59ºF

Get2Know: Texans LB Whitney Mercilus

Whitney Mercilus during pre-game warmups before playing the San Francisco 49ers in a pre-season football game at NRG Stadium on August 18, 2018, in Houston, Texas.
Whitney Mercilus during pre-game warmups before playing the San Francisco 49ers in a pre-season football game at NRG Stadium on August 18, 2018, in Houston, Texas. (2018 Getty Images)

HOUSTON – Training camp has opened on Kirby Drive and after two years in West Virginia, the Texans are back at their NRG headquarters for camp.

As usual, many of the jobs are already accounted for, but there will be a handful of spots there for the taking for someone to step up and grab.

The Texans' defense is in good hands with defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel.

Linebacker Whitney Mercilus is a big part of the plan.

What happened in 2018 with Mercilus' role?

Last season, the Texans were 12th in overall defense and yards allowed, but on closer examination, things were much better in rushing defense than in passing defense.

Houston's rush defense was the best in the AFC and third-best in the NFL. The unit allowed 3.4 yards per rushing attempt.

While Jadeveon Clowney was a big part of the run defense, Mercilus had a career-changing role. He was used in a different capacity that possibly limited his effectiveness. He’s ready to change that in 2019.

He was used more in drop-back coverage and was left covering players out of the backfield instead of rushing the passer. He finished with four sacks, a career low, and in a season in which he played double-digit games. In 2017, he was limited to only five games with a torn pectoral muscle.

What needs to change in 2019 for Mercilus?

He’s in the final year of his contract. He is set to make $5.75 million in 2019, the last of a four-year deal, so this is a very important year for Mercilus. How he is used will go a long way toward his production level.

He’s a team-first player that coaches including Crennel and Bill O’Brien love to have on their team. In his career, he’s racked up 42.5 sacks. including 12 in 2015. The career number puts him third in franchise history, behind Mario Williams and J.J. Watt.

He is healthy and hungry to show the coaches he can be disruptive on the field and make big plays whether it be dropping back in coverage, stopping the run or rushing the passer. He has a big frame. He is 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs just under 260 pounds, but he’s fast and makes smart decisions on the field.

How did Mercilus arrive in Houston?

He was drafted in the first round (26th overall) in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Texans loved his upside coming out of Illinois.

What is his favorite dessert?

While football is his love, his favorite dessert is chocolate chip cookies.  

How has he made an impact in the community?

Mercilus has made giving back a big part of his NFL career. His “With Merci Foundation” has grown tremendously over the years. The goal for the foundation is supporting families of children with disabilities and special needs. He has wrapped himself around Houston and his fans have done the same to him.

Mercilus is determined to earn a new contract extension and keep Houston as his home. He loves the Texans, but also realizes the business side of the NFL. He expects to do his talking on the field, preseason and throughout the regular season.

Mercilus is trying to do his part to lead the Texans to another AFC South title and a return trip to the playoffs.