Texans’ Whitney Mercilus ready to play with hand in the dirt in new 4-3 scheme

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The Houston TexansWhitney Mercilus says that he is comfortable playing as a down lineman in the team’s new Tampa-2 scheme with a 4-3 front.

Outside linebacker was the role Mercilus played for the Texans since they selected him in the first-round of the 2012 NFL draft. Now, in defensive coordinator Lovie Smith’s defense, Mercilus will have to play as a down lineman at defensive end.

“When I came out of college, I was in a 4-3, so it’s going right back into what I’ve done: Go see ball, go get ball,” Mercilus said via Aaron Wilson of SportsTalk 790 [KBME]. “I like it.”

The Texans traded with the Miami Dolphins for former Buffalo Bills 2016 first-round pick Shaq Lawson. Although Lawson played as an outside linebacker in 2020 with the Dolphins, he played as a defensive end in Buffalo in Leslie Frazier’s defense, who runs a comparable scheme to Smith.

Mercilus also seeks to help the Texans’ defense, which finished dead last with nine takeaways in 2020 en route to a 4-12 record, rebound and bring intimidation to opposing offenses on game days. However, it starts with chemistry.

“No doubt, we’ve got to build the chemistry,” said Mercilus. “Once we build that and understand the defense, we’re going to do some good stuff. Any given Sunday, any given team can win. That’s been proven time and time again in the NFL. You can’t count anybody out.”

The Texans added to their defense in the 2021 NFL draft by selecting linebacker Garret Wallow from TCU in the fifth round and defensive tackle Roy Lopez from Arizona State in the sixth round.