Texans: Mercilus providing challenge to Clowney
With the return of Jadeveon Clowney looming in the coming weeks, the 2014 first-overall pick may not immediately be inserted into a starting role due to the improved play of third-year player Whitney Mercilus.
Mercilus struggled early in his career, but seems to be improving as of late. In Weeks 6 and 7, Mercilus earned overall grades of +5.2 and +3.1. Up until that point, Mercilus had never earned two green grades in back-to-back weeks and the +5.2 is the highest of his career.
Mercilus currently ranks 34th among among 3-4 outside linebackers with a -1.3 cumulative pass rush grade, slightly below average, but an improvement over his near-bottom ranking last year at (-12.4). His biggest strides have come against the run, especially the past two games where Mercilus has earned run defense grades of +3.4 and +2.0. He currently ranks 12th among 3-4 OLBs with a Run Stop Percentage of 6.9%.
While Mercilus isn’t the explosive player Clowney is expected to be, his recent production hasn’t gone unnoticed and certainly warrants playing time. As head coach Bill O’Brien stated, “Whitney’s played well enough to deserve playing time and that’ll be a competition.”