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Mike Vrabel

Mike Vrabel takes over as defensive coordinator for the Houston Texans in 2017 after spending three seasons as the team’s linebackers coach. He is in his 18th overall season in the NFL after a 14-year playing career.

Mike Vrabel takes over as defensive coordinator for the Houston Texans in 2017 after spending three seasons as the team’s linebackers coach. He is in his 18th overall season in the NFL after a 14-year playing career. From 2014-16, the Texans defense ranked third in the NFL in net yards allowed per game (319.9) and net passing yards allowed per game (218.4). Houston also ranked first in third-down defense (33.6%), fourth in opponent completion percentage (59.5) and sixth in points allowed per game (19.8).

The Texans are coming off back-to-back AFC South division championships and have put together three straight winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. Houston’s 7-1 record at home and 5-1 record in the division in 2016 both tied franchise records. The team also won its first postseason game and advanced to the AFC Divisional Round for the first time since 2012.

The Texans finished last season with the NFL’s top-ranked defense for the first time in franchise history, surrendering an average of only 301.3 total net yards per game. They also gave up the fewest first downs (17.0) and second-fewest net passing yards (201.6) per game. From Weeks 8-17, Houston allowed an average of 71.9 net rushing yards per game and opponents only scored three rushing touchdowns during that span, both of which led the league.

DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney earned Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his career after posting personal bests in tackles (52), sacks (6.0), tackles for loss (16), quarterback hits (17) and games played/started (14). OLB Whitney Mercilus led the team in sacks for the first time in his career with 7.5 quarterback takedowns and tied for the NFL lead with four defensive fumble recoveries. ILB Benardrick McKinney led the team with a career-high 129 tackles and became the second player in franchise history with over 100 tackles and 5.0 sacks in a season.

In 2015, the Texans defense finished third in the NFL in net yards (310.2) and net passing yards (210.4) allowed per game and tied for seventh in points allowed per game (19.6). Houston, which won its first AFC South division championship since 2012, also set the franchise single-season (45) and single-game (8.0) records for sacks in 2015. The linebackers combined for 22.5 of the team’s sacks.

The Texans finished first in the league in opponent third-down percentage (28.5), which was the lowest single-season mark in franchise history. It was also the lowest opponent third-down percentage by any NFL team since the 2003 Tennessee Titans (27.7).

Houston allowed six points or less five times in 2015, which led the NFL and tied for the most such games in a season since the 1991 New Orleans Saints (six games). On the season, the Texans didn’t allow the opposing team to score a touchdown in four games.

Veteran ILB Brian Cushing led the position group and topped 100 tackles in a season for the third time in his career. His 110 total tackles in 2015 were the third-highest mark of his career and his highest since posting 114 stops in 2011. Mercilus enjoyed the best year of his career as he set personal highs in sacks (12.0), tackles (50), tackles for loss (14) and fumble recoveries (two).

In 2014, the Texans saw their linebackers make significant improvements under Vrabel. Cushing led the way with 72 tackles, nine quarterback hits, a sack and a forced fumble in 14 games played. Additionally, in his third year in the league, Mercilus recorded then-career highs of 50 tackles and nine tackles for loss, while tying a career-best with two forced fumbles.

Vrabel came to Houston from Ohio State, where he served as defensive line coach for the 2012-13 seasons after starting his coaching career as linebackers coach for the Buckeyes in 2011. In 2012, Vrabel coached four Ohio State defensive linemen who were either drafted into the NFL or signed free agent contracts. That year, Vrabel was also named the ESPN.com Big Ten Recruiter of the Year.

The Akron, Ohio, native embarked on what would become a distinguished NFL career with three teams following his Ohio State playing days. It was a professional career that saw him be a part of the New England Patriots’ dynamic run of three Super Bowls in four years (2001, 2003, 2004). In 2007, he was named to the Pro Bowl and a month later was named All-Pro.

On top of these accomplishments, Vrabel’s professional career included 14 seasons and a total of 206 games (140 starts) played with Pittsburgh (1997-2000), New England (2001-08) and Kansas City (2009-10). He registered career totals of 722 tackles (496 solo), 57.0 sacks, 42 passes defensed, 11 interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), 20 forced fumbles, nine fumble recoveries and 12 touchdowns receiving (as a tight end), including two in Super Bowls. Selected in the third round (91st overall) of the 1997 NFL Draft by Pittsburgh, Vrabel spent four years with the Steelers, eight seasons with the Patriots and his last two years with Kansas City.

Vrabel, who graduated with a degree from Ohio State in exercise science, was a dominant performer for the Buckeyes, while earning back-to-back All-American honors and twice being named Big Ten Conference Defensive Lineman of the Year (1995 and 1996). He was the first to win the lineman award two times. Vrabel attended Walsh Jesuit High School in Akron, Ohio. He and his wife, Jennifer, are the parents of two sons, Tyler and Carter.

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