Sep 15, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans inside linebacker Brian Cushing (56) celebrates stopping a run on the one-yard line against the Tennessee Titans during the second half at Reliant Stadium. The Texans won 30-24. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Cushing – LB – 2009-Present
Cushing’s career has been somewhat of a rocky one, which is why his talent alone hasn’t vaulted him to a higher spot on this list. He’s only managed to play a full 16 game season twice in his career, and his first two seasons were marred by a positive test for a performance-enhancing substance.
Cushing denies any wrongdoing, and the public seems to believe him, as he was awarded the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award by both the Associated Press and the Pro Football Writer’s Association even after his test results were revealed. This was after a rookie season that saw Cushing accumulate 133 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles.
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In only 70 career games, Cushing has climbed to second on the Texans all-time total tackle list, third on the all-time solo tackle list and all-time forced fumble list, and sixth on the all-time interceptions list. Despite suffering two devastating injuries in his career, Cushing remains one of Houston’s top defenders.
He was named to the Pro-Bowl in 2009, and selected as a 2nd Team All-Pro player in 2011. 2011 Also saw Cushing awarded the Texans Team MVP award, as he helped lead Houston to its first ever playoff appearance and victory.
This offseason Cushing joined Mike Meltser and Seth Payne on Mad Radio, and discussed his recovery from his injuries and how he was feeling:
"“Best in a while, best in a long time,” Cushing said. “Best since probably before my first injury.”"
Hopefully the 2015 season will see Brian Cushing return to 2009-2011 form, back before the torn ACL that has been plaguing him since. If he can manage this, look for Cushing to move his way even farther up this list, all while leading the Texans to new levels of greatness.
Next: Number 3