*At the conclusion of June's minicamp, HoustonTexans.com huddled with the team's position coaches to get their respective thoughts on the projected starters. This is the eighth 'Coaches Commentary' in a series of articles that will go through the roster, position by position.
The projected 2013 starting linebackers for the Houston Texans' defense will see the return of 2011 Team MVP
ILB Brian Cushing
Missed final 11 games of 2012 with knee injury
Team captain in 2011 and 2012
“Obviously, Cush is a great player. An outstanding player. Anytime you lose a great player like we did in the middle of last season, it’s hard to replace ‘em. We had some guys that filled in and did a good job last year and won some games, but it’s still a star player.
He’s a great leader, too. He leads by example. We said when we first got here (in 2011), ‘Hey, if you guys will play as hard as Cushing does, we'll win.’ He was our example of how hard you play, what it takes to play at a high level and tremendous effort. And a lot of guys did copy him, and it helped us.” –Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips
ILB Darryl Sharpton
39 tackles, 1 INT in 7 games last season
Entering 4th year with Texans
“Sharpton’s good. He was back to work at OTAs this spring, which is very encouraging. We kind of were a little protective with him this spring, keeping him out of some special teams drills and stuff, but he’s back to work.
Every time he gets in his groove, he’s had an injury, so I’m just hoping and I’m going to keep praying for him that he stays healthy because he can really help this team.” –Head coach Gary Kubiak
OLB Brooks Reed
5 career sacks in 4 playoff games
42 tackles in 12 games during 2012
“What Brooks does is gives us somebody that has exceptional play strength, exceptional play speed. He’s a mature, physical player. He’s got a great body, he’s got instincts. He plays with his hair on fire. He can shock block.
Once again, I’ll say this, his tenacity, his play speed, his play strength—he carries himself like a true pro. Unlimited possibilities with Brooks.” -Linebackers coach Reggie Herring
OLB Whitney Mercilus
6 sacks as a rookie in 2012
16 sacks at Illinois in 2011
“Whitney’s a smart player. He’s athletic. He’s tough, physical, but he’s a self-starter, high-motor guy that plays with ability. You want those high-motor guys, but you want them to have that kind of ability.
He’s got the skills that you look for in that area. He’s a little different than Brooks Reed; he’s more used to using his hands, and he’s got a speed rush, he’s got a power rush, and he’s got a quick inside move. It’s something we can certainly develop further, but he has some natural moves.” –Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips