Cushing Leads Texans D
Houston should manhandle Jags on Sunday
By Barrett Walton, 2:22PM, Fri. Oct. 28, 2011
Many “experts” thought there would be a significant drop off to the Houston Texans defense when Mario Williams was lost for the season in week five. You would regularly hear Williams referred to as “the best player on Houston's defense."
It wasn't true, and hasn't been since 2008, but he's a big guy (6 feet 7 inches, 270 pounds) and he was the first pick in the 2006 draft, so it's easy for folks to think of him that way. I'm not ragging on the guy. I think he's a very good football player. His production rarely matches his ability but often mirrors his effort. He is a top-level player who isn't the best because he simply doesn't try as hard as some players do. There are numerous players on the defensive side of the ball who go all out on every single play. Mario has never been one of them.
Brian Cushing tries harder than any football player who receives a paycheck from Texans owner Bob McNair. Cushing, Houston's first-round pick in 2009, was phenomenal as a rookie in a bad defensive scheme. In 2010 his numbers dropped off and in 2011 he reported to camp 10 pounds lighter than he had as a rookie. Those who believe that Cushing took steroids as a rookie saw his slimmed-down appearance as proof that he was not the same LB that had been simply dominant as a rookie.
Well, as it turns out, whatever is coursing through Brian Cushing's veins isn't an illegal substance. But perhaps it should be. This guy is a monster on Sundays and there isn't a single player on the Texans roster who plays with his level of intensity and voracity. Cushing has been described by Texans defensive coordinator as “violent." The level of ferociousness that he plays the game with is astonishing.
If you happened to record the game on Sunday, I urge you to go back and watch a rather mundane run by Arian Foster with 2:28 left in the third quarter. As Foster is run out of bounds onto the Texans sideline, several Titans players follow him into enemy territory. As soon as the play ends, Cushing can be seen charging to the edge of the sideline with a fierce expression on his face as if he's defending his castle. Rightfully so, this is his team.
The defense that Houston runs is basically designed around Cushing. It's rare to see a player who plays with his intensity. Cushing can be seen making plays all over the field on Sundays and the Texans are lucky to have a player of his level suiting up in Battle Red this weekend.
Houston traveled to Tennessee on Sunday to clash with the Titans or “flaming thumbtacks” (just tacks for short) as I like to refer to them due to their silly insignia.
The rivals were playing for first place in the AFC South. While it's only week 7 and so much can change before the end of the year, it's really a two-team race with Jacksonville and Indianapolis in turmoil.
Houston showed up and whipped the tacks 41-7. The seven points that Tennessee scored were only managed because Houston's safety Danieal Manning went down early in the game with a broken leg. His replacement in three safety sets, sixth round pick Shiloh Keo, is not ready for action and he beaten badly on a corner route in the end zone.
Houston's defense shut down Tennessee completely. The tacks managed only 148 total yards. Titans running back Chris Johnson was held to 18 yards on 10 carries. He was basically covered by Cushing the entire day. Cushing broke down in coverage one time but otherwise, Johnson was a nonfactor.
The Texans offense played with focus and purpose as they ran all over the Titans. Both Arian Foster and backup Ben Tate had more than 100 yards rushing. Foster became the first back in Texans History to rush for 100 yards and also have 100 yards receiving. Coming into the third quarter, the Texans have not played well most of the season but on Sunday they had an impressive drive that ended with Foster scoring a touchdown to put the Texans up 27-0 and basically put the game away right after halftime.
Matt Schaub had one of his most impressive games as a Texans completing 18 of 23 for 296 yards. Keep in mind, he was without the NFL's best receiver and Houston's secret weapon, James Casey. His completion percentage was an impressive 78.3%, topped only by the hottest QB in football, Aaron Rogers, who had a ridiculous 80% completion percentage. More about Green Bay in a later story. You should follow them closely because it's possible Houston will be playing them come February.
Next week Houston returns to Reliant to face the Jacksonville Jaguars who might as well just stay home. While they did pull off a miracle win over Baltimore on Monday, they will be no match for Houston who could possibly get Casey back from a pectoral injury. Andre Johnson won't play this week.
The Texans will probably let off the gas a bit, but if they show up with another performance like they did last week, you might want to start saving some money for a deep playoff run this winter!
My prediction: Houston 34, Jacksonville 10. Next, they'll flatten Cleveland.
[Barrett Walton is the managing editor for Texans Bull Blog. Visit www.texansbullblog.com for news, analysis and commentary.]