With the Houston Texans making some tough decisions, the NFL waits for nobody and the Texans are adjusting on the fly. After a magical 2011 season which brought the franchise’s first division title, playoff appearance and win, the Texans appeared ready for a big 2012 season with a deep roster. With the cap issues that hit the Texans, a once deep roster has to fill the voids left by players who left for other teams via free agency.
After one of the most interesting moves of the offseason, when the Houston Texans traded defensive leader DeMeco Ryans to the Philadelphia Eagles for draft picks, many questions were being asked where the Texans were going as an organization into the 2012 season. ”The Captain’s” time as a Texan had come to an end and plenty of comments were made about this move. With Ryans out of the fold now, the Texans will call upon 2nd year inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton to fill this void on the field.
The former Miami Hurricane was drafted by the Texans in the 2010 NFl draft in the 4th round (102nd overall) and was a tackling machine coming out of Miami. Sharpton had 106 tackles for the Hurricanes in 12 games his senior season and proved to be a good pickup for the Texans in 2010. Sharpton was forced into action his rookie season with the injuries to Ryans (Achilles) and started 6 of the 12 games he appeared in. In those 6 starts, he put a decent stretch of games together despite being on one of the worst defenses in the league in 2010.
Fast forward to 2011 and Sharpton was a big part of the defense at the beginning of the season with Ryans still not 100% recovered from this Achilles injury. Sharpton and Ryans were actually splitting snaps at the beginning of the season. The defense looked just as good with Sharpton in the game and he did his job well without anyone really noticing he was taking snaps away from Ryans. He was not lighting up the stat sheet, but in 8 games he had 12 total tackles. His season came to an abrupt end when he tore his quadricep against the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 8, after he had his leg pinned underneath him getting blocked by a Jaguar offensive lineman.
The injury sidelined him for the season and there has been no word on how Sharpton’s recovery is going. At 5’11″ and 230 lbs., he is a bit undersized for an inside linebacker and can be overwhelmed by blockers. What can be said is that Sharpton has a bulldog mentality and is not afraid of contact and as a defense you must have linebackers who are not afraid of anything. He is penciled in as the starter beside Brian Cushing for the time being, but with his injury from last season it would not surprise me if the Texans brought in another via the draft or a veteran at a bargain basement price before camp. With no real depth on the inside linebacker position, the Texans will have to address the depth for the upcoming season.
Sharpton seems to be a good fit for being a two down linebacker, but the health issue and him being able to come back full strength could be a deciding factor on if he will be the starter or not. Sharpton has the skill set for being a starter for the Texans and he has shown he can play in this new defense. He had to have been a factor in the Texans being comfortable in trading Ryans. If Wade Phillips wasn’t comfortable with Sharpton, it would be hard to say the deal would have been done. Sharpton seems to be the better fit for the 3-4 defense because he is still in the learning stage of his career and could be an important piece of the Texans’ defense in 2012.
You can follow Patrick on Twitter, he is the Editor of State of the Texans, and is a draft analyst on Sideline Scouting.