Will Brian Cushing ever return to his Rookie of the Year form?
The 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year was awarded to a player who dominated not only all rookies that year, but outperformed established veterans on the defensive side of the ball.
In fact, throughout his rookie campaign, Cushing was a habitual factor for opposing offensives to deal with.
He orchestrated some of the best first year stats in recent memory for a defensive player. Whether it was finishing sixth in the league in tackles (133), forcing four sacks, or leading all linebackers in pass deflections (14) and interceptions (4), Cushing was superior on the gridiron in 2009.
Sadly, the soon to be superstar's celebration of his rookie year was cut short or should we say ended with a disappointing revelation.
It became public knowledge that Cushing tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in September of 2009, with an end result of a four game suspension in 2010.
As in most cases when an athlete is accused of cheating, Cushing denied and stated he never injected any steroids or PED's into his body.
Becoming quite the whale of a story, the Associated Press even called for a re-vote on the DROY and what do you know? He still received the most votes again, retaining his award.
With the suspension in effect for 2010, as we all know by now, Cushing missed the first four games and finished strong in his last 12, accumulating 76 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
When taking the mean of his tackles from 2009, Cushing averaged about 8.3 tackles a game.
With a small dive in 2010, he checked out with 6.3 tackles per game.
However, his decrease of tackles should be taken lightly, because in 2009, Cushing had six double digit tackle games to his one in 2010. If he wasn't suspended he could've ended up with four or five games in the double digit category this past season.
So, if the above scenario did happen, Cushing would've finished with at least 113 tackles—resulting in only 20 less from his rookie season.
Although that's still a decrease from the prior year, it would still give the young outside backer two consecutive seasons of over 100 tackles and nobody would be complaining about the marginal difference.
It seems reasonable that the missed time explains Cushing's so-called decline more than anything else. If that's the case, all signs point to a return to Pro-Bowl form in 2011.