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Value of Things: Houston Texans Roster Jigsaw— Linebackers

Could this be the most improved unit on the roster?

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

When you look at different position groups there are any number of things we have to consider. Obviously, you want a stable of good players to begin with. Yet, you also want a mix of veterans and young players so the roster can continually churn. The Houston Texans have added some good players, but many of their best performers are in their early thirties. Some young guys will need to step up and play well for 2024 and beyond.

We will look at every linebacker invited to training camp to see if this is a group that could use some reinforcements when the next glut of free agents become available in June. As such, we will list them out in order of snaps with rookies in bold. We will grade them out based on PFF scores. That’s only one source, but it should give us a baseline to determine if they are quality players or not.

  • Any PFF Score above 80 indicates a Pro Bowl performer or college All-American
  • Any PFF Score between 70 and 80 indicates a solid starter in the NFL or college
  • Any PFF score between 60 and 70 indicates a fringe starter or solid rotational player
  • Any PFF score under 60 indicates a depth piece or special teams performer

The Linebackers

Christian Kirksey— 56.1 PFF, 1,139 snaps

Kirksey was 8th amongst linebackers in the NFL in snaps. Nothing embodies the Texans over the past three years than that stat alone. Is Kirksey a bad player? I suppose that deserves more than a short paragraph or brief bit of snark. In the grand scheme of things he really isn’t that bad. He’s just really not that good. Suffice it to say, he should not be anchoring any NFL defense and leave it at that.

Christian Harris— 28.3 PFF, 711 snaps

This is one of those cases where the PFF score just seems overly harsh. He missed most of training camp and the first several weeks of the season. I’m guessing there was also some coaching issues where he wasn’t used to max of his ability. If he doesn’t turn this around there likely isn’t a coach out there that can get it out of him. I’m guessing he is the single most improved player on the roster.

Denzel Perryman— 74.2 PFF, 555 snaps

Perryman might best be compared to Zach Cunningham. He is a very good run defender and if this team needed anything it was run defenders. He can be exposed in coverage, so smart defensive coordinators limit his exposure there. Unlike Cunningham, he isn’t being paid like a three down linebacker, so you can stick him out there on first and second down and feel good about things.

Cory Littleton— 72.2 PFF, 372 snaps

This was another solid addition. He will not be a star, but he has been a solid linebacker for several years now. He might not be a starter anymore, but he has shown some coverage ability and could end up being a decent platoon partner with Perryman. He had five interceptions in four seasons as a primary starter. It’s not going to make anyone forget Ray Lewis, but it’s solid.

Jake Hansen— 69.1 PFF, 205 snaps

Hansen was an undrafted free agent a year ago. He came on late in the year when they discovered lightening in a bottle. He is a decent pass rusher as a linebacker but has limited skills in run defense and coverage. Like many backups there is a reason why he is a backup, but you could do a whole lot worse.

Blake Cashman— 54.0 PFF, 149 snaps

He came over in a trade with the Jets. It was one of those little ventured, little gained type of transactions. He was a nice guy to have around I guess. In baseball, there is a concept called “replacement level”. I could go into details but essentially it compares players with a typical AAA player at that position. Cashman is the NFL version of a replacement level performer.

Garrett Wallow— 43.9 PFF, 124 snaps

I love me some Horned Frogs, but Wallow became a symbol of Jack Easterby’s view of the future. He’s the guy you want dating your daughter, but he isn’t the guy you want playing in your base defense on Sunday. I suppose anything is possible with hard work, faith, and intelligence, but he likely has played his last snap as a Texan.

Neville Hewitt— 67.3 PFF, 23 snaps

They brought him back because they like him on the kick coverage teams. The Texans had one of the best special team units in the league last year, so if he is an important part of that I don’t mind seeing him stick on the roster. In the long term they will need to upgrade over these kind of players though.

Henry To’oTo’o— 70.4 PFF, 850 snaps (from Alabama)

To’oTo’o and Harris were teammates in 2021 at Alabama. He will join Harris and Anderson on the roster. I suppose if you are going to collect players from certain schools you could do a whole lot worse than Alabama. As a mid round pick there isn’t a ton expected, so we will see what happens in training camp. With a bunch of older linebackers it would be really nice if he sticks.

Position Overview

I’ll never turn down good football players, but if the Texans only have room for one or two more good veterans they can get more bang for their buck elsewhere. What they really need are some young players that can step up and perform like solid starters. They have enough to get through this year, but most of their players are stopgap guys.