Texans’ new defense could allow DE Whitney Mercilus to play faster

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Whitney Mercilus has had to do a lot of thinking in his nine previous seasons in the NFL.

The former outside linebacker in the Houston Texans’ 3-4 scheme would have to judge whether to drop back into coverage or come off the edge and rush the passer.

In new defensive coordinator Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 scheme, Mercilus is still doing some thinking, but he is getting a little more clues from his teammates.

“It’s just keys,” Mercilus said. “You can read your own linebackers in this defense just because it’s so aggressive and how the linebackers are making their reads, you can actually get a read off them for your read, so you can read the offense and you can read your own players, so it just goes hand-in-hand and you have keys that let you play faster.”

The former 2012 first-round pick from Illinois had 7.5 sacks in 2019, but only 4.0 in 2020. Mercilus appeared to be done as a pass rusher, but he could get some new life in the Tampa 2, which asks edge defenders to get upfield to the quarterback.