He may be having the best season out of any of the Texans linebackers, and is one of the biggest surprises in the league, even if not many people outside of the Lone-star state are paying attention.
“We made a decision on Zac in the offseason,” said Texans head coach Gary Kubiak. “We said, ‘Hey, he’s our starting backer.’ We felt like we should have played him at the end of last year. Well that’s a lot to hand a kid. Say, ‘You’re the guy,’ before you even go to camp. What he did, he’s worked extremely hard and he’s gotten better each week. He’s taken advantage of that opportunity much like Kevin (Walter) did last year.”
Diles wasn’t expected to be a starter, much less an impact player, certainly not this early in his career. Just a year and a half ago, Diles was waiting for his name to be called on the second-day of the NFL draft. He had to wait all the way until the eighth pick of the seventh round, number 218 overall.
“It doesn’t happen very often but when you see a good football player, whether you drafted him in the seventh round of the second round, when you see a good player, you have to forget about where they were drafted,” Coach Kubiak explained. “Give them a chance to play. You look at (WR) Kevin (Walter), you look at him. It’s the same situation. I can go back to (former Broncos RB) Terrell Davis that I had many years ago. A sixth round player who we had covering kicks opening the preseason. It tells you how smart we were. When guys show they can play, hell, you need to let them get out there and play. And that’s what he’s done.”
Diles progressed so well and so quickly that the Texans decided to release free agent signee Roosevelt Colvin, and started Diles in front of veteran free agents Chaun Thompson and Kevin Bentley.
“Competition is always good because it brings out the best in everybody,” Diles said. “When there’s competition, you’ve got to go out there every day and fight hard and work hard to maintain spots. That was a biggie. There’s still competition throughout the year. So, it makes you want to go out there and just work hard and play hard and do your thing and do everything right.”
A pretty good perspective for a guy who was picked near the end of the draft who came from a somewhat less than football factory at Kansas State.
“You can say what you want as coaches, but those higher drafted kids probably get a quicker look than they do,” Kubiak admitted. “But the one thing about him from the start is he would hit you. That’s what impressed us. Now he’s taken his game to a new level.”
Diles currently leads the Texans with 45 tackles, one more than DeMeco Ryans, and has one sack, one pass defensed, and an interception. Diles has simply been all over the field making plays, but he attributes his early success to the people around him.
“There’s plenty of help around here, plenty of good coaching, and plenty of good people around me just to help me out in transitioning into being a starter. There’s a lot of things going into it,” said the Texans newfound star.
You can’t say enough about Diles progression, and his on the field play and off the field demeanor and hard work have certainly won over his teammates.
“Yeah, he’s been playing extremely well,” said Texans head coach Gary Kubiak. “He’s got the respect of the guys. He was the defensive player of the week last week and really got a big ovation in the meeting room today. Guys are respecting how he’s playing.”
What’s good for the Texans is that Diles is just starting to feel comfortable as a starter and expects to get better.
“That’s real big because coming off last year, I really didn’t get a lot of reps, that’s why it was a little slower coming along this year,” Diles explained that he feels more comfortable in a starting role. “I feel now, having six games under my belt, we can go out there and just play now. You have a better feel for the game and what the offense is trying to do to you and everything like that. So, it’s been a real big help.”
Although the Texans defense hasn’t been one of the elite units in the league, it’s certainly not due to the play of the linebackers. Zac Diles has helped transform the Texans backers into one of the best units in all the NFL.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.
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