Reporting Mike Meltser
Every year, the NFL season seems like a sports version of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Slowly and steadily, teams begin losing crucial components as the long year trudges on. Take a quick look around the AFC, and you’ll find almost all the contenders missing key pieces: Rob Gronkowski in New England, Darrelle Revis/Santonio Holmes in New York, Ray Lewis/Lardarius Webb in Baltimore, Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, Brian Cushing in Houston, and Willis McGahee in Denver.
Very rarely do teams get the opportunity to add reinforcements in the middle of an NFL season. That’s the chance the Texans have with returning inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton, who played his first game on Sunday. As you would expect, the former University of Miami star had his ups-and-downs: 7 fierce tackles, but a big lapse in goal-line coverage that allowed Marcedes Lewis to score a wide-open touchdown.
Sharpton had been out for the first 9 games of the season. He tore his quadriceps muscle in the middle of last year, then hurt his hip in training camp. It’s been a slow recovery, but Sharpton finally got off the PUP list and onto the football field.
With Cushing on the shelf rehabbing a torn ACL, Bradie James and Tim Dobbins have done a very solid job holding down the fort at inside linebacker. Still, it always helps to add some youthful athleticism, especially considering the pounding James and Dobbins have taken in their NFL careers. At the very least, Sharpton’s presence gives Wade Phillips more options on defense.
It remains to be seen whether Sharpton has the ability to stay healthy for the Texans. He came out of Sunday’s game looking like “he had been in a street fight,” according to John Lopez on the Crown Royal Black Postgame Show. The team has a ridiculously quick turnaround to Thursday’s game against the Lions, and Sharpton needs to show that he can bounce back and stay on the field. For a first impression in 2012 though, he definitely showed some positive signs.