The undefeated Houston Texans have their first major impediment of the season. Starting inside linebacker and leading tackler Brian Cushing may have suffered a season-ending torn ACL against the New York Jets, per Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports.
Cushing is a stalwart in the team's run defense, and not having him to fill the gaps or sprint to the edge will hurt. Though Cushing is solid in pass coverage, his biggest and best quality is his run support. He flies to the ball and that has led to 29 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception this season.
J.J. Watt has been such a force this season, stopping him requires tons of attention. This type of presence on the defensive line often funnels ball-carriers into linebackers. The second level of the defense has to be there to make plays. It needs to be able to react quickly and get to the edge on outside runs.
Few do that as well as Cushing, and the Texans don't have a great deal at the position to fill his shoes.
Tim Dobbins is expected to replace Cushing in the lineup, per ESPN, but the falloff in quality is significant. This is Dobbins' seventh season and he's never had more than 57 tackles.
The Texans also have Mister Alexander on the roster. Despite a really cool name, he doesn't figure to offer the Texans enough to make them forget about the absence of their leader.
It may be smart for the team to sign a player, even if it's just for the purpose of adding depth. Cushing leaves a big void to fill in the middle of the Texans defense. While one man may not be capable of getting the job done, perhaps doing it by committee is the way to go.
This is a talented team, and it certainly has the talent on both sides of the ball to be a good team without Cushing. It remains to be seen if it will be great without him.
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