The Texans picked linebacker Whitney Mercilus in the first round, and after the selection he spoke with the Houston media via a conference call. Also, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips met with the media during a Tuesday night press conference at Reliant Stadium. The following is a transcript of their respective interviews.
LB Whitney Mercilus Conference CallDefensive Coordinator Wade Phillips Press Conference
LB Whitney Mercilus
(on his initial reaction to being drafted) "I'm excited. I'm super excited. I can't wait to be a part of the Houston Texans and their system and to start contributing right away. I'm really, really ecstatic right now. It's unbelievable."
(on what he's heard about the Texans defense) "They had Mario Williams there. They've had great ends come out of there, so I'm just really looking to be a part of that system and being a great 1-2 and contributing as much as I can."
(on if the Texans had him down to Reliant for a visit leading up to the draft) "During the combine, I met with the Houston Texans, but I didn't do an official visit. I definitely got a good feel for the Houston Texans. They loved me and I'm glad they picked me today."
(on critics saying that he didn't have a consistent college career) "I answer that criticism by saying that I just became more of a student of the game. When I got my opportunity, I made the best of it. Instead of being behind the starter who was ahead of me the previous two years, 2009 and 2010, once I got my opportunity I was able to make the most of it and shine through."
(on if modeled his game after any NFL players) "Yeah, I try to emulate my game after a few guys, like Julius Peppers, definitely in terms of being a power-type end and after Dwight Freeney, who is a speedy and crafty end. I definitely try to mix it up."
(on how he would describe himself as a football player) "I'm nasty. I get after the passer. I'm not going to give up. I give 110 percent all day, every day, I will never give up. I'm looking to earn my right amongst the Houston defense and try and contribute right away."
(on defending the run as well as rushing the pass ) "As a pass rusher, that's my specialty. I know how to get around tight ends and offensive tackles to get to the passer. Definitely, I've got shape up a little bit more on the run, but hey, I feel like I've got good average to play the run. It's just a matter of sharpening up my techniques at the point of attack."
(on the weight room accident where he lost the tip of his finger) "405 pounds just dropped on my finger between the bar and the safety rack. One of my teammates who was squatting and he went down too low and then my teammate who was spotting him wasn't paying attention fully. He started trying to help him pull up but it was too late, so I ran over there trying to help out and then that's when my finger got caught and I pulled back and didn't notice the tip was gone until about three or four seconds later."
(on if he feels more comfortable standing up or with his hand down) "Any way I can. I can play any way, whether it's standing up or with my hand in the dirt. I've shown the only time that I've stood up to rush the passer in the UCLA bowl game, then this past year in 2011, out in San Francisco, that's the first time I've ever been on my feet. I thought I did pretty well on two feet. I showed that I can move well on two feet during the combine and pro day. Anywhere they put me, I'm ready to go."
(on his perception of the Texans now and a year ago) "It has definitely been on my radar from a year ago. I think the attitude was great, they just had some downfalls and had to rebuild. I want to be a part of this defense that was fourth in the NFL in sacks and just add on to that."
(on what he knows about Wade Phillips) "Wade Phillips? Not a whole lot."
(on what this moment was like to be drafted) "It feels great. I can't even explain the excitement that is going through my body right now and through my mind and how excited I am to be able to start working right away for the Houston Texans and putting that work in."
(on if he ever met JJ Watt) "No, I never got to."
(on where he was watching the draft) "I'm back in Akron, Ohio, watching the draft with family and friends."
(on if he feels slighted that he wasn't invited to New York) "No, I didn't feel slighted about that. I was actually pretty happy because I was able to spend it with everyone that I wanted to, instead of half staying back and half going there so I'm not worried about it."
(on how many people are there with him) "I want to say there are 10 or 15, maybe 20 people are with me right now."
(on how much he likes getting after the quarterback) "I love it. That's one of my passions and I don't know what it is, it's just being able to beat the offensive tackle that they say is the best. I love going against the best competition and just getting to the quarterback and just put the fear into him."
(on what he remembers about playing in the Texas Bowl at Reliant Stadium) "It was awesome. I remember that games against Baylor and that was a great moment. That's when I started to see that I had the potential to reach over the top and that's when I made my way to transition at the next level. It was just a matter of hard work after that."
(on if he ever thought he'd be playing his NFL games at Reliant Stadium a couple years later) "No, I did not even think so. I did not see that happening."
Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips
(on the Texans' first round pick) "Well, everybody knows our pick – Whitney Mercilus. He's like the guys we have, and that's why we really liked him. He's a smart player. He's athletic. He's tough, physical, but he's a self-starter, high-motor guy that plays with ability. You want those high-motor guys, but you want them to have that kind of ability. He's one of the top pass rushers in the draft. It's a great opportunity to get a guy like that at that point in the draft. Also, I forgot to tell everybody when I signed my contract with Mr. (Bob) McNair, he said that we could get a first round pick on defense every year. That was part of it, too, so it didn't surprise me.
(on his fit for the 3-4 defensive scheme) "Yeah, he's an outside backer candidate just like our guys that can rush the passer – can get in the three-point stance and rush the passer and also be in the two-point and play the run and the pass from there. I think he's a really strong pass rusher. I think he fits in real well for us there. I mean the guy had 16 sacks, led the nation in sacks, led the nation in caused fumbles – 9 caused fumbles. They say, 'One year wonder,' but you wonder why they didn't play him the year before is what I wonder. I mean the guy went out and played against the Big 10, and I'm sure they did right by him, but he was ready this year. You see all the athletic ability that you look for in a player, especially with the pass rush skills."
(on if Mercilus reminds him of anyone he's coached in the past) "Well, he's a lot like our guys. He's a lot like (Connor) Barwin I think. He's got that kind of ability. He can run, and he's athletic, so he fits in well with the guys we have."
(on if it became obvious that the Texans were going with a defensive player as the draft progressed) "No, I mean we went with the best player. I think we were patient with it. We had some chances. Actually, we had the chance to move up to get him because we thought he was that valuable, but we decided to hold our ground, and it turned out good for us and good for our team. But no, we don't go offense and defense. It's whoever the best players are on our board and that can help our team. Anytime you get a pass rusher – those are dynamic type players that are difference makers. On offense, wide receiver is a big player and the running back, but defensively it's really corners and pass rushers."
(on if physicality just comes with experience) "Well, anytime you looks at those guys, and they play defensive end in college, they're going against huge offensive tackles. He's 260 pounds, so they're not going to look as strong against them with their three-point stance, but they look a lot stronger when they're rushing the passer on third down in those situations. When you play them at outside backer, which we project him as, now he's playing against tight ends and backs and so forth. You just got to determine there (are) sometimes those guys in college. I had Shaun Phillips who was the same way. They said he was too small because he played against offensive tackles, but he also rushed the passer against those same offensive tackles that are all being drafted, and he beat a lot of them this past year."
(on if he was surprised that Mercilus was available at the 26th pick) "Well, there's always going to be a few premier players early that everybody thinks are going to go – usually big tackles and then pass rushers and corners. We were happy that he was there. Once it gets past about 10 or 12 in the draft, you really can't tell when a guy's going to fall. Again, we thought about moving up to get him, but we held our ground, and we didn't have to give up anything."
(on what jumped out to him about Mercilus while watching film) "Well, he's a natural pass rusher. He's got the skills that you look for in pass rushers. He's a little different than Brooks Reed was last year. He's more used to using his hands, and he's got a speed rush, he's got a power rush, and he's got a quick inside move. It's something certainly to develop, but he has some natural moves. I mean you don't get 16 sacks in that league without having some natural gifts, and he has those."
(on where he fits with Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed in a rotation) "Yeah, he certainly fits right in there. I think he's a pass rusher, and I think we'd utilize him more in the pass rush rather than over the tight end. We'll see, but I've played them all before. We had (Steve) Foley, and Shaun Phillips, and (Shawne) Merriman, and we played them all on third down. Just put your best people in, and we can come up with something. If they're good enough, we'll put them in there and let them rush."
(on what else he'd like to get in the draft to complement the offseason acquisitions and Mercilus) "Well, that remains to be seen. We had six defensive linemen last year, and we only have five on the team right now, so I mean a guy's got a chance to play for us there and be in the rotation. That's a factor, and inside backer. We lost one, but we replaced one. I think we're pretty strong right now overall. I think our secondary is pretty strong, and our front seven looks good. I'm going to beg for another draft pick, so I'm not going to beg out of that. I think there's some guys in the draft that we like, and we'll just see where they are."
(on comparing Mercilus to J.J. Watt at this time last year from a developmental standpoint) "I look at him a little more developed than Brooks Reed was last year because Brooks didn't use his hands as well. Brooks is a really good football player. I mean at the end of the year, he and J.J. were dominant players at their position. We're excited about that, and of course, Connor Barwin is, too. I think this kid will fit right in. I think he'll fit right in that group, and you won't say, 'Wow, we got two guys and him, and he's got to come along.' I think he'll fit right in that group."
(on any concern about his only playing one season for the most part) "No, not if you produce. He did it against good competition. I think if he had played another year, he'd have probably been in the top ten. He'd have been the top ten in the league. If he did the same thing again the next year, which is going to be this year. I think he will, but if he did the same thing again for another year, he'd been a top ten pick without a doubt. A lot of people are saying, "Yeah, it's only one year,' but to me, when a guy shows he can do all those things, I don't think he's going to lose that."