Garret Wallow has gotten a taste of being a part-time linebacker over the past two weeks.
Now, the Texans rookie is preparing for an expanded role and couldstart Sundayagainst the Jacksonville Jaguars with starters Christian Kirksey and Kamu Grugier-Hill on the COVID-19 reserve list.
A fifth-round draft pick from TCU and a former All-Big 12 selection, Wallow had four tackles in the past two games while playing 34 percent and 25 percent of the defensive snaps in losses to the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts.
Wallow has seen his role grow in recent weeks since the Texans deactivated former linebacker Zach Cunningham against the Colts for multiple disciplinary issues. He notched a tackle for a loss, the first of his career, against the Seahawks during a 33-13 loss at NRG Stadium.
While Hewitt should start at middle linebacker with Kirksey out unless the defensive captain is clearedbefore Sunday'sroad game under the NFL's updated COVID protocols, Wallow figures into the equation in the base defense and nickel package.
“Just the normal improvements that you see from a rookie, he made some good plays last week," Texans defensive coordinator Lovie Smith said. "I like what he’s done throughout. He’s been patient, taking advantage of the opportunities he’s gotten. If you continue to do that, you’re going to get a chance to really show.
"If you make a few good plays, you get more. It’s like that. That’s how we do it. You get an opportunity to get a few reps and you play well, you’re going to get more. That’s the case with Garret. I’m anxious to see him take another step this week, and I believe he will.”
Signed to a four-year, $3.775 million rookie contract that includes a $295,884 signing bonus, Wallow had 287 career tackles, 32 ½ for losses and 9 ½ sacks in college. Wallow ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds at the Horned Frogs’ campus Pro Day workout where he bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times and had a 32 ½ inch vertical leap, a 10-2 broad jump, a 4.12 short shuttle and a 6.87 three-cone drill.
Wallow had 90 tackles last season, including nine for losses and three sacks, five quarterback hits and three forced fumbles.
The Texans also have Eric Wilson on the active roster and Connor Strachan on the practice squad.
“It’s late in the year, so depth is going to be an issue," Smith said. "You just look at from the time we played them first game of the year, how many starters are we going to line up with? Big change, right? Depth, that’s the issue. I think that’s the case throughout. COVID is hitting our league, injuries have and we’re no exception to that. We have a lot of guys that we’ve played and we’re not to the point where we can’t play the football game, so we’ll adjust. There’s always next man up, and that’ll be the case.”