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Texans Can Build Defense Around Kamu Grugier-Hill

  • The Draft Network
  • December 10, 2021
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It’s been a roller coaster year in Houston. From the offseason loss of J.J. Watt to the ongoing off-field issues with Deshaun Watson, for the most part, first-year head coach David Culley has done a nice job with the pieces he’s been provided. While Houston won’t make a late-season run for the playoffs this year at 2-10, a bright spot in the middle of their defense has ushered in a sliver of optimism for a franchise searching for an identity.

A sixth-year linebacker in his first season as a Texan, Kamu Grugier-Hill has consistently been one of the league’s top second-level defenders so far this fall. A former sixth-round selection of the New England Patriots back in 2016, Grugier-Hill has found his footing as the “MIKE” linebacker in Culley’s defense. A veteran green-dot tasked with relaying defensive calls to the other 10 Houston defenders from play to play, Grugier-Hill has quickly become the lead voice in a locker room desperate for a sound to rally around.

With 88 tackles as we head into Week 14, Grugier-Hill has shattered his former career-high totals. A former four-year member of the Philadelphia Eagles and one-year special teams player for the Miami Dolphins, Grugier-Hill’s former career-high of 45 tackles has a chance to be nearly tripled as the Texans endure a second straight playoff-less campaign. But, he’s been more than just a sideline-to-sideline defender, amassing 10 TFLs, an interception, and three sacks—an attribute to his continued progression and role within the middle of an overall leaky Houston defense.

What has made him so unique and impactful this fall has been his relationship with now-Titans linebacker Zach Cunningham. While Cunningham was the more athletically gifted of the two, the pair of ‘backers fed off each other’s games, as all good linebacking tandems should. And what makes Grugier-Hill’s role increasingly intriguing now with Cunningham out of Houston is this: How much more can the 27-year-old truly do with the NFL’s 2020 tackle leader now elsewhere?

An organization just two years ago that was one win away from a conference title game has lost many, if not all, of its once headlining core of players. DeAndre Hopkins, J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and now Cunningham, Houston has resembled a revolving door of addition and subtraction the last few campaigns. As Houston has dealt with more than enough negatives, let’s remain focused on Grugier-Hill, who’s coming off a herculean performance in Week 13 against the Colts in which he amassed a Texans single-game record for combined tackles (19).

The only player since 1999 to finish a game with three TFLs, a sack, and those aforementioned 19 total wrap-ups, you’d be hard-pressed to find an individual with as hot a motor as Grugier-Hill in a 31-0 blowout loss. It’s really the backbone of what makes up the Hawaii native.

An overlooked talent out of Eastern Illinois, any role is a role, whether it’s on kickoff return, punt return, or filling in at linebacker in garbage time early in his career, that desire and willingness to compete and work your way up the positional depth chart has placed Grugier-Hill in an awfully comfortable spot to earn a lofty contract extension the offseason.

“My whole career I've been pigeonholed as a good special teamer, [to] come in on core downs,” Grugier-Hill said. “To have this accomplishment, like in this franchise, a place I want to be, just prove to everyone that I can be a real starter, real player in this league, a legit player. It's definitely an honor.”

The only player in football to record 13 or more tackles in a half this season other than Derwin James, Grugier-Hill has presented a layer of foundation to build upon if you’re Culley. Currently on the tail end of a one-year ‘prove-it’ deal, the once castoff in Grugier-Hill has proven he is much more than just a free-agent flier.

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