Houston Texans: Whitney Mercilus A Tale of Two Different Outside Linebackers


Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Is it just me or does the entire Houston Texans defense play better when former first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney is off of the field? One player in particular reacted like a teen with a new unlimited data plan and that’s outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, he was literally everywhere Sunday. Though it was a stats buffet against the lowly Tennessee Titans, Houston has not seen production like this from Mercilus since, well ever.

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Now before fans get caught up in this victory and the first showing of defensive ferocity in 2015, it was the Titans. For the past few seasons, the Titans have been to the NFL what the road is to vehicles, just something that everyone rolls over on a daily basis. While it was great to see the Texans play sound football, fly around and actually make tackles, the Titans are just 3-20 dating back to last season.

Mercilus had to feel great about his rare stat piling day as he recorded 3.5 sacks and harassed the Titans offense all day. There was one guy who was absolutely furious and embarrassed by his own

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

performance while attempting to block Whitney, Tennessee offensive tackle Taylor Lewan . In an interview Sunday immediately following the loss, last years’ 11th overall pick told reporters “I definitely played one of the worst games I’ve ever played in my life.” Tough to put the onus on himself, but for an offensive line that allowed 7 sacks and a ton of hits on Zach Mettenberger, blame can be thrown everywhere really.

If you’re not familiar with Whitney’s developmental football growth, he is kind of a late bloomer. From 2009 to 2011 under Coach Ron Zook at Illinois, Mercilus had a humbling first two seasons where he only recorded 2 total sacks. It wasn’t until his final year in 2011 that he morphed into a quarterback dropping machine.

That year, Whitney racked up 16 sacks and blew the minds of scouts for his final season. There is a similar pattern with the progression of his career in the NFL thus far. At times Mercilus barely exist in games, if not for DVR recording systems and the ability to re-watch games, I would not know whether Whitney suits out or not. Then suddenly, he explodes in a game, can’t be blocked and has people wondering where this version of the former no.1 pick has been.

When Mercilus plays like that it makes it harder to see Clowney  still “figuring” things out and playing musical medical trainers throughout the whole game. The only problem with this performance is that fans will now expect Whitney to be this monster every Sunday, and they should.

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This week against the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals, offensive mental breakdowns won’t aid the Texans. Houston will have to play sound, disciplined football to have any chance. The Bengals have been through tons of critical late game situations this season and have won every time. If the Texans want to avoid looking like a Baylor opponent this week, then Whitney and friends better find a way to channel that inner maniac again. Either way, this was an impressive game by a statistically bipolar athlete.