Zach Cunningham's role evolved for Texans...well

Zach Cunningham was second on the team in tackles as a rookie. Not bad for a guy the Texans envisioned as primarily a special-teamer for 2017.

The second-year linebacker is going through organized team activities (OTAs) in Houston, and said he's learning quite a bit and improving his craft. But his head coach explained the initial plan for the Vanderbilt product was much different than what eventually happened last autumn.

"We felt like he would help us on defense, but we knew that he would really help us on special teams," Bill O'Brien said Tuesday. "Then he really started playing well on defense."

Cunningham started 13 of 16 games in 2017, and finished with 82 tackles on defense. His special teams contributions didn't suffer with more playing time on defense, though. Cunningham tallied eight stops covering kickoffs and punts, becoming the only player in franchise history with at least 80 tackles on defense and eight on special teams.

In year two, Cunningham explained that he's all about one thing: improvement.

"This spring, this offseason, has really been helping me as far as bettering my game," Cunningham said. "Coming in for that second year, coming off the year we had, what I was able to do last year and just improving on that."

O'Brien said that approach by Cunningham is evident thusfar on the field.

"Zach has had a good spring," O'Brien said. "He's come into this offseason and played really well. He has a really good idea of what we're trying to do on defense. Very smart."

Cunningham and the Texans will wrap up OTAs this week, and then take part in a minicamp next week at the Houston Methodist Training Center.

The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 5/7/2021)

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