The 2020 Houston Texans were terrible for a number of malodorous reasons. Poor offensive design, not having DeAndre Hopkins in the red zone, Eric Murray being the source of improvement to an awful defense, one-score record, the same offensive line struggles, a terrible run game, and, of course, a meek pass rush and a secondary that couldn’t cover.
One of the other problems that wasn’t previously listed, for the purposes of flow and paragraph structure, was that the Texans didn’t see much internal improvement aside from Deshaun Watson, who became a top five quarterback last season. Justin Reid regressed. Lonnie Johnson Jr. moved to safety and played right field in the middle of the diamond. Max Scharping was worse than he was the season before, thanks to Nick Martin stealing all the weights from the weight room for his own personal use. The wide variety of scratch-off tickets signed in free agency weren’t worth anything. Zach Cunningham was paid to anchor the front seven, but once Benardrick McKinney went down, Cunningham couldn’t answer the call to do so.
We saw what Cunningham is great at. He’s a backside linebacker who outruns slothful offensive linemen and delivers kill shots on unsuspecting running backs. His speed is his strength. A bolt of lightning that turns into a hammer. The Texans employed him perfectly in 2019.
Last offseason, Cunningham was paid to be a top front seven defender. Without Benardrick McKinney and D.J. Reader, Cunningham was forced to control the run game on his own. His run fits were drunk, his tackling was poor, and too often he was caught behind blocks. In open space, coverage especially, he watched skill players zip past him. Yet because he had 164 total tackles and was one of the league leaders in that metric, a lot of the shortcomings were overlooked. Cunningham had plenty of chances to make tackles and plays on the ball, which he did, but there was a lot missing from his game last season.
This year, as Houston morphs to a 4-3, the Texans will probably move Cunningham back to the weakside after a failed foray as the team’s Mike linebacker. This will allow him to do what he does best, chase and tackle, while minimizing the rest.
Cunningham made the most of a great opportunity, saw his skillset maximized, and got paid for it. That being said, his contract isn’t worth what he’s great at doing, and he needs to work on his weaknesses to smooth out his game, to be the all-around anchor that he was paid and expected to be.
For these reasons, Cunningham is my pick for the Texans’ most overrated player. What is yours? Who do you think is Houston’s most overrated player?
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