- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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Take a college defensive end and shift him to outside linebacker in a 3-4, as Houston and Wade Phillips will do with Whitney Mercilus, and the player tends to look a lot stronger.
“Anytime you look at those guys, and they play defensive end in college, they’re going against huge offensive tackles,” Phillips, the Texans defensive coordinator, told the team’s press. “He’s 260 pounds, so they’re not going to look as strong against them with their three-point stance, but they look a lot stronger when they’re rushing the passer on third down in those situations.
“When you play them at outside backer, which we project him as, now he’s playing against tight ends and backs and so forth. You just got to determine there (are) sometimes those guys in college. I had Shaun Phillips who was the same way. They said he was too small because he played against offensive tackles, but he also rushed the passer against those same offensive tackles that are all being drafted, and he beat a lot of them this past year.”
Phillips and the Texans rate Mercilus as a natural pass-rusher, who comes into the league with more experience and skill using his hands than second-round outside linebacker Brooks Reed brought into the NFL a year ago.
Houston’s not concerned that Mercilus only had one year with big production at Illinois.
“But if he did the same thing again for another year, he’d been a top-10 pick (in 2013) without a doubt,” Phillips said. “A lot of people are saying, ‘Yeah, it’s only one year.’ But to me, when a guy shows he can do all those things, I don’t think he’s going to lose that.”