Tag Archives: leaf young stars 2012

Mercilus, Whitney ‘Merciless’

Card: Leaf Young Stars 2012
Acquired: 2015, EBay

The Houston Texans selected Whitney Mercilus out of Illinois in 2012 with the 26th pick, as the team needed him to step in and replace the recently departed Mario Williams in the sacks department. A late bloomer, Whitney earned multiple awards in his breakout college season of 2011, before declaring for the NFL Draft. That season at defensive end he led the nation with 16 sacks, and a hefty 9 forced fumbles.

It was not a bad rookie campaign for Whitney. He started 4 games and recorded 6 sacks, 18 total tackles, while forcing 2 fumbles, honing his skills under legendary defensive coordinator Wade Philips. It wasn’t really until 2015 that Whitney truly had his breakout campaign for the Texans. Shifted back and forth from defensive end to linebacker, Whitney had 12 sacks, 50 total tackles, and 2 fumble recoveries, nabbing second team All-Pro Honors. While he had a respectable follow up in 2016, with 7.5 sacks, 4 fumble recoveries, and 53 total tackles- to go along with the league’s best defense, Whitney’s 2017 campaign was a complete wash as he blew out his pectoral game during the 5th game of the season landing him on IR- He’d finish the campaign with 10 combined tackles and 1 sack. Mercilus returned for the 2018 season and posted 39 tackles, 4 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.

After striking out on Whitney at my last great marathon Houston run, due in part to it being held at a Palais Royale location, I just opted to pick up this Leaf card of him instead. I had not been counting on an event with Whitney that day, but after receiving a tip at the stadium after getting Charles James, Lance and I decided to take a shot. We arrived and stood outside. I exchanged pleasantries with one of the hosts outside for the Texans. She dryly informed me that the event was a Battle Red Ladies event only and wasn’t for outside fans. I then watched Whitney drive up in his Porche and park then go inside. I was upset, but that’s the rules. Later that evening I saw on the news another fan who was in line with me earlier in the day. Notably it was a guy- so he shouldn’t have been able to get an autograph either but maybe his mom was there.  I’m still in pursuit of Whitney on a few cards. I have begun to refer to him as one of my ‘white whales’- that being a player that I seem to have trouble getting that I really want.

This is a nice entry from Leaf. The photography and the shot are pretty nice, and the autograph is definitely showcased on the canvas. Not a fan of the logo placement, dead short of center, but it’s all a pretty simple, clean, set up. Whitney must have learned his lesson from signing these cards. You can see that over time his autograph just seems to get weaker and weaker from signing so many stickers. It’s common now to see that he short signs his autograph with WM#59.

Allen, Dwane

leaf12YS d allenCard: Leaf Young Stars 2012
Acquired: 2012, Box Breaker

Dwane Allen was a 2 year starter for the Clemson Tigers. He’s a great pass catching TE who releases off the line effortlessly from a 2 point stance. Dwane declared early after posting 50 receptions for 598 yards and 8 TDs- All career highs in 2011. He finished his Clemson career with 93 receptions for 1079  yards and 12 TDs.  The Indianapolis Colts finished the 2011 season 2-14 after the loss of Peyton Manning. It was obvious that they needed to bulk up at nearly every position. Their first 3 picks were devoted to offense, with Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, and then Dwane Allen in the 3rd.

It was expected that Colby was going to be Luck’s primary TE since they had played college ball together, but surprisingly Allen came along sooner than expected. Dwane broke the Colts rookie TE record for catches with 45. He’s a great target for the Colts and they utilize him out of the backfield, in motion off tackle, and the infrequent TE screen.  Dwane is a great example of the ‘next generation’ of tight end that is taking the league by storm. He’d lose nearly 100% of his 2013 season to injury and be shelved for 14 games.

As the focus wanes on the New England tight end package of Gronkowski and Hernandez, many have pointed to the AFC South as the next hotbed for such a sensation to take off- even suggesting that Allen could be the next rising star.

Blanton, Robert “RJ”

leaf12YS blantonCard: Leaf Young Stars 2012
Acquired: 2013, Box Breaker

A tall, lanky Safety/Corner at 6’1″, 208, Robert Blanton played collegiality at Notre Dame, where he was one of the most coveted defensive backs coming out of High School. A steady producer, Blanton is coveted for his hybrid ability to play both safety and corner, especially in zone packages, or up tight against the run game. With an underwhelming 40 time, Robert makes up for it with good instincts, athleticism, and an impressive jam at the line of scrimmage. He also displayed some skill in the return game as a punt returner adding a touchdown to his resume. RJ finished with his best season in 2011 as a Senior posting 70 tackles, 1 sack, 2 picks, 1 FF, and 6 pass breakups for the Golden Domers.  Leslie Frazier and the Minnesota Vikings nabbed Blanton in the 5th round, feeling that he fits what they do in the Tampa-2 up there.  The Vikings officially penciled him in as a safety, and he saw his first playing time in the NFL against Tennessee (10/7), finishing with 13 total tackles (10 solo, 3 ast) in 2012. In 2013 RJ moved into the starting lineup and recorded a career high 13 tackles in the Vikings season finale over the Detroit Lions. He wound up with 60 tackles for the year but his first career interception continues to elude him.