In my first player highlight of the week I will be taking a look at Houston Texans ILB Brian Cushing. Cushing, who has been one of the most controversial players on the team, has made some great improvements this season. His play on the field is beginning to look reminiscent of his rookie year when he had an amazing 133 combined tackles, four sacks, a safety, four interceptions, and two forced fumbles.
It is old news that Cushing was suspended last season for his “supposed” use of HGH.
While many fans and players scoffed at his denial of using any performance-enhancing drugs, and attributing this test result to Overtrained Athlete Syndrome (OAS), the fact remains that this is a real condition. OAS occurs when an athlete trains above-and-beyond what he/she is typically capable of.
Now call me crazy but the following video is a workout that Cushing did in October of last year. If this is any indication of how he works out then I can safely say that he is a prime candidate for OAS.
Where was I….? Oh yeah, this season Cushing looks like a whole different player (both physically and mentally). He entered this season with a chip on his shoulder and less room for his shoulder pads.
He came into training camp looking like a slimmed down version of last year’s edition. However, Cushing is actually five pounds heavier than he was last season when he weighed in at 243 lbs. His frame does seem to be thinner but if you actually study his entire physique you will notice that he is more fit than he was previously.
Mentally, Cushing has again turned on that “psychotic-in-your-face-gonna-slap-your-momma” mentality that had him drawing comparisons to Clay Matthews in his first year. He is flying around the field like a banshee, laying the smack down on any offensive player that dares get in his way.
It is apparent that his surgically-repaired knee is a non-issue now. He digs and cuts across the field – planting his feet and turning his hips with a more fluid motion than he had last season.
Perhaps the greatest thing about this year’s version of Brian Cushing is the fact that he can enjoy the game without all of the shadows lurking overhead. His quote in an Associated Press (AP) article puts it best,
"“I couldn’t really just focus on football,” Cushing said Thursday. “Well, now I can. I can go play football again and help these guys and be the best I can for the team. Now it’s just full-go. I’m really enjoying myself again, which is the main thing.”"
So now here we are, entering week three of the regular season, and Cushing is leading his team in tackles (17). He is on par to best his rookie numbers and, assuming that he maintains this pace, could land himself in the Pro Bowl.
More impressive, however, is how Cushing is leading his team on the field. His intensity and passion for the game is being exuded to his teammates and he is earning respect from those who depend on him most (the Texans defense). Heck, even Wade Phillips is impressed with the kid! His praise for Cushing, in the AP article, is great for Texans fans:
"“He’s a holy terror on the field,” Phillips said. “Every play, he’s all out and he’s getting better and better at his techniques and learning. He’s still in the early stages of learning everything, but he works at it hard. He’s a great football player now. I think he’s got a chance to be something special this year.”"
Hopefully Wade Phillips is right. If Cushing is “something special” this year then the Texans could continue to dominate the defensive side of the ball. Here’s hoping that Brian Cushing has a great season!
Bonus: Just for your enjoyment, some great Cushing highlights!