March 22, 2018

Mid Season Report Card: Linebackers

This is another installment of our SOTT Mid Season Report card and we will run through every position group for the Houston Texans. We focus on the linebackers in this post and give our thoughts on the position group.


The Linebacker Grades

Brian Cushing: His season was cut way too short for our liking, but his speed in the middle of the field is unmatched. Throw in his leadership on the field, Cushing had risen to the forefront of the defense. He was a tackling machine and a three down linebacker this season and was actually playing at a high level. Throw in some not so healed ribs from the preseason, Cushing was still a force to be dealt with. A big blow to the team as a whole, it is a shame that he won’t be a part of this impressive season.

Bradie James: We will give James this, he has gotten better since week one and looks like he is fitting into the scheme. James really stood out to us against the Buffalo and Baltimore games when during pre snap reads he was adjusting the entire defense to align them properly. His mental part to the game is second to none on the field, but his limited physical aspects are the real issue. He is just a step slower than his opponent but he has showed some life getting downhill to attack ball carriers. His run defense has improved but he is a liability in pass coverage. His mid season grade is right in the middle because that is what he has been to this point, a middle of the road player.

Tim Dobbins: Cushing’s replacement is a good fixture in the run game and is a true thumper in between the tackles for the defense. He is not scared to attack fullbacks and mix it up in piles. Dobbins does struggle in coverage but his true value lies in the run game defense. He is a little more sure when the run is happening and getting to the ball carrier than James, but together they are a serviceable group to stop the run. He still has plenty to show but Dobbins has been a blessing in disguise for a thin inside linebacker position.

Brooks Reed: Compared to last season, Reed has become so much more of a versatile player this season. He plays his normal outside linebacker position, he has covered more this season, and has played inside linebacker on short yardage and nickle situations. Reed is the edge setter and can put a pass rush on when needed, but he has showed more on his hustle plays. He has a relentless attitude when he hits the field and gives the defense a steady player that rarely makes mistakes on the field. He may not get as much publicity as the other players on the team, but what he is able to do on the field sets up other players for big days during the game.

Connor Barwin: Barwin has picked it up of late in the last three games but the expectations that surrounded him at the beginning of the season were huge. Those expectations might have been a little much for Barwin at the start of the season where he was nowhere to be seen. He might have been doing his run responsibilities well, but him getting to the quarterback was the real issue. With so much attention being paid to the inside of the Texans’ pass rush, Barwin was losing the one on one battles with opposing offensive tackles. The first five games of the season for Barwin were a let down but the production he has put together since the Green Bay Packers game is encouraging. His first half of the season didn’t start well but there are signs pointing to Barwin getting the engine going for the second half of the season.


Whitney Mercilus: It was frustrating as a fan to see Mercilus with very little playing time but the past two games he has added life into the Texans’ pass rush. He has recorded two sacks and caused two fumbles the past two games.  He is doing what he did in college, making impact plays. His closing speed is unmatched by any one of the outside linebackers and he looks comfortable in his role with the Texans. He has only been given two real games to help the defense, so it should be exciting to see what he has in store for the remainder of the season.

 Be on the lookout for the other report cards coming out later this week. 

You can follow Patrick on Twitter.  He is the Editor of State of the Texans.

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