Even with three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt sidelined last season, the Houston Texans managed to finish atop the NFL’s total defense rankings with a career year from linebacker Whitney Mercilus.
Now that both star defenders have lost the rest of the 2017 season due to injuries sustained in Week 5, general manager Rick Smith is bringing in a pair of established veterans to bolster his suddenly shallow pass rushing corps.
The Texans have agreed to terms with outside linebacker Lamarr Houston and signed defensive end Kendall Langford, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via a source informed of the situation.
Although both players have spent the bulk of their careers as above-average starters, they were still languishing on the open market due to knee injuries that have arisen over the past few years.
After starting 60 of 64 games over four years in Oakland, Houston landed a five-year, $35 million contract from the Bears in 2014. Eight games into his Chicago career, he suffered a torn ACL. Just two games into the 2016 season, Houston tore the other ACL in his other knee. When Houston came down with knee soreness late this summer, the Bears released him with an injury settlement.
Now 30 years old, Houston figures to push undrafted rookie Dylan Cole as Mercilus’ replacement.
A 113-game starter across nine years, Langford had never missed a game in his NFL career until a nagging knee injury ended his 2016 season in November. He hasn’t been the same since, drawing his release from the Colts as well as the Saints over the past two months.
Langford will team with Christian Covington and Brandon Dunn in an attempt to fill the gaping hole left by Watt’s tibial plateau fracture.
With both Watt and Mercilus out, it’s unreasonable to expect a repeat of last season’s success on defense. With hotshot rookie Deshaun Watson leading a suddenly potent offensive attack, however, the Texans have plenty of firepower to make another run at the AFC South title.