Texans LB coach Miles Smith predicts Zach Cunningham will have ‘huge impact’ on defense

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The Houston Texans’ new faces on defense are some familiar faces, and linebackers coach Miles Smith is counting on one of them to be the driving force in 2021.

The first-year position coach joined Texans Radio sideline reporter John Harris, and talked about fifth-year linebacker Zach Cunningham.

“Zach is a special football player,” Smith said. “He’s able to do a lot of things that quite frankly a lot of linebackers can’t do. So, I think he’s going to have a huge impact on what we do going forward.”

The Texans are going from a 3-4 defense, which they have run since 2011, to a Tampa 2 scheme. Although the front will feature four down linemen, the reality is the defense is suitable for a player such as Cunningham to succeed.

In 2020, Cunningham led the NFL with 164 combined tackles. Smith believes the way that tackles are tabulated in the NFL “can be a little overrated,” but nevertheless believes the 6-3, 238-pound linebacker can succeed in the new scheme.

“As a whole, I think he’s shown that he’s as talented as any other linebacker in the NFL,” said Smith. “So, for us going forward, it’s nice for us to have a piece in place that you can demand on with him.”

Cunningham has played all but two games in his career, having to miss time in 2018 due to a concussion. The former 2017 second-round pick from Vanderbilt has 6.5 sacks, 22 tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits, an interception, which was returned for a touchdown, 15 pass breakups, four forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries for his career.