Houston Texans Positional Breakdown: Inside Linebackers

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Oct 5, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Cushing, 6’3″ 249 Pounds, 28 Years Old

The biggest name at inside linebacker for the Houston Texans is Brian Cushing. Unfortunately he has also been the biggest question mark in terms of what to expect from the talented linebacker. He is a great playmaker, but the question always seems to be, how many games can he suit up for?

Some Background Info;

Brian Cushing was part of a great group of linebackers at USC as he was teammates with the Green Bay Packers star, Clay Matthews and Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga. While Maulaluga seemed to generate all the buzz on Saturdays, it was Cushing chosen first of the three when the Texans made him the 15th overall selection in 2009.

Cushing stood out to scouts  because he had the speed to play either inside or outside linebacker, while also possessing enough strength to play defensive end, according to NFL.com;

"NFL scouts don’t admire Cushing for his statistics, but for his versatility. Athletic and instinctive enough to star at linebacker and yet big and strong enough to compete at defensive end — as he did in starting 13 games at the position in 2006 when injuries forced the Trojans to be creative — Cushing is arguably the draft’s most versatile defender."

The hype was correct on Cushing as he finished the year with 133 tackles, four sacks and four picks, while also recording a safety. Those stats were good enough to earn him the honor of being named the 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Sadly though, since that year he has been known more for missing games than making his mark in them. In the next five seasons he would miss a total of 26 games, only finishing 16 games in his rookie season and in 2011.

While the good news seems to be that he made it through 14 games in 2014 (after only 12 combined in 2012 and 2013), the bad news is that he was still dealing with problems associated with his health. A recent report from ProFootballTalk.com mentions how Cushing has had three surgeries this offseason alone.

"In fact, Cushing has already had three surgical procedures this offseason: One to repair a broken right wrist, one arthroscopic procedure on his left ankle and a procedure on the left knee that has plagued him for years."

Still, Cushing managed 72 tackles and one sack while playing with all these nagging problems that he had to have addressed once the season came to an end.

What To Expect This Year:

Usually players don’t get healthier as they get older, but the 14 games played this past season by Cushing was a very positive sign. While I don’t think he will suit up for 16 games, my guess is he plays roughly the same amount of games but shows more of the explosiveness he has had in the past as he begins to trust his knee and ankle once again.

Next: The Highly Touted Rookie