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Houston Texans Training Camp Battles: Linebackers

How have the linebackers stacked up so far in training camp?

Kansas City Chiefs v Houston Texans Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Houston Texans have some talent at the linebacker position, but who will end up starting for DeMeco Ryans’ defense remains up in the air for the time being.

Houston drafted Alabama linebacker Henry To’oto’o in the fifth-round of the 2023 NFL Draft, along with the additions of Pro Bowl linebackers Denzel Perryman and Cory Littleton. Christian Kirksey, Christian Harris Blake Cashman, Neville Hewitt, Jake Hansen and Garret Wallow are also on the Texans roster.

Christian Harris, who started 11 games for the team in 2022, will likely be a starter, but who starts with him is the question. Christian Kirksey and Denzel Perryman have been rotating in the lineup to see who is the best fit next to Harris. Kirksey has started 29 games for the Texans throughout the past few seasons and has been a great leader on and off the field, but his play has been up and down.

Perryman was signed in free agency by the Texans this offseason, and is fresh off a 2022 season in which he accumulated 83 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, two interceptions and one sack. Perryman was also a Pro Bowler in 2021. Perryman is a high energy, spark plug type of player that the Texans defense needs. It would not be a surprise to see Perryman starting at some point.

Rookie Henry To’oto’o is someone that has been highly praised by his teammates and coaches throughout this entire offseason. Defensive coordinator Matt Burke had this to say about To’oto’o:

“The linebacker room has been very competitive. Henry To’oto’o is a kid who is very coachable. He is really taking the coaching to heart. When he makes a mistake, you see him fix it.”

To’oto’o may not be starting week one against the Baltimore Ravens, but he is definitely someone to keep your eye on as he continues to try and stack good days, and become a dominant player in the league.

Blake Cashman has been mostly a depth addition for the Texans since the team traded for him in 2022, but the fifth-year linebacker has been turning heads in training camp, intercepting multiple passes and putting his talent on display. Cashman could be in line for a more significant role in 2023.

The rest of the linebackers on the roster are likely going to be depth pieces, but training camp has just begun, and it is more than possible for someone to show out and earn more playing time.

No matter who ends up starting for Houston week one, the Texans defense is going to be much improved in 2023, under the coaching of DeMeco Ryans, and could very well end up surprising a lot of people.