The 2014 season proved to be difficult to say the least for Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing. With five years remaining on a $55 million contract, ($21 million guaranteed) Cushing’s performance next year will be crucial, should the Texans choose to keep footing the bill. Sidelined for two consecutive years, Cushing has accumulated many skeptics who doubt his ability to earn his contract in the coming schedule.
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Cushing finished 2014 with 41 solo tackles, only one sack and a forced fumble. He’s steadily come down to earth after his NFL rookie season in 2009 where he stunned fans with 87 solo tackles, 5 sacks, 4 interceptions and one safety. But 2009 was a long time ago and since then it’s been all defensive lineman JJ Watt on the highlight reel with backup linebacker Whitney Mercilus coming up the ranks.
The linebacker says he is 100% healthy according to an update on Brian Cushing“ and could even be ready in time for OTA’s in May. Texans fans will be hard pressed to forget the list of games they had to endure without the USC man.
When Cushing suffered a torn ACL vs the Jets in week five of the 2012 campaign, the Texans camp began tinkering with several replacement insurgents (Tim Dobbins, Darryl Sharpton) but never seemed to find the right man for the job. General manager Rick Smith did do his best to patch things up in the linebacker core until Cushing returned the following year only to break his fibula and tear his LCL on a low hit from Kansas City Chiefs Jamaal Charles.
The truth is, despite his setbacks, the Texans desperately need Cushing on the field. Few can contest his value as a run-stopper as he contributed to the team finishing 10th in the league in 2014 compared to 23rd in 2013 sans Cushing. This is really not surprising to most people, it’s exactly what he was drafted to do in the first place. The pass defense is what has been a major concern of late.
To be fair though, the pass defense has been in near disarray in the entire secondary of the Texans and not just Cushing and the linebacker roster. If it weren’t for veteran corner Jonathan Joseph and the stellar defensive line the Texans have been able to put together around JJ Watt, opponents would have field days throwing all over the Houston secondary.
With the 2015 batteryof games approaching and the Texans facing divisional rivals that are strengthening by the day, a healthy, dangerous Brian Cushing would go a long way. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel will be looking to rewrite a fierce supportive cast alongside Watt and he simply won’t be able to do that without Brian Cushing playing like it’s 2009 once again.