Houston Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus has come on strong this season and should be an early candidate for Most Improved Player. Why? Let’s look.
The Houston Texans will be ready to take on the Los Angeles Chargers tomorrow afternoon in a matchup that will likely be hotly contested between two teams that are on the cusp of making inroads in the AFC.
As long as Philip Rivers is under center, the Chargers will continue to be in contention and they’ve been working hard to build around him as I’m sure he wants to keep giving things a go until he makes it to a Super Bowl.
He’s as reliable, studious and sturdy as they come and he will be one of the more difficult tests that this defense will be tasked when both teams take their spots on gridiron tomorrow.
Can the Houston Texans grab their second win of the season? It’s possible but a lot of things have to go right, particularly with the pass protection on Deshaun Watson. Bill O’Brien and Tim Kelly need to cook up some really good plays to fool Anthony Lynn‘s staff so they can make a statement in this game early.
But while that’s going on, it’s important to take notice of how well our beloved edge rusher is doing. Whitney Mercilus has looked absolutely outstanding this season and it took the jettisoning of Jadeveon Clowney for him to stand out once again as he did in 2015.
He’s getting to the quarterback, fighting through offensive linemen, using his deftness to be effective. He had 2.0 sacks against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week and that’s not an easy task.
With all things considered, he should be an early candidate for the Most Improved Player Award because of how strong he’s come on early. Yes, there are still 14 games left to play but if he keeps up this momentum, it will be hard not to hand this award off to a deserving football player.
He’s had milk-carton status last season as we barely knew that he was there and in 2017, that campaign was cut short because of a pectoral injury.
But let’s take a look at the numbers…
According to Pro Football Focus, Mercilus is the highest-graded starter on defense currently. He has an 84.6 overall, 76.3 pass rush, 84.2 coverage, 66.5 rush and 59.8 tackling grade through 121 snaps.
He’s currently ranked 8th among edge rushers but is 4th among those that have 100 snaps that
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are greater so to say he’s off to the races would be an understatement.
With a 9.4 run-stop percentage, he’s ranked 9th among edge rushers with at least 30 snaps or greater.
His ability to be an effective tackler could still use some work but he’s getting to the QB and helping stop the run so, at this point, that’s pretty much what you can ask out him to help make the defense be successful.
J.J. Watt is seeing double and triple-teams so his ability to stand out has severely impacted this season so it’s not his fault at all but it’s apparent that Mercilus is around to pick up the slack.
I wish Whitney nothing but the best as he climbs his way back into relevance once again and let’s hope he can continue this rampage to win that prestigious award — go Houston Texans!
Mercilus has amassed eight tackles — six solos — along with 3.0 sacks, four quarterback hits, one tackle-for-loss, two forced fumbles and one pass defended this season so far.
For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, subscribe to PFF’s EDGE and ELITE subscriptions at ProFootballFocus.com.