LB Mercilus wants to make mark with Texans

Associated Press  |  Last updated June 13, 2012
(Eds: Adds details, quotes. With AP Photos.) By KRISTIE RIEKEN AP Sports Writer The Houston Texans are trying not to put too much pressure on first-round pick Whitney Mercilus as the rookie adjusts to the NFL. But the outside linebacker may have made things harder on himself: He is wearing the jersey number of Houston's former star middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who was traded to Philadelphia this offseason. He is aware of what Ryans did in that jersey and likes the high expectations that come with wearing it. ''The challenge is stepping up to expectations, especially fans throwing it out there,'' he said. (They say) `You know, you've got big shoes to fill.' I don't mind it at all. I'm just out here just trying to get better and make a name for myself.'' Ryans was a second-round draft pick who was named the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2006 before making two Pro Bowls and leaving Houston as the franchise leader in career tackles with 636 in his six-year career. Unlike Ryans, who was thrown into a starting role almost immediately, Mercilus should have some time to learn and develop before he's expected to play a major role for the Texans. ''We look to continue to grow, and I think he just needs to contribute,'' fellow linebacker Brian Cushing said. ''He doesn't need any added pressure of thinking he needs to be a certain player or have 10 sacks or anything like that. He just needs to play football like he can.'' For now Mercilus is trying to make the transition from playing defensive end in a 4-3 scheme at Illinois to outside linebacker in the 3-4 alignment the Texans use. He started just one season in college, but was the nation's leader in sacks with 16 and forced fumbles with eight. Houston was looking for an aggressive pass rusher to ease the loss of Mario Williams, who left as the team's career leader in sacks, when they chose him with the 26th pick in the draft. ''It's definitely an adjustment standing up because I've never done it, but it's basically the same thing as I've been doing as a defensive lineman,'' he said. ''I have to read and pay attention to the personnel and formations and stuff like that.'' He's feeling better about the change now that he has a few practices behind him. Wednesday was the second day of Houston's three-day mini-camp for rookies and other young players before the team takes a break before training camp. ''It's a lot better,'' he said of his work this week. ''I'm playing a lot faster so I'm able to press a bit more and it just makes everything much easier for me to play and make plays.'' The Texans love the size and athleticism of the 6-foot-4, 254-pound Mercilus and aren't worried about him picking up the new scheme. ''He has a lot of ability and should be able to help us a lot,'' coach Gary Kubiak said. ''Mercilus, athletically, is probably even more than what we thought he was. He's excellent.'' Mercilus, who finished with 57 tackles last season, joins a defense which made a remarkable turnaround last season to rank second in the NFL in yards allowed. The improvement helped Houston to a 10-6 record, the AFC South title and its first trip to the playoffs. He's excited to be a part of a group that is looking to do even more in 2012. ''It's awesome because they have high expectations, so there are high expectations on my part also,'' he said. ''I have to come in here and show them that making me their first pick was the best decision and contributing to what was great last year. This year is about building upon that and moving forward.''
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Grizzlies want Kevin Durant in free agency

WATCH: Karl-Anthony Towns throws down monster dunk

Dos Anjos: McGregor will 'break like a girl' at UFC 196

WATCH: D'Angelo Russell hit in groin by LeBron pass

Kobe Bryant has great response to Tyronn Lue story

Report: St. Louis Blues no longer interested in Jonathan Drouin

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Doc Rivers: Warriors have 'swagger' of defending champion

Damian Lillard added as a finalist for 2016 U.S. Olympic Team

Celtics legend Paul Pierce prepares for what ‘could be’ his last game in Boston

Free-agent WR Josh Morgan accidentally shot himself, charged with crime

Jon Beason retires after nine NFL seasons

Brewers Association sends Peyton Manning case of craft beer

Fighter says sex before fight partly to blame for loss

Kevin McHale: James Harden being out of shape hurt Rockets early

WATCH: Kevin Love re-injures left shoulder

Johnny Manziel’s grandpa on ex-girlfriend: ‘The girl has her problems’

Andy Dalton reunited with missing luggage thanks to social media

Chad ‘Ochocinco’ Johnson used to soak his ankles in urine

Why Tom Thibodeau needs to be in New York

Defensemen in high demand as NHL trade deadline looms

Thank you Daniel Bryan

The timeless greatness of Jaromir Jagr

Security guard indicted for assaulting University of Houston football fan

The LeBron-Kobe rivalry and Finals matchup that never was

Mario Williams recognizes Bills may release him

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

Thank you Daniel Bryan

The timeless greatness of Jaromir Jagr

The NCAAB power rankings

Report: Kings to keep coach George Karl

Was Alain Vigneault right about NHL's lack of punishment towards Wayne Simmonds?

Report: Knicks fire coach Derek Fisher

The best and worst commercials from Super Bowl 50

Best and worst from Super Bowl 50

Six best plays from Super Bowl 50

Eli doesn't look thrilled as Peyton wins Super Bowl

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker