Top offseason needs: AFC South

The Houston Texans need to give J.J. Watt some help in the pass rush. Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the 2013 version of Insider's offseason staple series: Plugging the Holes. This marks the fourth of an eight-part examination in which Football Outsiders identifies the biggest needs for every NFL team, division by division, going into the 2013 offseason.

The series continues Thursday with Outsiders' look at the AFC South.

Houston Texans: Linebacker

When then-Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips was asked why he switched from the 4-3 to the 3-4, he declared it was because he had more good linebackers than defensive linemen. Nearly 30 years later, his son Wade's defense in Houston is running the 3-4, but not because his team has an excess of quality linebackers.

The problem for the Texans exists at inside and outside linebacker. On the inside, Brian Cushing was lost for the season in Week 5, tearing his ACL. He should be healthy for Week 1 of next season, but the lack of talent around him is troubling. Darryl Sharpton was supposed to fill the spot vacated by the offseason trade of DeMeco Ryans, but he started the year on the physically unable to perform list, then did too little, especially in pass coverage, when he did make it onto the field. A quantum improvement by Sharpton or a new starter, most likely from the draft, is a necessity.