It’s easy to overlook Whitney Mercilus. The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder seemed well on his way to becoming one of the NFL’s most feared pass-rushers three years ago, posting a career-high 12 sacks at just 24 years old. He was named Second Team All-Pro one season later, finishing 2016 with 53 tackles, seven 7.5 sacks, and four fumble recoveries, showing off a more complete game while still factoring into Houston’s devastating ability to get after the opposing quarterback.

After missing all but five games in 2017 with a torn pectoral muscle, though, Mercilus has become something close to an afterthought for a Texans defense led by J.J. Watt, Tyrann Mathieu, Jadeveon Clowney, and Bernardrick McKinney.

Fully healthy, Mercilus played an even more versatile role for Houston last season en route to pedestrian numbers of 39 tackles and four sacks. Not that he’s unhappy with his place in coach Bill O’Brien’s defense, though.

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“It’s pretty cool to display that I can do more things than rush the passer,” Mercilus told Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle earlier this month. “You never know what I’m going to do, or where I’m going to be. I actually like it.”

Makes sense. Team success breeds player enjoyment, and Mercilus played all 16 games, starting at outside linebacker, for a Texans team that went 11-5 before losing to the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the playoffs.

The future is still bright for Houston, though, with rising star quarterback DeShaun Watson continuing to improve and the team hoping to re-sign Mathieu and Clowney this summer, bringing back all key performers next season for a defense that allowed the fifth-fewest points per game in 2017.