Houston Texans 2021 player profile: LB Zach Cunningham

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When the Houston Texans walked away from the 2017 NFL Draft, it appeared that Deshaun Watson was going to be the last man standing when compared to the rest of his draftmates. Fast forward five years later, Zach Cunningham — who was drafted in the second round — is the lone Texan left with Watson’s career in Houston presumably over.

Cunningham has not only established himself as the only player remaining from the ’17 draft, but he has likely overtaken Watson as the Texans’ face of the franchise ahead of the 2021 season.

Despite being on the cusp of reaching the elite status among linebackers in the NFL, there is one aspect of Cunningham’s game he must improve on as he transitions into a 4-3 defense under Lovie Smith.

Rundown

texans-zach-cunningham-questionable-steelers-leg-injury
texans-zach-cunningham-questionable-steelers-leg-injury

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

]Position: Linebacker

Age: 26 Height: 6-3 Weight: 238 lbs Hometown: Pinson, Ala. High School: Pinson High School College: Vanderbilt Draft: 2017, Second-round pick No. 57 Acquired: 2017 NFL Draft

Profile

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texans-kevin-pierre-louis-proof-film-zach-cunningham

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Since his rookie year, Cunningham has made improvements to his game each season. Twenty-twenty was a career year across the board for the Alabama native, as Cunningham recorded a league-leading 164 tackles (106 solo hits), four quarterback hits and 3.0 sacks in 16 games played. If Cunningham continues his season-by-season improvements, it will be in his best interest to enhance his pass-coverage ability with the Texans' defensive scheme switching to a 4-3 defense. When the Texans fall back into zone coverage, his primary responsibility will be to defend the opposing team's passing game — which has always been Cunningham's Achilles heel. Last season, Cunningham posted a Pro Football Focus grade of 43.0 in pass coverage while recording two pass deflections and no interceptions.

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