If there is one Houston Texans player that is under a microscope for the upcoming 2013 season, look no further than inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton. Sharpton was ready to be the linebacker that took the torch from DeMeco Ryans in 2012 to play next to Brian Cushing. Things for the Texans’ defense and Sharpton have not gone as planned and left some questions if the four-year veteran can stay healthy for a full 16 games.
Drafted out of Miami in 2010, the 25-year-old has had trouble staying on the field due to injuries, and no one knows that better than him:
“It has been extremely frustrating, I am not going to lie to you.”
Sharpton has ended every season since his 2010 rookie season on the injured reserve. Despite being put on the injured reserve last season with a hip injury, the third time in as many seasons, he remains positive about the string of bad luck he has had to endure:
“I look at everything as divine intervention. I guess as a secret lesson from God, and it took me 4 months in retrospect to look back and say “Ok, now I know the lesson.” God is here with me and one thing that keeps my head up is faith and knowing everything happens for a reason. So that is what keeps me positive.”
One rumor floating around prior to the opening of OTAs nearly two weeks ago was an interview defensive coordinator Wade Phillips had on Sport Radio 610 (Houston). In the interview, Phillips said that Sharpton was not cleared by doctors which set some uneasiness about a thin inside linebacker group. No linebackers were drafted to help out the inside, nor was there one brought in free agency.
To everyone’s surprise, Sharpton showed up on the opening of OTAs and has been in every rep on the field and drill for the Texans with no issues:
“I feel good. I feel great. My muscles are firing properly and I feel like I am moving around well.”
He has looked solid on the field and has moved well in team drills and left little question he looks 100% for training camp. Sharpton is the only inside linebacker at OTAs with any real game experience at the position. Brooks Reed, originally an outside linebacker, is working next to Sharpton in the middle of the defense. Starter Brian Cushing is working back from a torn ACL and Tim Dobbins is absent from “voluntary” OTAs for unknown reasons. Besides Sharpton, Cushing and Dobbins are the only inside linebackers on the roster with game experience.
The absence of Cushing and Dobbins has helped Sharpton with his role on the defense:
“It’s great. What it really does is helps me become more of a leader and helps me learn the defense better. I have to know where everyone lines up and it makes me a drill sergeant out there. You have to step out any shy shell you had before and be vocal. That is how it has helped me.”
The 2013 Season
Expectations are high for the Texans and much of the success for the defense lands on if Sharpton can fill the void next to Cushing. It was a revolving door in 2012 with the likes of Bradie James, Barret Ruud, Mister Alexander and Tim Dobbins, who all saw action trying to replace the production of Cushing. Sharpton has shown he can play the two down linebacker they need to stuff the run and was a big reason to trade Ryans to Philadelphia.
Sharpton himself is looking forward to a fresh start for 2013:
“I’m looking forward to living up to my potential, and I have been blessed with a gift. I just want to put my talents on display and I feel this is that year where I will be able to stay healthy and be a play maker for the defense.”
Time will tell if Sharpton can stay healthy for the season, but early signs show a focused player ready to make a difference for the Texans. If healthy, Sharpton can provide a solid run stuffer with some coverage skills, but most importantly he is a good complement next to Cushing.
Three years with the Texans, three season ending injuries, but that hasn’t stopped Sharpton from moving forward. His goal is to be in the starting lineup on Week One against the San Diego Chargers and he truly believes that Houston is where he belongs.
“This is where God wanted me to be, in this situation in Houston.”
You can follow Patrick on Twitter. He is the Editor of State of the Texans.