Bouncing back without J.J. Watt gets even tougher with no Whitney Mercilus

From ESPN - October 9, 2017

HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans went down a similar path in 2016, losing three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt early in the season.

But in Watts absence, the Texans played exceptionally well into the standard NFL next-man-up mentality, finishing the season ranked as the NFLs best defense. A big piece of that charge, however, was the play of outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, who led the team with 7.5 sacks and had four fumble recoveries last season.

Now, after Watt suffered a tibial plateau fracture to his left leg in Sunday's 42-34 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Texans will have to replace Watts production and presence on the field without Mercilus, who left the game with a torn pectoral muscle and will miss the rest of the season.

Any time you lose any player, obviously a player of J.J.'s stature, it's always tough, Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph said. But you have got to continue to move on because the game [does not] stop for anyone.

You think about it because, obviously, you are human and you feel for the guy and it's obviously a loss and it makes you do different things on defense. But at the end of the day, you have got to continue to play. It's got to be the next-guy-up mentality you have got to always have.

Last season, the Texans not only relied on Mercilus, but also on the emergence of 2014 No. 1 overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney. The defensive end was playing healthy for the first time in his NFL career, and had a career-high six sacks and 52 tackles. The defense also had veteran inside linebacker Brian Cushing, who is currently serving a suspension for violating the NFLs policy on performance-enhancing substances, and top cornerback A.J. Bouye, who signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars during the offseason.


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