The Houston Texans were delivered another injury blow Friday when OLB Brooks Reed was diagnosed with a groin strain. Reed had sustained the injury in the first quarter of the Texans’ Thanksgiving Day victory over the Detroit Lions. Add Reed to a list of injured Texans linebackers that includes Brian Cushing (ACL tear), Bradie James (hamstring), and Tim Dobbins (shoulder) and suddenly, the Texans are very thin at linebacker.
Reed had emerged last season as a rookie, beginning with a season-ending injury to then starting OLB Mario Williams. Reed had recorded 6.0 sacks, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries in what was mostly the second half of the season. However, Reed hasn’t played up to the same level this season, mostly as a pass rusher. Reed only has 2.5 sacks and frequently goes long stretches without having his name called. The Texans’ organization felt comfortable letting Williams go in free agency in part because of the big money he was commanding but also because they felt comfortable with Reed and Connor Barwin as their starting OLBs. Through eleven games, neither has impressed much.
The silver lining here is that now first round pick OLB Whitney Mercilus will be thrust into the starting lineup. After giving up nearly 70 points and close to 1,000 yards the past two games, the Texans’ D needs a jump-start, and Mercilus might just be that spark. Mercilus has gotten a bit of a slow start to this season and hasn’t seen much playing time as he continues to learn defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 system. But now, Mercilus’ learning curve just took a hard turn upwards as he’s now a starter.
The positive is that the Texans have a week and a half to prepare for the Tennessee Titans on the road. This will give the coaching staff time to better acclimate Mercilus to his new role and figure out the appropriate game plan for the Titans. Hopefully with Reed out, the Texans discover they got bang for their buck when they used their first round pick on Mercilus.
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