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Houston Texans 2017 2nd round pick, Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

kiwitexansfan

Hall of Fame
Sounds like he's been picked to play outside in the base defense, however I expect he'll play a ton of Nickel and Dime.
 

Corrosion

Idealist
Staff member
Cunningham was my favorite defensive player in this entire draft .... Absolutely shocked that he fell to 57.

Didn't get home until after the pick was made after spending the day at the doctor .... saw it on the ticker and damn near freaked out , WHAT!?! Cunningham at 2:57 WTF , I'd forgotten that he wasn't picked in the first ... dude was projected by many as a top 10 talent and almost certainly a first rounder .... WOOHOO.

He absolutely carried that Vandy defense and best of all , he can cover backs & TE's .... something none of our other LBers have been able to do in recent (and not so recent) memory.


Cant believe it .... Still need an OT but damn , I couldn't have passed on Cunningham at that point in the draft after getting a QB in R1.
 

Bulls on Parade

2017 Astros: Earn It!
Zach Cunningham also blocked some field goals at Vandy.
Besides being a tackling machine and the best LB in his conference.


So our special teams just became a whole lot better as well.
 

Carr Bombed

Hall of Fame
Thank God they didn't add a rule against doing that :)
Yeah they mentioned that on the radio broadcast after we drafted him.. sucks they changed the rule. Remember all those great plays by Troy Polamalu? His timing was incredible.. would clear the damn line and tackle the QB for a sack lol.
 
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TheMatrix31

Hall of Fame
Love the tackle machines. By all accounts that's what this dude seems to be and I'm really happy about it. Hope it pans out. We need pre-injury Cushing/Ryans-type stuff. Dudes who are drawn to every play. Sick of getting burned in space, sick of getting abused by assholes over the middle.
 

Texansballer74

Hall of Fame
Our defense continues to get better. Just a few months ago a lot members we're tripping we let Simon go. Well good people we just upgraded tremendously. This youngster is a tackling machine. He can play both the ILB and OLB. He can cover both the TE'S and RB'S. Coach Vrabel is going to love this youngster.

Great job Rick
 

Texansballer74

Hall of Fame
Our defense continues to get better. Just a few months ago a lot members we're tripping we let Simon go. Well good people we just upgraded tremendously. This youngster is a tackling machine. He can play both the ILB and OLB. He can cover both the TE'S and RB'S. Coach Vrabel is going to love this youngster.

Great job Rick
 

TheRealJoker

Hall of Fame
I still can't believe his arms are longer than JJ Watt's! OL are going to have a tough time getting into his pads allowing him to meet them at the LOS and make a play!
 

beerlover

Hall of Fame
Ironic that Cushing announced Foreman pick after knowing Cunningham (air'e apparent) was selected pick before, lol

Moves outside (OLB)?
 

WolverineFan

Hall of Fame
Ironic that Cushing announced Foreman pick after knowing Cunningham (air'e apparent) was selected pick before, lol

Moves outside (OLB)?
From what people are saying it sounds like Cunningham will play outside.

I'm not sure how to feel about that as he needs to get stronger and moving him closer to the line only exacerbates that weakness. However, I don't think Cushing can play outside. His lateral mobility is completely sapped at this point. He's a downhill guy exclusively now.
 

zshawn10

All Pro
He was consistently mocked in the first to a number of teams. I think cbssports had him in the 20's for their ranking of prospects.
 

beerlover

Hall of Fame
From what people are saying it sounds like Cunningham will play outside.

I'm not sure how to feel about that as he needs to get stronger and moving him closer to the line only exacerbates that weakness. However, I don't think Cushing can play outside. His lateral mobility is completely sapped at this point. He's a downhill guy exclusively now.
He was graded by some as best MIKE LB in this class. Wonder if that was function of 4-3 and not a 3-4?
 

Lucky

Moderator
Staff member
From what people are saying it sounds like Cunningham will play outside.
I think Jamie Collins started off outside before he learned then defense and kicked inside. Eventually, I think Vrabel sees Cunningham in that Jamie Collins type role.
 

TheRealJoker

Hall of Fame
I think Cushing could prolong his career at Sam. His lateral ability is actually exposed more inside trying to cover the hashes. Let him set the edge on run downs and take him off the field in passing situations with occasional blitzes sprinkled in to keep the offense guessing.

Would be an upgrade over Simon.
 

IDEXAN

Hall of Fame
Contributor's Club
Cunningham was my favorite defensive player in this entire draft .... Absolutely shocked that he fell to 57.

Didn't get home until after the pick was made after spending the day at the doctor .... saw it on the ticker and damn near freaked out , WHAT!?! Cunningham at 2:57 WTF , I'd forgotten that he wasn't picked in the first ... dude was projected by many as a top 10 talent and almost certainly a first rounder .... WOOHOO.

He absolutely carried that Vandy defense and best of all , he can cover backs & TE's .... something none of our other LBers have been able to do in recent (and not so recent) memory.


Cant believe it .... Still need an OT but damn , I couldn't have passed on Cunningham at that point in the draft after getting a QB in R1.
That's great to hear ! I've been reading about him since we drafted him yesterday and saw where one guy compared him to a young Derrick Johnson back in the day at UT and
that's certainly high praise.
Why are you such a fan Corrosion, you watch a lot of Vandy football ? I added a story in the Draft section about Cunningham & Foster and how their careers paralleled, you might want to check it out.
 

IDEXAN

Hall of Fame
Contributor's Club
I think Cushing could prolong his career at Sam. His lateral ability is actually exposed more inside trying to cover the hashes. Let him set the edge on run downs and take him off the field in passing situations with occasional blitzes sprinkled in to keep the offense guessing.

Would be an upgrade over Simon.
I dunno, does this pick of Cunningham mean Cushing could face having his contract modified/reduced or being released ?
 

TheRealJoker

Hall of Fame
I dunno, does this pick of Cunningham mean Cushing could face having his contract modified/reduced or being released ?
He's definitely a candidate for restructure. But we've got the cap space to handle his contract this offseason. No need to cut him to save $ when we can still make use of him.
 

leebigeztx

Keep it Movin!
I think Cushing could prolong his career at Sam. His lateral ability is actually exposed more inside trying to cover the hashes. Let him set the edge on run downs and take him off the field in passing situations with occasional blitzes sprinkled in to keep the offense guessing.

Would be an upgrade over Simon.
Now see, here is a poster that knows football. You don't have to be as rangy playing a side Vs the middle. I agree with this.
 

WolverineFan

Hall of Fame
I think Jamie Collins started off outside before he learned then defense and kicked inside. Eventually, I think Vrabel sees Cunningham in that Jamie Collins type role.
Collins was a natural edge player though who they taught to play ILB. Cunningham is the opposite.
 

xtruroyaltyx

Hall of Fame
I think Cushing could prolong his career at Sam. His lateral ability is actually exposed more inside trying to cover the hashes. Let him set the edge on run downs and take him off the field in passing situations with occasional blitzes sprinkled in to keep the offense guessing.

Would be an upgrade over Simon.

Exactly.

I have been talking about Cushing on the outside for a few years now. I even mentioned it to Ted Johnson last year and he thought it was a great idea and could help prolong his career.

ILB's in the 34 have to be able to move in space better and have to cover a lot more ground.

Move him outside and the field shrinks a little more for him plus he would get to play downhill a lot more.
 

WolverineFan

Hall of Fame
I wonder if Vandy cuts much slack for it's players school wise ? You have to be smart to get in .
Vanderbilt, Stanford, and Northwestern are the 3 schools who do not cut slack for their players. A lot of schools are tough to get into like Duke, Texas, Michigan, etc. but once you get admitted you are more of an athlete than an academic. Not the case at those schools I listed.
 

IDEXAN

Hall of Fame
Contributor's Club
I wonder if Vandy cuts much slack for it's players school wise ? You have to be smart to get in .
He majored in Economics which is not an easy or frivolous undertaking so sounds like the kid was a serious college student interested in a real education.
 

Corrosion

Idealist
Staff member
That's great to hear ! I've been reading about him since we drafted him yesterday and saw where one guy compared him to a young Derrick Johnson back in the day at UT and
that's certainly high praise.
Why are you such a fan Corrosion, you watch a lot of Vandy football ? I added a story in the Draft section about Cunningham & Foster and how their careers paralleled, you might want to check it out.

Just from watching a LOT of tape on all these prospects over the past year. Dude can wreck a game plan ....
 

Say Watt

Hall of Fame
The more I read about this guy, the more excited I become. It sounds like we got the almost perfect LB given our needs at safety. Having a guy like Cunningham with his range is going to help out the safeties as less responsibility in run defense falls on their shoulders, and they can focus more on coverage. And even though he has no INTs, it sounds like Cunningham is quite skilled in covering RBs and TEs, something the Texans have notoriously struggled to defend.

I love this because now we don't have to force a pick at safety. We were able to jump on that Thunder to Lamar Miller's Lightning in the 3rd, instead of feeling pressured to take that safety. Excellent pick!
 

CloakNNNdagger

Hall of Fame
From what people are saying it sounds like Cunningham will play outside.

I'm not sure how to feel about that as he needs to get stronger and moving him closer to the line only exacerbates that weakness. However, I don't think Cushing can play outside. His lateral mobility is completely sapped at this point. He's a downhill guy exclusively now.
Cunningham has been very well known for his tackle numbers. But as you pointed out, he needs to gain much more strength to play ILB in the NFL, as he is also very well known for his missed tackle numbers.
 

bah007

Hall of Fame
The missed tackle thing is starting to get silly at this point. I mean, yeah he missed 21 this year. That's too many. He still made 125.

Funny that Reuben Foster missed 16 and made 115. A tackle percentage better by about 1%. But nobody puts that in his scouting reports. He is talked about like he's a lock to be the next Patrick Willis and Cunningham is somehow a liability in the open field.
 

Hoptimus Prime

Waterboy
The missed tackle thing is starting to get silly at this point. I mean, yeah he missed 21 this year. That's too many. He still made 125.

Funny that Reuben Foster missed 16 and made 115. A tackle percentage better by about 1%. But nobody puts that in his scouting reports. He is talked about like he's a lock to be the next Patrick Willis and Cunningham is somehow a liability in the open field.
Yep. It's completely ridiculous. I think we got ourselves a monster in all honesty. That front 7 is gonna be insane.
 

ghostlight

Veteran
I have ben tracking him early from the all knowing gurues and agree that he is a major addition to our defense. I'm much happy we got him
 

badboy

Hall of Fame
I think Cushing could prolong his career at Sam. His lateral ability is actually exposed more inside trying to cover the hashes. Let him set the edge on run downs and take him off the field in passing situations with occasional blitzes sprinkled in to keep the offense guessing.

Would be an upgrade over Simon.
IMO, Cush has at best one more season as his cap cost to savings ratio puts too much pressure on in 2018 at $9.7 to $8.5 m savings. Also he will be staring at 32 YOA when 2018 season begins.

edit: also don't be shocked if Zach gets some time at OLB. I had Foster as best ILB but as an LB who could play both Zach #1.

Texans pick Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham in second round
By Aaron Wilson


Updated 1:20 am, Saturday, April 29, 2017


The telephone call from the Texans hit Zach Cunningham's cell phone Friday night with all of the surprise factor of an unanticipated trick play. Only this was a welcome surprise.

The All-American inside linebacker had no idea the Texans would draft him in the second round, acknowledging later he had no clue the defending AFC South champions were interested in adding him as a reinforcement for their top-ranked defense.


An athletic tackling machine at Vanderbilt who piled up 295 career tackles, including 39½ tackles for losses, six sacks, seven forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries in three seasons, Cunningham had little contact with the Texans before they selected him 57th overall. He didn't visit them or have a private workout, so he was practically stunned to join the Texans.


"This is a huge surprise to me," Cunningham said. "I'm definitely excited. I'm at a loss for words. To be picked by the Texans definitely caught me off-guard. I wasn't expecting that, so I'm feeling kind of overwhelmed. I'm definitely excited and feeling apprehensive and ready to get to work."

Where Cunningham fits in with the Texans initially is as a versatile depth addition at inside linebacker who can be groomed behind veteran starter Brian Cushing. Cunningham is expected to contribute on defense and special teams and eventually emerge as a tandem with second-team All-Pro inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney.

Photo: Mark Humphrey, Associated Press
IMAGE3OF4
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 19: Zach Cunningham #41 of the Vanderbilt Commodores plays against the Ole Miss Rebels at Vanderbilt Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

IMAGE 1 OF 4
The Texans selected Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham with the 57th overall pick in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

"Zach is athletic and rangy with cover skills," Texans general manager Rick Smith said. "Very productive in a big conference, a good character guy and highly decorated."


Texans coach Bill O'Brien said he could see Cunningham lining up at either inside linebacker or outside linebacker. Cunningham led the Southeastern Conference with 125 tackles last season.

"He's a versatile guy who can do both," O'Brien said. "Versatility is key for us. Zach was a very productive tackler at Vanderbilt. He can help us in a number of different ways. Starting out, I know he can help us on special teams.


"He can play in our base defense. He can play on third down. He's a versatile player and a tough kid. He's got to get bigger and stronger. He's a rangy guy that's athletic."

In terms of playing style, Cunningham has drawn comparisons to Los Angeles Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree.
ww.chron.com/sports/texans/article/Texans-pick-Vanderbilt-linebacker-Zach-Cunningham-11107972.php
 
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xtruroyaltyx

Hall of Fame
Nice on that Georgia film.

No doubt this defensive staff will get the best out of him. They know what they're doing over there.
 

Corrosion

Idealist
Staff member
Nice on that Georgia film.

No doubt this defensive staff will get the best out of him. They know what they're doing over there.
Like I said earlier in the thread , this dude was my favorite defensive player in the entire draft. He has sideline to sideline ability from the middle.
He'll probably be the guy on the field in passing situations because he can cover very well , both backs and TE's , something this Texans defense has lacked for a long time. Teams wont have a mismatch situation they can exploit with him in coverage.
 

honored82

Waterboy
I think Cushing could prolong his career at Sam. His lateral ability is actually exposed more inside trying to cover the hashes. Let him set the edge on run downs and take him off the field in passing situations with occasional blitzes sprinkled in to keep the offense guessing.

Would be an upgrade over Simon.
is this what you meant..... moving Cush to the outside to replace John Simon ?

http://texanswire.usatoday.com/2017/04/30/what-does-future-hold-for-brian-cushing-in-houston/
 

Carr Bombed

Hall of Fame
Cunningham has been very well known for his tackle numbers. But as you pointed out, he needs to gain much more strength to play ILB in the NFL, as he is also very well known for his missed tackle numbers.
The missed tackle thing is starting to get silly at this point. I mean, yeah he missed 21 this year. That's too many. He still made 125.

Funny that Reuben Foster missed 16 and made 115. A tackle percentage better by about 1%. But nobody puts that in his scouting reports. He is talked about like he's a lock to be the next Patrick Willis and Cunningham is somehow a liability in the open field.
Wouldn't worry about the missed tackles too much.. his athletic ability allowed him to get to the play and his reach allowed him to get his hands on a offensive player from behind leaving him the ability to reach and grab.. when they pull away.. "missed tackle", which isn't really fair. His tackling form is fine..player's aren't breaking his tackling when he's squared off against a offensive player He just needs edge containment.. here's a video of what I'm talking about.


I'd still like to add about 10-15+ pounds to that frame though.. and sometimes he does tackle too high, but I'm sure Vrabel will take care of that..easily fixable.
 
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76Texan

Hall of Fame
Exactly.

I have been talking about Cushing on the outside for a few years now. I even mentioned it to Ted Johnson last year and he thought it was a great idea and could help prolong his career.

ILB's in the 34 have to be able to move in space better and have to cover a lot more ground.

Move him outside and the field shrinks a little more for him plus he would get to play downhill a lot more.
Cushing did play outside a fair bit one year.
Exactly.

I have been talking about Cushing on the outside for a few years now. I even mentioned it to Ted Johnson last year and he thought it was a great idea and could help prolong his career.

ILB's in the 34 have to be able to move in space better and have to cover a lot more ground.

Move him outside and the field shrinks a little more for him plus he would get to play downhill a lot more.
Cushing had played a fair bit on the outside for the Texans before.
I remember discussing his play that year on the old TT board.

In fact, he played a lot on the outside for the Trojans, too.
(I remember watching a lot of his game films, along with Clay Matthews')

His scouting report reads like so:

"The unquestioned leader of one of the premier defenses in college football, Cushing is also regarded as one of the finest strong-side outside linebackers in the game. Whether it is blitzing the quarterback, chasing down running backs or dropping back in pass coverage, the chiseled athlete has excelled at whatever task the coaches ask from him.

His steady performances each week brought back memories of former Trojans standout linebacker Duane Bickett, who went on to star in the NFL for Indianapolis (1985-93), Seattle (1994-95) and Carolina (1996) after being selected in the first round of the 1985 NFL Draft by the Colts."
 

xtruroyaltyx

Hall of Fame
Cushing did play outside a fair bit one year.

Cushing had played a fair bit on the outside for the Texans before.
I remember discussing his play that year on the old TT board.

In fact, he played a lot on the outside for the Trojans, too.
(I remember watching a lot of his game films, along with Clay Matthews')

His scouting report reads like so:

"The unquestioned leader of one of the premier defenses in college football, Cushing is also regarded as one of the finest strong-side outside linebackers in the game. Whether it is blitzing the quarterback, chasing down running backs or dropping back in pass coverage, the chiseled athlete has excelled at whatever task the coaches ask from him.

His steady performances each week brought back memories of former Trojans standout linebacker Duane Bickett, who went on to star in the NFL for Indianapolis (1985-93), Seattle (1994-95) and Carolina (1996) after being selected in the first round of the 1985 NFL Draft by the Colts."
Oh yeah I recall very well. Cushing played outside in college. Mauluga was the Mike. Cushing was used as an edge rusher quite a bit in college.

Cushing was drafted as an olb for us. He won rookie of the year twice. The next year when Demeco got hurt And Cushing came back from suspension they moved him to the middle and people bitched about that. He didn't have the same impact he'd been having at the position. Wade came moved him to Mike.

But Cushing isn't foreign to the edge as you have also pointed out.
 

JB

Old Curmudgeon
Contributor's Club
Oh yeah I recall very well. Cushing played outside in college. Mauluga was the Mike. Cushing was used as an edge rusher quite a bit in college.

Cushing was drafted as an olb for us. He won rookie of the year twice. The next year when Demeco got hurt And Cushing came back from suspension they moved him to the middle and people bitched about that. He didn't have the same impact he'd been having at the position. Wade came moved him to Mike.

But Cushing isn't foreign to the edge as you have also pointed out.
He also isn't the athlete that he was
 


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