As the Texans roster grew in the offseason, I said a few times on TexansRadio that the team has "linebackers for days."
It feels that way because of the sheer numbers and the amount of experience (all but two are at least in their fourth season).
You have everything from last year's league leading tackler in Zach Cunningham to 2021 draft choice Garret Wallow.
Now that the Texans are in camp, it's fun to see them operate in Lovie Smith's 4-3. If you've been paying attention in class, I've pointed out that the Texans last ran a 4-3 in 2010. In 2009, they finished 13th in defense with a 4-3 unit that sent three players to the Pro Bowl. The average weight of the regular players in that group was close to 250 pounds.
Well, the game has changed. As John McClain pointed out in his gravely voice during his Texans Radio visit Friday: "Zach Cunningham is the biggest linebacker they have."
He's right. At 238 pounds, Cunningham is the biggest of the bunch. The average weight is slightly over 230 and everyone needs to not only take down ball carriers but to cover pass catchers as well.
"The game is a little different now. We don't have those 250, 260 pound linebackers... We're flying around, getting interceptions, getting sacks," said Kamu Grugier-Hill, who signed in the offseason.
When the Texans drafted Cunningham in the Spring of 2017, we all made note of how 'light' he was. To have him be the biggest player in his position group speaks volumes about where this position has trended around the NFL.
Linebackers are saddled with covering the league's many talented backs and tight ends, who were feasting on heavier defenders, forcing the position group to adjust its body type and skill set.
You'd think this would mean that a smash mouth run game might easily blossom in today's NFL, but that's easier said than done. Despite the fact that they've needed to evolve into steamrolling, beefed up defensive backs, tackling is still the bread and butter of the linebacker's game. Grugier-Hill summed it up by saying "Nothing's going to beat the feeling of laying someone out." And before I get tweets about safety, he meant it as an expression of making a good, legal hit.
Pads come on next week so we'll learn a lot more about the men on both sides of the ball then.