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Pro Football Focus Ranks the NFL’s Linebacker Groups

Is this a positional strength?

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Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

While the rest of the NFL has put a premium on those positions that affect the passing game: EDGE, offensive tackle, quarterback, and cornerback; your Houston Texans are gambling on what they think is a market inefficiency, the run game, and positions that most teams have decided to skimp on investing a tremendous amount of resources into. This past offseason Nick Caserio went all in on the running back, and the linebacker position, by retaining David Johnson and bringing in a slew of veterans, and turning the Houston Texans into a 2-8-1 defense this offseason, by signing every linebacker they could.

Houston currently has Zach Cunningham, Tae Davis, Kamu Gruiger-Hill, Nate Hall, Neville Hewitt, Christian Kirksey, Hardy Nickerson, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Joe Thomas, and Garret Wallow on the roster. An enormous bloating, a tremendous number, a sheer monstrosity, is what the Texans have at linebacker.

Pro Football Focus has been ranking the NFL’s position groups heading into the 2021 NFL season. They ranked the NFL’s linebacker groups, and with it, came the Houston Texans ranked eighth:

8. Houston Texans

Houston is building what looks like a disaster almost across the board right now, but one exception to that is their linebacker group, which is impressive on paper. Zach Cunningham is a tackling machine, leading the league not just in tackles last season, but in defensive stops, as well. Christian Kirksey and Kamu Grugier-Hill are capable depth players, and Kevin Pierre-Louis has earned the third-best PFF coverage grade of any linebacker over the past two seasons, albeit on a smaller sample size than most. He could be a real value signing in free agency.

PFF is higher than I am on the Texans linebackers. The Texans maximized what Cunningham is in 2019. He’s a weakside linebacker who can chase and tackle, but isn’t someone who can anchor a front seven—he’s paid to do so—and he hasn’t shown there’s another level to his game. Kirksey isn’t good enough to be what Benardrick McKinney was, and the Texans don’t have the run defenders in front of either of them. Pierre-Louis was benched for Jon Bostic and Cole Holcomb last season. Grugier-Hill is a coverage linebacker who can’t cover. The rest are here in the name of competition, competition, competition.

Hopefully this is a rare positional strength, and I’m just a sordid loser. Probably not, but hopefully so.