Lots of news coming out of Wednesday's practice including: Rey Maualuga will start against Arizona…
Texans Scouting More Defensive Talent
Rey Maualuga appears to be the Rolls Royce of middle linebackers as the 6'2", 260 lb. Trojan can do it all. Maualuga is one of the best playmakers in the history of the USC defense, and that is a program that routinely produces top ten NFL draft picks. He is explosive, has great initial quickness, takes on blockers, and is even good in coverage. Although Maualuga is nursing a sprained knee, he is still one of the most dangerous defenders in the country. The Trojan middle linebacker has 27 tackles and one interception, which he returned 48 yards for a touchdown against Ohio State.
Outside linebacker Brian Cushing is often overlooked because of his teammates, but Cushing is a fine player in his own right. The 6'4", 255 lb. senior has excellent size and athleticism, and he is a big hitter on the outside. Cushing runs in the 4.6's, and is the second-rated outside linebacker in the draft (currently). He has 33 tackles, five TFL, 1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and two pass breakups already this season.
As we move across the Trojans starting linebacking corps, we come to Clay Matthews. If the name sounds familiar, it is because Matthews dad, Clay Sr. had a long NFL career with the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons. The younger Clay wasn't heavily recruited and earned a spot on the USC roster as a freshman walk-on. Since, the 6'4", 260 lb. backer has been a key contributor and runs in the 4.6's. On the season, Matthews has 27 tackles, three TFL, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.
Arizona State's Dexter Davis is a 6'2", 252 lb. redshirt junior who plays both outside linebacker and defensive end. Davis is a sackmaster, as he recorded 10.5 in 2007 and already has five sacks this year. Davis projects as a solid pass rusher on the next level, as he can get past blocks and make plays in opposing backfields, as evidenced by his sack numbers, as well as his seven TFL and one forced fumble already.
Sun Devils junior Mike Nixon is a solid, yet somewhat undersized inside linebacker, at 6'3", 232 lbs. The former minor league baseball player runs in the 4.6's, and is a consistently solid player in the middle of a somewhat underachieving Arizona State defense. Nixon leads the Sun Devils in tackles with 48, and has three TFL, one sack, and two interceptions on the season.
Outside linebacker Travis Goethel is an undersized 6'3", 235 lb. junior who was the team's leading returning tackler from 2007 (71 tackles). Goethel is quick to the football, but he sometimes has a difficult time shedding blocks. On the season, Goethel has 40 tackles, 4.5 TFL, and one pass defensed.
Although Houston certainly has needs at other positions, the linebacker talent that was on display last week definitely caught the scout's eyes, and don't be surprised if one of these players is on the Texans draft cards come next April.
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