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First Position Battle: Weak Side Linebacker

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Sorry for my absence in posting, BRB faithful.  I’ve been busy visiting family in the greatest state in the nation.  I should be good now, though, just in time for OTAs.

OTAs are regarded as somewhat vanilla and inconsequential by some, but as we learned last year, sometimes they can have serious implications.  This year it seems that OTAs will be noteworthy again, but hopefully for different reasons.  I’ll be trying to jump on post blurbs as I see fit to incite discussion and thinking to get us all through this dark time without football.

In the week or so after the draft, it struck me how odd it was that the entire upper echelon of the Texans’ staff (Gary Kubiak, Rick Smith, Frank Bush) was basically anointing Brian Cushing as the starting strongside linebacker from day one.  I know that you would always assume that your first round draft pick will make an immediate impact, i.e., start.  Still, you also expect that coaches will tow the party line and spit out clichés about “open competition” and “have to prove yourself on this level."

The other wrinkle is that while only a seventh round draft pick, incumbent SAM LB Zac Diles didn’t play like one before he was injured last year.  Through eight games, Diles had 66 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception, and some went as far to say that Zac was playing better than even the vaunted DeMeco Ryans.  Unfortunately Diles’ season was cut short after he broke his leg in practice before Week 10.

The purpose of this post isn’t to question the merit of starting Cushing over Diles; rather it’s to identify the fact that there will be an interesting battle to determine who the starting weakside linebacker will be for the 2009 season.  Diles is still not 100% and therefore will have a slight disadvantage, but as stated above, he has his play from last year to speak for him.  The other two options are Xavier Adibi and Cato June.

Cato June has the upper hand when it comes to experience, having played in a Pro Bowl and being part of a Super Bowl winning team.  Age might be June’s biggest detractor; although not the end of the world, June is 29, as opposed to Adibi’s 24 years and Diles’ 23.  Adibi played decently last year after Diles’ injury created a hole in the rotation, but Xavier struggled to maintain weight and had nagging injuries of his own.  Brooke Bently of the Texans' official website recently reported, however, that Adibi had put on 20 pounds over the offseason, though she didn’t specify what his current weight is.

So, my question to you is regarding the position battle for WIL.  Who do you think should start and why?  On a slightly different note, who do you think will get the nod from the Texans staff?  I’ll post my thoughts later on in training camp, but this will most definitely be interesting to watch as the offseason continues to unfold.