Continuing a position-by-position look back at the Texans' 2012 season:
The young trio of Connor Barwin, Brooks Reed and rookie Whitney Mercilus formed the Texans' outside linebacker corps in 2012.
Barwin (3.0) and Reed (2.5) combined for a disappointing 5.5 sacks on the season. In 2011, Barwin led the Texans with 11.5 sacks while Reed set the team rookie record with 6.0. Mercilus, who played mostly as a backup in 2012, had 6.0 sacks to tie Reed's record.
Barwin did start all 16 games and play 94 percent of the Texans' defensive snaps, more than any other player in the front seven. He moved from Will (weakside) to Sam (strongside) after Reed was injured in Week 12. He had 44 tackles, six passes defensed and a safety in his fourth NFL season out of Cincinnati and second year as an outside linebacker.
Reed, a second-round draft pick in 2011, played 55 percent of the defensive snaps. He started 12 games, missing four with a groin injury. He recorded all of his sacks in the first five games of the season before adding 1.5 more in the playoffs, which tied J.J. Watt for the team postseason lead.
Mercilus, a first-round draft pick from Illinois, played in all 16 games with four starts. He played 44 percent of the defensive snaps. He had three sacks and two forced fumbles in a two-game stretch against Baltimore and Buffalo in October. He had two sacks in his first-career start in Week 13 at Tennessee and another sack a week later at New England. The 2011 FBS sack leader winner at Illinois tied for second among all rookies in sacks with New England's Chandler Jones, trailing only Seattle's Bruce Irvin (8.0).
Special teams ace Bryan Braman, a second-year pro, recorded five tackles on defense while playing just six percent of the snaps.
2012 Outside Linebackers in Review - Quick Hits
Starters: WLB: Barwin (13 games, plus 2 in playoffs), Mercilus (3 games); SLB: Reed (12 games), Barwin (3 games), Mercilus (1 game)
Injuries: Reed (groin, Weeks 13-15, 17)
Notable number:** 11.5: Number of sacks the Texans' outside linebackers combined for in 2012. That equaled the number of sacks Barwin had on his own in 2011, and half the number of sacks of the Texans' OLBs as a whole in 2011.
Best game: Week 8 vs. Baltimore – Barwin and Mercilus recorded their first sacks of the season on back-to-back plays in the first quarter. With the Texans trailing 3-0, Mercilus sacked Joe Flacco for a four-yard loss and forced a fumble that was recovered by the Ravens at their own 7-yard line. Barwin sacked Flacco for a safety on the very next play, making the score 3-2 and sparking a 43-13 Texans rout of the eventual Super Bowl champ. Barwin finished with four tackles, three tackles for loss, four quarterback hits and one pass defensed. Mercilus had a pass defensed and a forced fumble. Reed had three solo tackles in the game.
Quotable: "It was a huge weight lifted off my back. It felt good. Football is a lot (about) confidence… I was just really happy that I finally got a sack." Barwin on Oct. 21 after the Ravens game
"They're playing really well… I feel good about the way they're playing. If you're judged only on sacks, I think you're wrong. I've had some really good linebackers that didn't get many sacks but were really good players, and these guys fit in there." –Phillips on Barwin, Reed and Mercilus on Nov. 15
"See ball, go get ball. That's it. That's basically what the defense is. I'm just excited to get my shot." Mercilus on Nov. 30, leading up to his first-career start at Tennessee
"Moving Connor, it's been hard on Connor. To sit there and ask him to do what he did in that game, he's an unselfish player and flips from one side to the other, plays a totally different position where there is a lot of pass drop involved." – Kubiak on Barwin on Nov. 26
"Brooks is a force on the field. He's a physical force. I think just his physicality really helps us as far as our mental toughness overall as a defensive unit." – Phillips on Reed on Jan. 10