Mercilus makes Texans' rush stronger

The Houston Texans were fortunate once Mario Williams went down last year.

Connor Barwin and rookie Brooks Reed played too much, but they didn’t just hold up, they excelled. The two outside linebackers in the first-year 3-4 scheme were keys to a consistently swarming pass rush.

They’ll get some relief from the team’s first-round draft pick, Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus. Listed as a defensive end by most, he’s an outside 'backer for Houston.

The Texans thrived largely because of their pass rush in 2011, as they won the AFC South and made the playoffs for the first time. Enhancing the pass rush is never a bad thing.

Undoubtedly, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips endorsed the pick. And he nudged the front office in a good direction last year when J.J. Watt and Reed were the first two picks.

Based on that recent record, I’m inclined to be just fine with this decision, especially with Kendall Wright gone.

The Texans hope to re-sign Barwin, but he’s a year away from free agency and there is no guarantee they are able to keep him. So Mercilus will serve as insurance for that loss, too.

It's a smart brand of roster building that can be beneficial both now and later.