Whitney Mercilus is entering the last year of the extension that he signed with the Texans in May 2015, but there has been no talk about a new deal for the former first-round pick at this point. And from the team’s perspective, that makes sense, as Mercilus suffered a season-ending pectoral injury five games into the 2017 campaign, wasn’t particularly effective last year — though he appeared in all 17 regular and postseason games — and hasn’t totaled double-digit sacks since 2015.
But the lower sack totals, at least, are not too much of a concern at this point, as Mercilus is no longer being featured as a primary pass rusher. Last year, not only did his snap count drop (partially due to a sore hamstring that bothered him throughout the first part of the season), but he was also routinely asked to drop into pass coverage for the first time in his career.
As Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes, Mercilus concedes that the new responsibilities came with a learning curve. He said, “it was a new adjustment for me: understanding and dropping back into pass coverage, helping out there with the route combinations that were there and jumbling around in my head.”
But he believes that a fully healthy offseason and a year of experience in a different role will yield improved production, and he thinks that his newfound versatility will be a boon to him and to the Texans.
Mercilus is also hopeful that a better showing in 2019 will lead to a new contract with the Texans. When asked if he wants to remain in Houston, he said, “[o]f course. Once we cross that road, we will. Right now, I’m just focusing on having the most stellar season that I can.”
Houston’s coaching staff is confident that Mercilus’ athleticism and intelligence will allow him to thrive, and if he does, then the team would certainly be open to re-signing the soon-to-be 29-year-old. The fact that he is well-liked in the locker room and active in the community could also help his cause.
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