It might just be me, but it feels like this offseason has dragged on longer than ever. As such, the 2021 season can't get here fast enough. 17 games. Three preseason tilts. It's time to get this thing ROLLING in a hurry. In those 17 regular season tilts, the Texans will face their share of legends and emerging stars so I sat down with all 14 rosters and the schedule to put together another unique version of the Harris 100 - the best players the Texans will face in 2021.
Without specifically ranking them as I do for the NFL draft (Rams star Aaron Donald would be number one if I did do that), I came up with the top 100 players the Texans will face and a handful of Honorable mention names to watch as well. I will break this into position groups over the next couple of weeks and today it's time for the off-the-ball linebackers (in chronological order when the Texans face each player).
A few quick "By the Numbers" notes on the 2021 Harris 100 off-the-ball linebackers from the 2020 season…
9 - Linebackers the Texans will face in 2021 that had 100+ tackles in 2020
8 - Of those nine, eight made the Harris 100 - Linebackers
964 - Those eight totaled nearly 1k tackles and averaged 120.5 tackles in the 2020 season
3 - There are three AP 1st Team All-Pros selected every year
3 - The Texans face all three of them four times this year (Wagner, Leonard, Warner)
Alright, let's roll. These are the linebackers that made the Harris 100 - The best players the Texans will face in 2021.
Bold - Pro Bowl in 2020
* - 1st Team All-Pro in 2020 (AP, Pro Football Writers, Sporting News)
** - 2nd Team All-Pro in 2020 (AP, Pro Football Writers, Sporting News)
**Myles Jack, Jacksonville (Week 1 & Week 15)
One of the most underappreciated stars in this league.
Career high 118 tackles in just 14 games for the Jaguars in 2020
Shaq Thompson, Carolina (Week 3)
See note on Jack as Thompson, out of the Pac-12 as well, is overshadowed in the NFC
223 tackles in the last two seasons (29 starts - 7.7 tackles per game)
Tremaine Edmunds, Buffalo (Week 4)
He might have been at his best as a rookie in 2018, but he was named to the Pro Bowl for the 2nd time in 2020
355 tackles over three seasons, 115+ tackles in each of his three years in Buffalo
Matt Milano, Buffalo (Week 4)
The unsung, do-it-all linebacker surprisingly returned to Buffalo with a long term contract in hand
Only played ten games/starting just five - racking up 35 tackles in injury plagued 2020 season
Dont'a Hightower, New England (Week 5)
The Patriots star opted out in 2020 due to COVID-19 issues
Made Pro Bowl for 2nd time when he was last on the field in 2019 - 71 tackles in 15 games
*Darius Leonard, Indianapolis (Week 6 & Week 13)
The Maniac gets maniacal all over the Texans whenever he steps on the field to play them
His forced fumble at the goal line in week 15 saved a Colts win v. Texans, 132 tackles in 2020
Jerome Baker, Miami (Week 8)
Unheralded and underappreciated, Baker was one of the most productive players in the AFC
112 tackles and a league-leading 7.0 sacks (for off the ball linebacker) in 2020 for Miami
Rashaan Evans, Tennessee (Week 11 & Week 18)
The Titans revolve around Evans in the middle of that Tennessee defense.
207 total tackles in the past two seasons, five passes defensed in 2020.
*Bobby Wagner, Seattle (Week 14)
Ask any linebacker in the league and he'll say "Bobby Wagner is the top guy".
Seven straight Pro Bowls. Five straight All-Pro honors, 1,213 career tackles. Stud.
Kenneth Murray, Los Angeles Chargers (Week 16)
The former Oklahoma All-American stepped right in as a starter on a star-laden defense
107 tackles in 16 starts in his inaugural campaign in the NFL in 2020.
*Fred Warner, San Francisco (Week 17)
If it's not Bobby Wagner, many will tell you it's Fred Warner
Career high 125 tackles, Career high two interceptions, Career high EVERYTHING in 2020