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Zach Cunningham ends rookie year 2nd in tackles

In a season with 12 losses, finding positives can be a challenge.

But a bright spot on the Texans 2017 defense, as well as Texans defenses in the years ahead, came in the form of linebacker Zach Cunningham.

The rookie from Vanderbilt started 13 games this season, finishing with 82 total tackles, second the squad only to Benardrick McKinney. With a team-best 11 in the loss on Sunday to Indianapolis, Cunningham tallied a career-high for a game. It was the capper to a season he termed as a "progressive" one.

"I was just trying to get better every game," Cunningham said. "Each snap, just trying to progress as a player, mentally and physically."

On Monday versus the Steelers, he came up with 10 total stops, joining the 49ers Reuben Foster as the only rookies this year to record back-to-back games with 10 or more tackles. In all, he recorded seven games in 2017 with five or more total tackles.

Against the Colts, Cunningham said he and his teammates knew the AFC South showdown would be a physical one.

"We came in with the mindset that every down was going to be a fight," Cunningham said. "That was our mentality the whole game, and what we tried to do."

The team's 2017 second round draft pick was part of a rookie class that included quaterback Deshaun Watson, who helped guide the offense to an average of 34.7 points per game in his six starts before a knee injury ended his season. For Cunningham, the Texans future is bright.

"We definitely have a lot of potential," Cunningham said. "We have a lot of good players coming back."

Cunningham and the Texans will clean out their lockers and meet as a team one last time on Monday.

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