The Houston Texans did not have linebacker Brian Cushing for the week 3 match-up, and could fairly compare the absence to the Patriots missing LB Dont’a Hightower. Cushing doesn’t receive the same attention as his All Pro teammates, but he’s the leader of that defense that gets everyone in the right position.
“Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus are the headliners of this ferocious front seven, but Cush has been the heart and soul of that unit for years,” we spoke with Brett Kollmann of BattleRedBlog.com for the inside scoop. “He makes calls at the line of scrimmage, he keeps everyone's intensity up, and he works closely with Romeo Crennel and Mike Vrabel as ‘their eyes on the field’ to help in adjusting their play calls. His experience and leadership are truly irreplaceable...or at least they will be until Bernardrick McKinney eventually takes over that mantle.”
Cushing has worked his way back from a knee injury and is back to playing at a high level. His absence in week 3 clearly didn’t change the outcome of the game, but it was yet another drop in the bucket that Houston kicked over.
Patriots QB Tom Brady acknowledges that Cushing is the heart of the Texans defense and appreciates his high level of play.
“He plays so hard,” Brady said on Wednesday. “He’s on the field every snap. He’s obviously smart. He’s got all of the instincts. He’s got the experience. He’s got all of the athleticism. He does well in the run game and the pass game, is a very strong tackler. When those plays are running through you as the ‘mike’ linebacker you’ve got to be on top of everything and it looks like everybody can really count on him every time and he’s had a phenomenal season.”
Cushing will group with McKinney and Mercilus to form one of the best linebacker groups the Patriots have seen all season. The Texans missed his leadership in week 3 and his return should impact their defensive performance on Saturday.