Whitney Mercilus may be one of the greatest players to ever wear a Houston Texans uniform. That’s something that should be said without hesitation. He spent nearly a decade playing for the team, watching them go through many highs and lows over that span. He wasn’t always the loudest contributor, but he remained consistent in his play. Most importantly, Mercilus was a leader both on and off the field, giving the Texans a sense of direction and power whenever they needed it.
Mercilus’ journey in Houston started during the 2012 NFL Draft, when Houston selected him in the first round (26th overall) from the University of Illinois. After a relatively quiet first three seasons in the league, Mercilus dominated in 2015, recording a career-high 12 sacks as the Texans clinched a playoff berth. Although they were blown out by the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round of the NFL Playhoffs, Mercilus proved to be one of the few bright spots that day, recording three sacks in that one game alone.
In 2016, Mercilus continued to be a force on defense, recording career-highs in tackles (53) and fumble recoveries (4). As a result, he earned second-team All-Pro honors. The Texans once again made the playoffs, this time advancing to the Divisional Round. Mercilus recorded three sacks over a two-game span, giving him six sacks over two postseasons up to that point.
His next big spark of production came in 2019, when he started in all 16 regular season games for just the second time as a pro. Additionally, he recorded his first two interceptions and set another career-high in forced fumbles (4). The next few seasons would see Mercilus’ production slow down for a number of reasons. He was released in the middle of last season, and later signed with the Green Bay Packers. While the Packers were loaded with talent, it wasn’t enough to get Mercilus a Super Bowl ring, which almost all fans in Houston would have liked to see. Losing Mercilus to an injury didn’t help Green Bay’s playoff run.
Although Mercilus’ career has officially come to an end, what he did for the Texans organization deserves recognition and praise. Talent like his only comes around every now and then, so it’s safe to say that Houston made the right pick a decade ago. While Lovie Smith could find the next great outside linebacker who stays with the team for another ten years, it will be hard to find someone who would have the same impact on both the field and culture.