Whitney Mercilus: JMG’s Athlete of the Month
The Houston Texans kicked off their 2018 season with a preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs for a 17-10 win on Aug. 9. The Texans seem to be ready for new beginnings with the return of their star quarterback Deshaun Watson, who recovered from an ACL injury during the 2017 season. Watson only played for five snaps during the preseason game opener, presumably to preserve himself for the start of the regular season, but he looked on par and ready to go.
Outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus also suffered an injury last season with a torn pectoral, but the veteran pass-rusher is set to return this season. Mercilus didn’t play against the Chiefs last week due to a minor soft tissue injury, but I did speak to the swift linebacker just before the preseason regarding Watson, the teams he’s looking forward to playing against the most, and the respect he receives from other players in the league.
JMG: Last year, Tom Brady said that you’re one of the most underrated players in the League. How does it make you feel to have other players acknowledge you as one of the best?
Whitney Mercilus: It’s definitely an honor. It’s an acknowledgement to the work that I’ve put in to get to where I’m at. The thing is (that) it encourages me to continue to put my best foot forward, showing everybody that I’m a great passer, a great player in the NFL. I’m making a name for myself.
Would you say that Deshaun Watson is a “CEO” type of quarterback, someone that has command of the team? How do you see Deshaun as the quarterback right now for the Texans?
Yeah, definitely. He’s got a CEO mentality coming in for sure. He’s directing the team and leading this team with his abilities, his understanding of the offense and what he needs to do, and putting everybody in the right place to be very effective to winning these games. He’s cool, calm, collected and in the heat of the battle for sure.
Is there a team that you’re looking forward to playing against this year?
Of course, the Patriots is the first game for sure. We’ve got Philly; that’ll be a great test later in the season, and then we have the Giants. We’ve got a great schedule and I’m looking forward to each team that we’re going to be facing.
Everyone on the team so far seems to be in pretty good health. What are the expectations for the new season with everyone fit and ready to go?
The expectation is being healthy for sure. Second, going out there, contributing to the team and just making sure we’re running high on all cylinders from defense to offense to special teams and winning some games. Then going to the playoffs and hopefully getting to the Super Bowl, for sure. That’s something that we’re going to be chipping away at each game, each Sunday, and each practice at a time. So, we’re looking forward to that. I think the expectation is to do something very special.
A lot of the teams that make it to the Super Bowl championship seem to have chemistry with the entire team, with a family vibe. How do you see the chemistry with the Texans right now?
I think we’ve definitely developed that. Especially training out in West Virginia before coming back home to Houston and finishing out training camp. I feel like this team has definitely melded together with all the competition we’ve had at each position, each battle. Also, we had to spend time with each other, getting to know each other; we really developed a brotherhood type of bond. I think that’s key for any great team, especially for us to push that limit to get to the Super Bowl.
Tyrann Mathieu joined your secondary team. How would you compare this year’s secondary to last year’s?
It’s definitely been bolstered with a lot of competition at the helm in that secondary position. A lot of talented, talented guys are there at both safety and corner. It really drives everybody’s ability to play their best at every moment. I’m excited about it.
Who do you anticipate being the most improved player for 2018?
Most improved player for 2018 is probably Carlos Watkins, one of our defensive linemen. I definitely put him up there from where he was at before, going from a rookie to now being a more developed player. He has technique, speed, quickness, and power. He’s definitely got the balance for “most improved” for sure.
There’s a lot of new music that’s being released this summer. Who do you listen to when you’re either working out or driving in your car? Who’s on your playlist right now?
Man, I have to go with Drizzy, fo sho. He dropped some good nuggets out there. When he dropped Scorpion I was like, “Man! This thing is fire.” I’m still listening to it right now.
Yeah, definitely. He’s doing his thing on the charts, too. So definitely Drizzy, and Travis Scott has Astroworld, so R&B and hip-hop is doing its thing right now.
No doubt. That Astroworld goes hard, I have that on repeat right now.
Houston Texans’ Preseason Schedule:
San Francisco 49ers 08/18
Los Angeles Rams 08/25
Dallas Cowboys 08/30
New England Patriots – Sunday, Sept. 9