The Texans need Darryl Sharpton to take the job and run with it for 2013 because the alternatives are less than ideal. Nothing against Tim Dobbins and extra-nothing against Brooks Reed, but the second inside linebacker spot is Darryl Sharpton's to lose. The former Miami Hurricane has battled through injuries throughout his short career and has yet to realize the potential the Texans saw in him when they drafted him in 2009. With his contract expiring, the 2013 season represents his last, best chance to show the team (and 31 other teams) that he can be a full-time player in the NFL.
If Sharpton were to falter at some point during the season and miss time, the Texans would likely employ the Brooks Reed Plan and slide him next to Cushing at ILB. Reed would likely do a great job, but that leaves huge question marks at the outside linebacker spots. The team would be trusting a key position to three players (Whitney Mercilus, Sam Montgomery, and Trevardo Williams) who have merely a year of NFL experience amongst them.
Tim Dobbins could also fill in, but something tells me he'll be needed on special teams, so let's assume Reed will be the replacement if Sharpton can't do the job.
Mercilus will hopefully be slaying left tackles on the weak side, leaving Montgomery and Williams to rotate on the strong side. The strengths and weakness of each player seem to compliment each other according to Brett Kollmann's fantastic film room breakdowns (found here and here). Montgomery seems more suited to run-stopping and setting the edge, while Williams can be unleashed on passing downs to go and get the quarterback.
Truthfully, that sounds very exciting. The reality is that these are best-case implementations of these two players. There will be growing pains for these guys, especially if they're thrust into playing too quickly. Whitney Mercilus, despite notching six sacks in 2012, struggled mightily to generate consistent pressure. The Texans can ill-afford having their pass rush and/or run defense compromised during a season with Super Bowl aspirations. Like TDC so eloquently put it, "The story is the defense. It's always the defense. Everything else is a distraction."
Darryl Sharpton can alleviate all of these worries by staying healthy and productive on the field and, in turn, keeping two mid-round rookies off of it. "Next man up" was so last year. It's time for a new catchphrase like... I don't know, I'll let Bayless think of that, but injuries can no longer be an excuse for Sharpton. It's time for him to put it all together because it's not often in this league that a player can be penciled in as starter after missing more than half of the previous two seasons.
In this Tania Ganguli piece, Antonio Smith talked about Sharpton:
"I don't know if people really give [Sharpton] credit for it - to me he is an aggressive, electrifying type of player... Every time he gets in his groove, he's had an injury. So I'm just hoping and I'm going to keep praying for him that he stays healthy, because he can really help this team."
Smith will be praying and so will I (after world peace and all that).