How Can the Houston Texans Defense Recover from Loss of Brian Cushing?

Ryan CookContributor IOctober 21, 2013

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 20:  Inside linebacker Brian Cushing #56 of the Houston Texans is attended to after being injured during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on October 20, 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Tough times don't last, or at least for the Houston Texans they do. 

Sunday was a chance for the Houston Texans to pull off a possible upset against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. Gary Kubiak had his team in the game for most of it, up until Case Keenum threw an incompletion and gave the ball back to Alex Smith to kill the clock. 

It was another loss for the Texans as they slipped to 2-5, but the biggest story of the day was the fate of inside linebacker Brian Cushing. 

It's another lost season for the Texans star defender, and it couldn't have come in a more gruesome way. A spearing block by Jamaal Charles obviously hurt, but the Texans are now feeling the pain in more ways than one. 

Losing a fifth-year player is one thing, but losing him during a losing season full of question and doubt is another. The Texans defense ranks near the top of the league in a number of categories, but now without its signal-caller, holding on to those rankings may be a huge challenge. 

Let the recovery process begin. 

Cushing's likely replacement is linebacker Darryl Sharpton, who hasn't made a start this season but does have 21-tackles next to his name. Sharpton played in seven games last year but never really managed to show why he deserves more game time, and with his last sack coming back in 2010, now is the time for him to bring it. 

But with Cushing out, the Texans lose a lot more than just sack numbers. They lose a run-stuffer and pass-rusher that opposing offenses had to account for in their game plans. Though he had only 1.5 sacks, he had been responsible all year for keeping quarterbacks like Russell Wilson under wraps.

The loss of such a big playmaker only adds to the list of Houston's problems heading into the bye week. Last season, when news broke that Cushing would miss serious time, Houston had a cutthroat offense to fall back on, but this season that's not the case. 

Where the injury now leaves Houston is in a familiar, very dependent place. In 2012 the Texans solid defensive unit fell apart when Cushing tore his ACL, and it eventually lead to the unraveling against New England in the playoffs.

This time around the postseason probably isn't a concern, but with Cushing having one of the Texans three measly interceptions this year, that kind of production is what Houston will need from Sharpton. 

It's a big role to fill for the fourth-year player who has only 11 career starts under his belt. Coming out of Miami, he was noted for his lack of size, and even with missing time because of injury, Sharpton has demonstrated his versatility by playing all three linebacker spots.

Whether or not Sharpton can strike up the same kind of partnership that Cushing had with fellow star defender J.J. Watt is the biggest question, though. The sack numbers weren't enormous to start the year, but the chemistry on the field was. 

On and off the field, Cushing's injury hurts. And after such a horrid start, how much more can go wrong for a team in a single season?