Texans Whitney Mercilus shines after Clowney departure

Houston Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus talks to the media following an NFL football game Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus is feeling at home again.

Somewhat of an afterthought on the Texans defense the past couple of seasons, the eighth-year pro is back in his natural pass rushing position and it’s paying off in increased production. Mercilus has easily benefited the most from the departure of pass rush specialist Jadeveon Clowney because he is again a primary pass rusher instead of often awkwardly dropping back into pass coverage.

“Now I get to go ahead and go out there and go tee it up,” Mercilus said. “Do what I do best, get after the quarterback, cause turnovers, and all that. It’s been fun. It’s been fun. I enjoy it.”

Mercilus had a monster game during the Texans’ Week 2, 13-12, win over Jacksonville. He finished with two sacks, two forced fumbles and two quarterback hurries. 

It was the first time since 2016 that Mercilus had multiple sacks in a game. For the first time in his career, Mercilus has three sacks in the Texans first two games.

“Yeah, it’s good,” said Mercilus, who notched two sacks in a game for the 11thtime in his career. “I just got to keep it going. It’s week to week. Got to prove myself every day.”

If Mercilus can keep it going he will ease the sting of Clowney’s departure and he will give the needed push rush opposite J.J. Watt that the Texans need. 

“What he does best is play on the edge of the defense and set the edge in the running game and then rush the passer from the edge, but he does other things well,” said Texans coach Bill O’Brien, whose team takes on the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 3. “He can play on the second level, he can blitz up inside, he can come off the edge. He’s a very versatile player, but that’s probably one of his strengths.”