Originally written on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 11/4/14

With the start of training camp inching closer, it’s time to preview the Houston Texans inside linebackers. This unit, coupled with the outside linebackers, help to shape one of the NFL’s top defensive units in 2011. Equally vital as the OLBs, the inside linebackers are a focal point in the 3-4 defensive scheme used by defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. 

Last season’s team MVP and current team captain Brian Cushing leads this group. Named a second-team All-Pro, Cushing led the Texans with 114 tackles to go along with 4.0 sacks, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles. Perhaps the heart and soul of the defense, Cushing will continue to patrol the field at one ILB spot.

The second starting ILB spot will see competition between newly acquired free agent Bradie James and Darryl Sharpton, who spent much of last season on IR with a quadriceps injury. The offseason departure of Demeco Ryans signaled a change at inside linebacker in terms of responsibilities and the type of player needed to play the position. James comes over from the Dallas Cowboys where he played in Phillips’ defense for three and a half seasons. James’ familiarity (and success) with the defensive scheme will make him a contributor from the onset. 

Sharpton was already taking snaps away from Ryans before he went down with his injury last season. The injury was certainly a setback, but Sharpton should at least contend for some serious playing time, if not work himself into a situational rotation with James. Despite James’ experience with Phillips and his version of the 3-4, James is 31 years old and showed signs of slowing down the past couple of seasons in Dallas. This leaves the door open for Sharpton to potentially work himself into some snaps, if not win the starting job outright. 

Four other ILBs will be competing for roster spots: Mister Alexander, Tim Dobbins, and undrafted free agent rookies Shawn Loiseau, and Greg Williams. As usual, the veteran with a positive track record with the team has the leg up, and that’s Dobbins. Dobbins signed with the Texans prior to the start of last season and was a standout on special teams. Unlike some of the other position groups, anybody kept on the roster at inside linebacker not named Cushing, James, or Sharpton will likely be a special teams player only. Where many positions on this defense feature rotations of players to keep everybody fresh, Cushing will not be coming off the field. He is a three-down linebacker with a tremendous motor. A two-man rotation is probably the maximum at the other ILB, so baring injury any other backup ILBs are unlikely to see much time on the defensive side of the ball. 

This opens the door for the younger guys, Alexander, Loiseau, and Williams. Ideally, your special teams contributors are also developmental players who could one day work themselves into a starting role. If the Texans were to keep five ILBs, it would probably open up a spot for one of these three guys. And of course with young players, there is always the possibility of making the practice squad. 

Expect Dobbins to be the Texans’ fourth ILB with Alexander, Loiseau, and Williams vying for a fifth slot on the depth chart. Inside linebacker is yet another position on the Texan defense that is loaded with talent and depth and should be a strength in 2012.

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Kentucky remains unbeaten after thrilling win over ND

Alabama DT arrested on domestic violence charges again

John Calipari blasted for postgame interview

WATCH: MJ, Tom Brady play pickup game in Bahamas

WATCH: Wrong national anthem played for El Salvador

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

WATCH: Russell Wilson smashes HR in Rangers BP

John Fox: Jay Cutler will have to earn starting QB job

Report: Shaka Smart, Gregg Marshall candidates for Texas

Kurt Warner is helping to turn around Colin Kaepernick

Bizarre call allows Duke to cover spread against Utah

Saints love TE Josh Hill following Jimmy Graham trade

Sam Dekker's hot shooting sends Wisconsin to Final Four

Jim McElwain complains about Florida roster

Mark Few: I put Coach K up there with John Wooden

WATCH: Enes Kanter embraces boos in return to Utah

Mariners prospect dies from boat accident injuries

T.J. Ford sends heartfelt tweet about Rick Barnes

Bruins coach suits up as backup goalie

Tennessee fans show love for Bruce Pearl on campus rock

Louisville guard turned off phone after clutch NC State win

Steve Spurrier hung out with Kenny Chesney before concert

Winnipeg Jets prospect had a rough night on the ice

Did Dean Smith’s gifts to former players violate NCAA rules?

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

John Fox: Cutler will have to earn job

Texas eyeing Shaka Smart, Gregg Marshall?

WATCH: Brady jumps off cliff in Costa Rica

WATCH: 2 Chainz beats Nique in HORSE

Elite Eight preview and predictions: Notre Dame vs. Kentucky

Elite Eight preview and predictions: Arizona vs. Wisconsin

NFL owners chose cost over game integrity

Be careful how loudly you cheer on Mo'ne Davis' olive branch

James Harden and the collective consciousness

Hottest coaching seats in NBA

Under-the-radar NL MVP candidates

Notre Dame’s coach makes first Elite Eight

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.