Jadeveon Clowney who?
I hope he is happy and well, but through three games, his absence has been more than compensated for.
Texans fans can rejoice in the fact that Whitney Mercilus has been one of the best outside linebackers in the entire league through the first three games of the season. Big play after big play, explosion after explosion, stop after stop. He has always had a lot of talent and potential, but perhaps we are witnessing him blossom into a superstar now that he has a greater role. If you do not believe me, maybe the tape will tell you otherwise.
When it’s all said and done, this may end up being one of the best defensive plays of the season. Trent Scott chopblocks Mercilus, who quickly recovers. Mercilus gets to Philip Rivers from behind and forces a fumble that’s scooped up by Zach Cunningham.
Had Mercilus not recovered, Rivers had a throwing lane to Dontrelle Inman in the middle of the field because of a hole in the Texans’ zone coverage that only accounted for two of the three receivers running out of the bunch formation. That likely would have put the Chargers inside their own ten-yard line, assuming Inman would have picked up several yards after the catch. That is classic hustle and heart. Nobody would have blamed Mercilus if he were unable to make this play.
Check out how Mercilus is able to bounce off of Virgil Green here to tackle Austin Ekeler for a two-yard loss. The Chargers had no answer for his speed. The Texans played this outside run well and Ekeler would probably max out at a three-yard gain without Mercilus’ explosion off the tight end. This play is more about Mercilus jumping off the screen than it is a game-changing play, but the point still stands. He is an incredible athlete.
Mike Williams is no match for Mercilus. As a matter of fact, Williams gets away with a hold on this play. Rivers motions Travis Benjamin over to the right side to to create space for Justin Jackson to run outside. Jackson sees a big gain coming, but Mercilus devours him in the backfield. By the time Keenan Allen comes over to help, it’s too late. Jackson is brought down for a six-yard loss rather than a ten-yard gain.
This is the type of play that the casual fan might not pick up on the television. Mercilus eats Trent Scott for lunch on this play. There is nothing he can do with Mercilus coming off the edge. Rivers feels the pressure and is forced to dump the ball off five yards to Keenan Allen. This is a crucial play in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter with the Chargers needing a touchdown.
This play is from Week 1. Mercilus watches Drew Brees’ eyes as he drops back in coverage. This play is made possible as he sees J.J. Watt coming from behind and Zach Cunningham rushing. Mercilus feels the running back get past him and sees Brees is about to throw an easy touchdown because there was not a defensive back behind him. Mercilus reacts quickly and catches a momentum-stealing interception.
Look how beautiful this is. Will Richardson Jr. has the initial advantage on Mercilus as he drives him outside. Mercilus gets low and seizes inside leverage so he can swoop back inside to tackle Gardner Minshew II for an eight-yard sack. He is too slick and quick for a tackle.
These are the types of plays that are loved by football junkies. Mercilus has been quite merciless off the edge. He has the ability to exploit any left tackle deficiency on the opponent’s offensive line. He has the quickness and athleticism to cover the field for running backs and wide receivers. The Texans have the potential to cover up their secondary flaws with Mercilus and Watt being utilized correctly by Bill O’Brien and Romeo Crennel.
Three games into the season, Whitney Mercilus has been Houston’s best defensive player, ahead of Watt and D.J. Reader (who might need a little film breakdown of his own soon). After Deshaun Watson’s heroics, Mercilus might be the main reason the Texans are 2-1 instead of 0-3.