; 13.5 sacks; 4 forced fumbles; 3 fumble recoveries; 4 interceptions; and 20 passes deflected.

Their measurables are close - with one exception. Kirksey may be a step quicker. Cunningham's 40 was 4.67 and Kirksey's 40 was 4.58.

Reading up on the Tampa 2, the Middle Linebacker is considered the heart of the defense, requiring better-than-average speed for dropping into deep middle coverage, supporting the OLB's, and playing the run.

The SAM linebacker needs to blitz, play the run and take on blockers. He also needs to cover the TE and RB's in pass coverage.

Cunningham and Kirksey will play these two positions. Although WILL may be the "playmaking" linebacker, MIKE and SAM are the more critical for the defense.

I agree with TheRealJoker that Kevin Pierre-Louis and Neville Hewitt are likely our next two best veterans, but both seem to be jags.

NH, over his 7 yr career, has only 343 total tackles. He does have 7.5 sacks, 3 int's and 13 passes deflected. His 40 is the slowest of these four, 4.69.

KPL, over his 7 year career, has only 184 total tackles; with 2 sacks, 1 int and 8 passes deflected. His 40 is the fastest of the four, 4.51.

In a 43 Tampa 2 defense, the linebacks need to be above average tacklers and are usually the primary tacklers in the defense. IMO, both NH and KPL may prove to be a liability, but with Hewitt seemingly having a clear advantage over KPL.

And this brings me to our newest rookie linebacker, Garret Wallow. His measurables: 4.65 40-yd; 1.64 10-yd split, 2.68 20-yd split; 4.12 20-yd shuttle (outstanding); 6.87 3-cone (outstanding); 22 reps.

"He landed first-team All-Big 12 honors as a junior. He led the conference in tackles with 125 and ranked ninth in the FBS with 10.4 tackles per contest while also leading TCU with 18 tackles for loss (including 3.5 sacks), intercepting a pass and breaking up two others. Wallow was once again a first-team all-conference pick in 2020, leading the Horned Frogs with 90 tackles, nine for loss (with three sacks), and three forced fumbles in 10 starts." by Chad Reuter

Strengths (Lance Zierlein)

Tackle collector with plenty of solo finishes.
Good football IQ with time at both safety and linebacker.
Team captain and undisputed leader of the defense.
Good patience and pace when scraping.
Steps downhill and doesn't wait for blocks to find him.
Possesses NFL-caliber pursuit range.
Recovers from blocks well to find tackle chances.
Has athleticism to slip around blocks quickly when he wants.
Has traits to play special teams.

Weaknesses (Lance Zierlein)

Will get in hurry to get downhill at times.
Guessing and chance-taking can pull him out of position.
Play strength is below average.
Makes himself a static target for blockers to find.
Gets washed away by angle blocks.
Allows blockers to get too deep into his frame.
Needs better take-on technique.
Angles to the ball and open-field tackling are highly problematic.
Doesn't have desired coverage talent.

Wallow still has to prove himself, but can he prove to be a strong candidate to win the WILL position? And what about his coverage talent. The bar is set pretty low for NH and KPL.

Can any of the other LB candidates sneak into the competition to take the 3rd starting slot?

And finally, comments on how well these linebackers will perform in the Tampa 2, which places a premium on speed.
Great post! I agree that Wallow is an excellent scheme fit to play WILL in a Tampa 2. He is a sure tackler and shoots the gaps in a hurry which gives him added value as a blitzer if they choose to deploy him as such.

His biggest concern imo is not necessarily his coverage ability (though it needs improvement, he has the athleticism to cover) but he gets washed out easily by blockers. When a blocker gets his hands on him, not just OL but even TE/FB, he is usually done. I think his lack of length is a big reason for this and while there have been similar players who have been successful in the past its a big hurdle to overcome.

That being said, Wallow is a very sure tackler and rarely misses when he gets his hands on his opponent. If he can disengage from blocks better he would be a good starter but I believe that’s why he fell to the 5th round... but hopefully he hits!
 

TheRealJoker

Hall of Fame
At the combine, GH ran a 4.45 forty at 208 lbs. His current weight is a bit uncertain. ProFootball Reference has him listed at 230 lbs, as does Houston Texans.com. NFL.com has him listed at 223 lbs.

What I wonder is, how fast does he run the 40 yds at this higher playing weight? Or better asked, what has he lost with this increased weight?

If he's weighing in at 230 lbs now with the Texans and still running, say at 4.5, or there abouts, I think I could get on board with him playing WILL.

How's his tackling? That would be the final determining factor. But I'm beginning to think better of Kamu Grugier-Hill. And from his interviews, he certainly thinks he's a good fit in Lovie's defense.

(edit) Found this at https://www.miamidolphins.com/news/kamu-grugier-hill-2020-nfl-free-agent-analysis

"Explosive, quick-twitch athlete. Has superior chase speed and burst to the ball carrier. Possesses above average stop/start quickness. Combines quick feet and loose hips for plus agility. Range to ball carriers will be well above average. Instant reaction time once he diagnoses the play. Finds the ball after the snap and stays locked in. Wrap up tackler who likes to body up as a finisher. Aggressive enough to stay at linebacker as a pro. Has burst to become dangerous blitzer."...Lance Zierlein

And this: "...has never allowed a touchdown on 357 coverage snaps. His passer rating against checks in at an impressive 83.6..."
There is indeed a lot of uncertainty with new schemes and so many new faces this upcoming season. The best way to s e how the team values the new signings is to see what they paid them to become Houston Texans. We can watch all the film and project all we want but money talks!


We see our top 3 paid LBs this season are Cunningham, KPL and Kirksey (I consider Mercilus/Jenkins DL and staff had them lining up at DE during OTAs).

Interestingly enough Grugier-Hill is #4 and Neville Hewitt #5.

Does this mean KGH will be given an opportunity to compete for a starting job? Absolutely. But I believe he was paid that amount due to his value on ST relative to the other LBs brought in.
 

TheRealJoker

Hall of Fame
What would be a welcome surprise... Roy Lopez hits and becomes DJ Reader 2.0! I love that he’s a 2x state champion wrestler in high school and he posted some of the best numbers at his pro day among defensive tackle prospects. His 36 bench press reps far surpass any other DT on the roster (Reader got 30). Vincent Taylor is 2nd on the roster for bench press with just 26 reps.

Besides bench press his 31” vertical beats the other DTs on the team. And his 7.39 3 cone is very good for the position (Reader was 7.90). He is easily the best athlete amongst NTs on this team and with it being the weakest position on the team I hope he can contribute meaningful play this season and outplay his draft status!
 

Number19

Hall of Fame
This morning I finished looking at the defense by looking at the DB's. We seem to have a lot of depth here, which raises the question, how many DB's can we expect to make the final 53?

For my starters I've decided on Terrance Mitchell and Bradley Roby as the CB's; Justin Reid as the FS and Lonnie Johnson as the SS.

In addition to these I have Terrence Brooks as my 5th back.

Then I also have Desmond King, Eric Murray and Vernon Hargreaves making the final 53. That makes eight.

Finally, I have last years 4th round selection, John Reid. We have to find a spot for him, even if it's the PS.

This should be a good group.
 

Number19

Hall of Fame
OK, having finished looking over our defensive players, I've come up with my starting 11. Plus, in parenthesis, I've included a few close alternatives at some of the positions. And I've included a 12th position, my Nickle DB.

Having looked at this potential starting group, I'm really beginning to like this Tampa 2 defensive unit. There's been several posters who really disparage our defense, based on last years results and the addition of so many, what they call, JAGS. But this starting group is really looking good in my opinion.

RDE...Whitney Mercilus (Jonathan Greenard)(DeMarcus Walker)
DT....Charles Omenihu (Ross Blacklock)
NT....Roy Lopez (Jaleel Johnson)
LDE...Shaq Lawson

WILL LB...Kamu Grugier-Hill (Kevin Pierre-Louis)
MIKE LB...Zack Cunningham
SAM LB....Christian Kirksey

CB...Terrance Mitchell
CB...Bradley Roby
SS...Lonnie Johnson
FS...Justin Reid

Nickle DB...Terrence Brooks
 
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TheRealJoker

Hall of Fame
OK, having finished looking over our defensive players, I've come up with my starting 11. Plus, in parenthesis, I've included a few close alternatives at some of the positions. And I've included a 12th position, my Nickle DB.

Having looked at this potential starting group, I'm really beginning to like this Tampa 2 defensive unit. There's been several posters who really disparage our defense, based on last years results and the addition of so many, what they call, JAGS. But this starting group is really looking good in my opinion.

RDE...Whitney Mercilus (Jonathan Greenard)(DeMarcus Walker)
DT....Charles Omenihu (Ross Blacklock)
NT....Roy Lopez (Jaleel Johnson)
LDE...Shaq Lawson

WILL LB...Kamu Grugier-Hill (Kevin Pierre-Louis)
MIKE LB...Zack Cunningham
SAM LB....Christian Kirksey

CB...Terrance Mitchell
CB...Bradley Roby
SS...Lonnie Johnson
FS...Justin Reid

Nickle DB...Terrence Brooks
Solid list. Only changes i’d make would be Desmond King at nickel and KPL starting over KGH. Also add Jordan Jenkins in at DE. I hope Lopez wins the NT job! But more importantly I hope he becomes a solid starter quality player that outplays his draft status rather than someone we want to replace every year he’s starting.
 

Number19

Hall of Fame
Solid list. Only changes i’d make would be Desmond King at nickel and KPL starting over KGH. Also add Jordan Jenkins in at DE. I hope Lopez wins the NT job! But more importantly I hope he becomes a solid starter quality player that outplays his draft status rather than someone we want to replace every year he’s starting.
Jenkins was a player I didn't know what to do with. I had him listed as a LB. I had also heard on 610 that the Texans had moved three linebackers to defensive end but I couldn't recall who was the third. I felt Jenkins was just too slow for LB in a Tampa 2, but if he's that third player, he certainly figures into the mix at DE.
 

Number19

Hall of Fame
Solid list. Only changes i’d make would be Desmond King at nickel and KPL starting over KGH. Also add Jordan Jenkins in at DE. I hope Lopez wins the NT job! But more importantly I hope he becomes a solid starter quality player that outplays his draft status rather than someone we want to replace every year he’s starting.
With the switch to Lovie Smith's Tampa 2, how positive are you on the defensive team we are going to field; something similar to what we are both pretty much in agreement on.

Last year, the Texans were:
27 overall
27 in points allowed
30 in total yds given up
24 in passing yds allowed
23 in passes completed
23 in passing tds
32 in rushing yds given up
30 in rushing tds given up

Having spent the past couple days looking into our roster, I'm actually feeling pretty positive. What this will translate to in the rankings? Who knows? But we should see competitive improvement, in my opinion.
 

TheRealJoker

Hall of Fame
With the switch to Lovie Smith's Tampa 2, how positive are you on the defensive team we are going to field; something similar to what we are both pretty much in agreement on.

Last year, the Texans were:
27 overall
27 in points allowed
30 in total yds given up
24 in passing yds allowed
23 in passes completed
23 in passing tds
32 in rushing yds given up
30 in rushing tds given up

Having spent the past couple days looking into our roster, I'm actually feeling pretty positive. What this will translate to in the rankings? Who knows? But we should see competitive improvement, in my opinion.
Defense will improve indirectly with an improved OL and running game.

The worst stat the defense had last season imo was takeaways. They only forced 9 turnovers all last season (second worst team forced 12). Lovie’s defense will put a renewed emphasis on forcing turnovers which will be a huge improvement over last season’s unit.
 

TheRealJoker

Hall of Fame
I really don’t think our biggest problem was a roster problem. There had to be something else going on in that locker room for them to play as bad as they did.

JJ agrees.


“ “If you can’t go out there and you can’t work out, you can’t show up on time, you can’t practice, you can’t want to go out there and win, you shouldn’t be here,” he said.”
 

steelbtexan

King of the W. B. Club
Contributor's Club
Defense will improve indirectly with an improved OL and running game.

The worst stat the defense had last season imo was takeaways. They only forced 9 turnovers all last season (second worst team forced 12). Lovie’s defense will put a renewed emphasis on forcing turnovers which will be a huge improvement over last season’s unit.
Hard to be worse.

The added speed will help create more turnovers.
 

Dejaview

All Pro
What would be a welcome surprise... Roy Lopez hits and becomes DJ Reader 2.0! I love that he’s a 2x state champion wrestler in high school and he posted some of the best numbers at his pro day among defensive tackle prospects. His 36 bench press reps far surpass any other DT on the roster (Reader got 30). Vincent Taylor is 2nd on the roster for bench press with just 26 reps.

Besides bench press his 31” vertical beats the other DTs on the team. And his 7.39 3 cone is very good for the position (Reader was 7.90). He is easily the best athlete amongst NTs on this team and with it being the weakest position on the team I hope he can contribute meaningful play this season and outplay his draft status!
I thought I already posted a reply but it disappeared? If it shows up again I apologize. My comment was a pre draft NC comment that he, NC, has a body style that he likes for every position.( Lopez has that low Mongo base for moving a piano or an OL. )Said he’s really strong like you indicated. He loved the fact that he was a wrestler.
 


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