Former Longhorns help NFL teams prepare for playoff pushes

Donnavan Smoot

We are just over halfway through the NFL season and teams are starting to gear up for playoff runs. As we enter Week 10, some former Longhorns are helping their teams in a big way. Here is how they performed this past week:

Lamarr Houston

  • Houston was signed by none other than the Houston Texans a month ago after the injuries to J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. In the three games since joining, Houston has four tackles and a forced fumble, including a scoop-and-score this past week against the Colts.
  • The eight-year defensive end brings stability and a veteran presence to a young defense trying to keep its team in the AFC South race. Houston will take the field next on Sunday afternoon when the Texans head to Los Angeles for a date with the Rams.

Alex Okafor

During the New Orleans Saints’ six-game winning streak, the team’s defense has stepped up in a big way, led by former Longhorn Alex Okafor. Through eight games this year, Okafor has 33 tackles, including six in Sunday’s 30-10 win over Tampa Bay. He’s already exceeded his career-highs in tackles and forced fumbles. The fourth-year linebacker tallied another half sack last week, which brings him to 3.5 on the season. His next chance to rack up his sack total will come on Sunday as the Saints travel to Buffalo to face the Bills. Kickoff is slated for 12 p.m.

Kenny Vaccaro 

  • Also fueling the Saints this year is Okafor’s teammate, Kenny Vaccaro. The former Texas safety has nabbed three interceptions this season along with 39 tackles. He even scored a touchdown this year, scooping a fumble recovery in the end zone against the Lions.
  • Vaccaro and the rest of the Saints’ defense have seen a resurgence in 2017. The defense will need to continue its hot play for New Orleans to make its first run to the Super Bowl since 2009.

Brian Orakpo 

Orakpo had his second consecutive four-tackle game in Sunday’s contest as the Titans beat the Ravens. The former first-rounder has started off slowly this season, with just 1.5 sacks through the season’s halfway point. Orakpo’s struggles have surprised many after he recorded a 10.5-sack campaign in 2016.

Orakpo should have a good opportunity to record a sack this week against the Bengals, who are allowing three sacks per game. As the Titans try to stay afloat in the race for the AFC South crown, they need their veteran linebacker to step up and lead their defense to playoff caliber.