As the Houston Texans make a run for the top seed in the AFC during the final five weeks of the season, the team will need a pair of young linebackers to step up and solidify their defense.
With Brian Cushing out for the year with an ACL injury and Brooks Reed sidelined with a groin injury, the Texans need their young linebackers to fill the void. Houston will need to rely on rookie Whitney Mercilus and third-year linebacker Darryl Sharpton to pick up the slack.
According to Kristie Rieken of the Associated Press, head coach Gary Kubiak has faith Mercilus and Sharpton can get the job done.
“How far we go, how well we play, how we hang on here and keep working has a lot to do with how they play,” Kubiak said. “We have confidence in them.”
The need for Mercilus and Sharpton to step up is heightened by injuries to Bradie James and Tim Dobbins. James has played all 11 games for the Texans but is dealing with a hamstring injury and did not practice on Wednesday. Dobbins missed last week’s game against the Detroit Lions with a left shoulder injury but was able to be limited in practice.
Sharpton missed the first nine games of the year after suffering a torn quadriceps muscles last season. He earned his first start of the season last week in Detroit and recorded six tackles against the Lions. Sharpton has appeared in two games and has 13 tackles for the Texans this season.
Mercilus has played in all 11 games for the Texans this season after being selected in the first round of the draft in April. Mercilus has 17 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and a pass defensed for the Texans.