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Old 06-05-2011   #1
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Default Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

Cushing primed for playmaking role at inside linebacker
By Nick Scurfield


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For all the talk about Mario Williams this offseason, another key Texans defensive player who’s switching positions seems to be getting overlooked.

His name is Brian Cushing.

The 2009 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year will be the Mike linebacker, inside on the strongside, in the Texans’ 3-4. Linebackers coach Reggie Herring said he thinks that Cushing (6-3, 263) has an “unlimited” ceiling at the position.

“I’ve always dreamed of a Mike linebacker with his stature, his physical stature,” Herring said. “His demeanor is second to none as far as the way he plays on film. He tries to hurt people when he tackles. He’s relentless in his effort. He’s a big, physical guy. He’s going to line up to the tight end side and alls he’s got to come do is run inside-out to the football and control that inside hard-nose run game, and I think he’s a physical matchup for any guard or fullback leading on him.

“If you have instincts and you’re a football player, you can play inside linebacker in our scheme. And that’s what he has. He has instincts, he has size, he can run and hit. And we hopefully now instead of having him outside, we’ll have him inside where he can be in position to make more plays.”

Cushing was a 4-3 outside linebacker in his first two NFL seasons. Playing on the strongside, he led the Texans with 133 tackles as a rookie along with four interceptions and four sacks. He had 76 tackles last season after missing the first four games due to suspension.

The Texans think he’ll be just as productive, if not more, from inside in the 3-4.

“That’s part of putting him in the middle is so he can make a lot of plays,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “You’ve got a chance to make over 100 tackles from the inside, and with his abilities, we think he can be able to make that. When you put a guy on the side, one side or the other, then they can run away from him. If he’s in the middle, can’t run away from him.”

Phillips likes Cushing’s aggressive demeanor, and he isn’t concerned about a perceived drop-off in Cushing’s play last season.

“I saw the same things in him last year that I saw in his rookie year, which were he is talented, he can run, he’s tough, very physical, he’s athletic,” Phillips said. “All the things you want.”

Cushing will line up next to DeMeco Ryans, who’s moving from the Mike position in the 4-3 to the Mo weak inside position in the 3-4. Ryans and Cushing thrived off one another’s play in 2009, when both made the Pro Bowl and finished as the Texans’ two leading tacklers. They played together for only one-and-a-half games in 2010 before Ryans suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 6.

“The unique part about a 3-4 is you’ve got two guys inside that can make a lot of plays, so it gives you a chance to get a playmaker in a spot where he can make plays,” Phillips said.

Herring is quick to point out that Bradie James led the Dallas Cowboys in tackles in each of the last four seasons from Cushing’s Mike position, and that he led all NFL inside linebackers with eight sacks in 2008.

“We’re going to be bringing him up a lot inside on blitzes,” Herring said of Cushing. “DeMeco as well. Both of them ought to be battling for the leading tackler on the team and the league, and that’s going to be our mentality.

“We feel like (Cushing) rushes the passer actually more effectively, better, up inside with his power and burst and explosion. (He) can present more problems with pass rushing inside.”

Phillips said that Cushing will be doing plenty of that from his new position.

“Oh, yeah,” Phillips said. “(Herring) probably told you, Bradie James had eight sacks one year from the inside. But I just think he’s going to be able to make so many more plays and interceptions and things like that. Putting him in the middle is a key place for him.”
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Old 06-05-2011   #2
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Default Re: Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

I think Cushing is toast.

His rookie year was fueled by roids, IMO, and someone sue me for that allegation (I could give a rat's ass). In his second year, he didn't look nor play like the rookie year Brian Cushing played...and that, IMO, is because he had been fueled by roids.

He looks timid. He doesn't have the anger and rage and malice toward his opponent. He looks, well...he looks "pedestrian" to me.

I think Mario has a better chance in 2011 than Cushing. I worry that Cushing is going to get stonewalled in the middle and get nowhere; subjected to occupying blockers and never near the action.

I hope I'm wrong, but I'm just being a realist here.
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Old 06-05-2011   #3
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Default Re: Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

I think this article is largely based on the 2009 Cushing and not 2010 when he had a drop off in play but I am not down on him just yet. This year will be his to shine or not.
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Old 06-05-2011   #4
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Default Re: Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

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I think this article is largely based on the 2009 Cushing and not 2010 when he had a drop off in play but I am not down on him just yet. This year will be his to shine or not.
Agrred

After missing 4 games it took awhile for Cushing to get back in the swing of things. Then Ryans got hurt, that didn't help. Cushing did seem to be coming around at the end of the season. Tacks/Jags
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Old 06-05-2011   #5
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Default Re: Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

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Agrred

After missing 4 games it took awhile for Cushing to get back in the swing of things. Then Ryans got hurt, that didn't help. Cushing did seem to be coming around at the end of the season. Tacks/Jags
Plus he needs some help back there too.
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Old 06-05-2011   #6
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Default Re: Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

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Originally Posted by GP View Post
I think Cushing is toast.

His rookie year was fueled by roids, IMO, and someone sue me for that allegation (I could give a rat's ass). In his second year, he didn't look nor play like the rookie year Brian Cushing played...and that, IMO, is because he had been fueled by roids.

He looks timid. He doesn't have the anger and rage and malice toward his opponent. He looks, well...he looks "pedestrian" to me.

I think Mario has a better chance in 2011 than Cushing. I worry that Cushing is going to get stonewalled in the middle and get nowhere; subjected to occupying blockers and never near the action.

I hope I'm wrong, but I'm just being a realist here.
You deduced all this from the partial year he played split between two different positions?
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Old 06-05-2011   #7
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Default Re: Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

I really think that we can not judge last year too much for Cushing. Everyone looks rusty when coming back after 4 games. Then as soon as he came back, they shifted him over to cover for Ryans, and then moved him back a few games later when he did not settle in as quick as they wanted.

On top of all of this, add in that the secondary stopped tackling people and he did not have Ryans beside him to cover him if he got over aggressive and missed, and to me that explains a lot of the timidness and hesitation to hit so hard.

It is also said that production dips the 2nd season in the league, and then should rise some again this season. I am not saying I believe he will be 100% of what he was his rookie year, but I do believe that with Wade's scheme (which is a bit simpler on him, allowing him to be aggressive) and help behind him, we will see Cushing closer to what we expect than what we saw last year.
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Old 06-05-2011   #8
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Default Re: Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

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I really think that we can not judge last year too much for Cushing. Everyone looks rusty when coming back after 4 games. Then as soon as he came back, they shifted him over to cover for Ryans, and then moved him back a few games later when he did not settle in as quick as they wanted.

On top of all of this, add in that the secondary stopped tackling people and he did not have Ryans beside him to cover him if he got over aggressive and missed, and to me that explains a lot of the timidness and hesitation to hit so hard.

It is also said that production dips the 2nd season in the league, and then should rise some again this season. I am not saying I believe he will be 100% of what he was his rookie year, but I do believe that with Wade's scheme (which is a bit simpler on him, allowing him to be aggressive) and help behind him, we will see Cushing closer to what we expect than what we saw last year.
OK I'll buy that, but if Cushing has a second straight disappointing season you have to promise not to blame it on his conversion to the 3-4 ?
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Old 06-05-2011   #9
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Default Re: Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

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OK I'll buy that, but if Cushing has a second straight disappointing season you have to promise not to blame it on his conversion to the 3-4 ? disappointing seasonCushings first year in the 3-4
I can agree to this as long as 2 stipulations are met:

1) the lockout does not destroy the majority of the season

2) We give him the full season and do not start judging him 3 games in - even if he starts slow, I am willing to look past that if by the back half the season we are seeing some improvement
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Old 06-05-2011   #10
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Default Re: Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

This is the make or break year for him. If he returns to his rookie season form, then I'll believe hes the real deal. If he struggles, even with the new defense being installed, then I'll believe it was the roids. I'm not ready to give up on him yet though.
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Old 06-05-2011   #11
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Default Re: Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

Is it football season yet?
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Old 06-05-2011   #12
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Default Re: Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

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You deduced all this from the partial year he played split between two different positions?
In theory, he came back more rested than any of the other 32 teams' players who had been playing for four straight weeks while Cushing was NOT. He had been training very heavily all off-season AND the weeks leading up to his re-entry into the 2010 season at Week 5, so this idea of him not benefitting from a four-game absence is not valid to me.

Neither do I accept the theory that the injury to Ryans is a factor in Cushing's slump. Ryans is a guy whom I am on record here as saying that he (Ryans) has not been as big of a LB factor for us as he was in his rookie season, too.

The last factor mentioned is the switch of positions for Cushing. This, to me, is the only factor that I think is a possible reason for a slump.

Look, Brian Cushing played a 12-game season. And a guy on here was saying he looked better towards the END of Cushing's 12-game season? I don't buy it. He should have come out with guns blazing, IMO. Maybe it was the position change, maybe not.

I think Brian Cushing is mortal. I think there was a way he made himself think he wasn't mortal, but it was taken away. And I think roids can alter your psyche and transform more than just muscle/strength.

To me, he is night and day different than the rookie year. Maybe he just was down on himself those 12 games he played in 2010? I don't know. He didn't look the same. We all can admit to that.
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Old 06-05-2011   #13
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Default Re: Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

Cushing doesn't seem to play well when he has to think instead of read and react. Playing him at MLB last season proved that. I'm not counting on a big season from him this year due to changing schemes/position. 2012 should be a monster year for him once he has a full season and offseason at his new position.
I wonder how many players got the playbook during the 10 hrs or so the lockout was lifted?
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Old 06-05-2011   #14
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Default Re: Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

I have to go with GP on this one.
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Old 06-05-2011   #15
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Default Re: Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

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I have to go with GP on this one.
Yeah, sometimes we have to be realistic instead of hopeful.

At some point, you know what you've got (by having watched plenty of games) and I didn't come away hopeful after watching a hesitant and often-times invisible Brian Cushing in 2010.

The attitude was gone. No fire in the belly. No flexing on his downed opponent after a big hit (because often times there WASN'T a big hit from Cushing), etc., etc. There was an easily noticed drop-off in the sophomore season.
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Old 06-05-2011   #16
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Default Re: Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

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Cushing doesn't seem to play well when he has to think instead of read and react. Playing him at MLB last season proved that. I'm not counting on a big season from him this year due to changing schemes/position. 2012 should be a monster year for him once he has a full season and offseason at his new position.
I wonder how many players got the playbook during the 10 hrs or so the lockout was lifted?
All it takes is 1. They say that once the lockout was reinstated, the front office can't talk to the players, but nobody can stop the players from sharing the playbook among themselves.
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Old 06-05-2011   #17
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Default Re: Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

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Yeah, sometimes we have to be realistic instead of hopeful.

At some point, you know what you've got (by having watched plenty of games) and I didn't come away hopeful after watching a hesitant and often-times invisible Brian Cushing in 2010.

The attitude was gone. No fire in the belly. No flexing on his downed opponent after a big hit (because often times there WASN'T a big hit from Cushing), etc., etc. There was an easily noticed drop-off in the sophomore season.
Here's the thing though, Cushing has been a very productive player for more then half of his career. I don't really think its realistic to assume that smaller sample is the real Cushing. Obviously we can't assume he'll be back to as good as his rookie season either. So, for now, I'm basically just not going to assume anything. Hopefully the attitude returns under Wade Phillips and the new look D.
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Old 06-06-2011   #18
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Default Re: Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

A positive, lets entice season ticket holder PR move, to keep a skeptical fan base interested.
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Old 06-06-2011   #19
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Default Re: Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

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A positive, lets entice season ticket holder PR move, to keep a skeptical fan base interested.
Not to mention, great way to speak to Cushing without speaking to him.
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Old 06-06-2011   #20
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Default Re: Scurfield: Cushing will thrive in the 3-4

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Here's the thing though, Cushing has been a very productive player for more then half of his career. I don't really think its realistic to assume that smaller sample is the real Cushing.
Cushing did not have a fast start his rookie year either. His game didnt really start to crank up untill the halway point. Last year he missed the first 4 games, lost his wing man meco, and got bounced around to mike backer. He never had a chance to get in synch.

He plays his best when he dosent have to think. Let him play on instincts.

As far as him playing inside backer on the strong side in a 3-4...I think of that position as the defenses full back. He'll make the play or clear the way for Ryans.
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