The best is still to come for Benardrick McKinney.
And that's saying a lot, considering the middle linebacker rang up a team-high 129 tackles last season. He also tallied five sacks, joining DeMeco Ryans as the only players in team history with a season of 100 or more tackles and five or more sacks. His performance in 2016 got him a 2nd-team spot on the All-Pro squad. But in year three and beyond, better things are on the way.
"In our locker room we fully understand and appreciate everything that he does for our team," defensive end J.J. Watt said. "And I think that you're only going to see him continue to get better."
The Mississippi State Bulldog was a fixture in the middle of the defense last season, starting all 16 regular season games and both playoff contests. According to head coach Bill O'Brien, the future is sunny for McKinney.
"I thought he had a Pro Bowl-type of year last year," O'Brien said. "Last year's over but I think the guy is poised to have a really good career here. A lot of it is going to have to do with health, but I think as long as he stays healthy he's a hell of a football player."
Linebackers coach Bobby King has been around McKinney for only a few months, as he spent the last couple seasons in San Diego. But in the short time he's coached McKinney, he's been impressed, and echoed what Watt and O'Brien predicted.
"He can still get better, too, as he would tell you, too," King said. "We're expecting big things out of him leadership-wise and playmaking-wise."
McKinney and the Texans are on break until the start of training camp at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. That begins on July 26.