The Houston Texans are going to find themselves in a monumental predicament if Brian Cushing's knee injury turns out to be anything remotely serious. According to the Texans' website, Cushing was held out of today's practice and will receive an MRI on his knee.
Head Coach Gary Kubiak said this when asked if he believed the injury was serious, as per the Texans website:
“No, just his knee got sore on him; and I’m going to err on that side this time of year, so we sent him down for an MRI. He did come out and watch practice, and it gives some other guys a chance to get some reps.”
Kubiak can downplay the injury all he wants, but a sore knee is pretty serious for a linebacker who is just 25 years old. The non-contact injuries are the most concerning, and since there was no report of any collision, it would be safe to say that this is one of those injuries.
Cushing going down wouldn't be as big of an impact if the Texans didn't trade DeMeco Ryans to the Philadelphia Eagles for a 2012 fourth-round draft pick and a third-round pick swap. Why did the Texans make that trade? Was it to ensure that they would have an assortment of no-name linebackers (aside from Cushing) in a 3-4 defense?
Ryans didn't enjoy a career year in 2011, but he finished third on the team in tackles behind Cushing and Glover Quin. He wasn't washed up by any means, and at 27 years old, he still had plenty left in the tank. He was definitely more valuable to the team than Ben Jones, the center that the Texans selected with the fourth-round pick they received.
If Cushing's injury forces him to miss an extended amount of time, the Texans will be left with Brooks Reed, Tim Dobbins, Darryl Sharpton and Connor to protect the middle of the defense. The four of those linebackers had a combined 116 tackles in 2012. Ryans notched 64 tackles last season, more than any of those four players.
You don't just make a snap decision to trade a player who made 519 tackles from 2006-2009. If it wasn't a snap decision, that makes it worse, because the front office actually thought this one out and decided to go through with it.
Sore knees are always a bad sign. This could turn out to be some degenerative knee condition that could send Cushing in a tailspin. His importance to the defense was huge enough before Ryans was sent to Philly, but now that the Texans' front office traded away their only "insurance linebacker," if you will, there could be a gaping hole in the middle of the defense come September.
Take Kubiak's comments with a grain of salt, because you seldom see a coach address the media immediately after an injury and say "yeah, this looks really bad." Hopefully for Houston fans, Cushing's injury isn't serious ,and he can return to the field and help the Texans avoid a catastrophic trade disaster.