Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

09 Oct 2012

Brian Cushing Done For Season with Torn ACL

The Texans have lost middle linebacker Brian Cushing for the year with a torn ACL. As their only interior defender of any value, as well as the only linebacker on the roster that plays on dime downs, this is a huge blow for the defense. Bradie James will be counted on to take over the dime looks, and Tim Dobbins will take over when Houston needs two linebackers.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 09 Oct 2012

23 comments, Last at 12 Oct 2012, 12:18pm by Revenge of the NURBS


by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 4:48pm

Reed and/or Barwin don't play on Dime downs for them? Or did you mean only ILB?

by ben brackett (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 8:12am

reed/barwin play DE in the dime package

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:44pm

OK. It was just weird wording. In dime the Texans play a 4-1-6 then, with the two OLBs as DEs, so wouldn't it be obvious that Cushing would be the only LB?

by Jim W. (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 4:52pm

Ouch. Surely Houston has a better option than James for their dime package though. I'll always like Bradie personally, as a Dallas fan, but he can't cover or blitz effectively at all. Unless he found a youth spring in Houston or something.

by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 4:56pm

The texans are reasonably strong enough and have enough overall depth that they can go the way of the giants a la last year- dime with 1lb and try to compensate with a big nickle of three safeties.

by DevilFan (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 5:09pm

Texans were likely already doing this. They literally have no inside linebackers on the roster with any value other than Cushing. This is the thinnest position we had on the roster. Cushing was one of a few players on defense including Watt and Joseph that we could not lose.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:33pm

I would imagine that if Reed or Barwin played in dime they would do so at the DE position, with the 3-4 DE's kicking inside to 3-technique or something like that. On the other hand, maybe (unlike most teams) the Texans keep to a 3-man line in nickel.

I don't recall them having a bunch of extra safeties they were dying to get on the field. Cushing really was the last person they could lose apart from a superstar like Watt.

by jonnyblazin :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:05pm

I'm sure he can take some roids and come back strong next year.

by vpeleshak :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:22pm

Great post! Would read again! Thanks for adding to the conversation. A++ :\

by jonnyblazin :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 9:09pm

Sorry I'll try again. 2 out of the last 8 steroid suspensions in the league have come from the Texans. This coincides with when they turned from one of the league's worst defenses to one of the best.

by vpeleshak :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 11:06am

The other suspended player was a rookie punter, who's no longer on the roster. I'm sure he's the reason for the defense's success.

Cushing was suspended for failing a test in his rookie year, when the Texans D was one of the worst in the league.

Obviously, two of their players failed tests in the last two years, I'm just not sure that it's enough data to start a conspiracy theory.

by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 1:25pm

Fine, only 2 players, EXCEPT one of them happened to be Brian Cushing. That makes the original comment fair.

by Gray_Jay (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 3:03pm

Does Barrett Ruud have anything left in the tank? (Given the Texans just signed him.) Even when relevant, was he a capable ILB, or is he pretty much the same as James at this point?

by Zack :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 10:56am

Surprised that there isn't more outrage at the play. In my opinion, that was a dirty hit by Matt Slauson, and a far more dangerous action to a football career than a helmet-to-helmet shot.

by Exystence :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 12:28pm

I totally agree with you, but the NFL is reviewing the play and I've seen a fair bit of outcry about the play on the internet at least. What's troubling though is that the exact same thing happened on the play where Kenrick Ellis got injured in that same game and it hasn't gotten any attention at all: http://youtu.be/2UkizvSfCxA

by Zack :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 1:57pm

That was a brutal hit on Ellis, but it has to be said that it was a necessary block to be made on the play, unlike Cushing who wasn't involved when cut down.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 2:38pm

In spirit, I agree with the notion that players who aren't involved in a play shouldn't be subjected to brutal hits. Warren Sapp's hit on Chad Clifton several years ago comes to mind.

The problem is, how do you officiate that? Where's the line between involved and not involved in a play? Is it a radius of X yards around the ball, or some intent on the part of the player (which we can never truly know)? How many times have we seen a guy who started out 40 yards away from the ball end up making a tackle? In fact, I distinctly remember one of the announcers gushing earlier in the game about how Cushing never gives up on a play. So, it becomes an indefinable standard. The only way to take the subjectivity out of it is to say if you're on the field, you're involved in the play. None of this is a judgment either way about Cushing's specific circumstance; just a general observation.

FWIW, I personally don't expect any major punishment for Slauson. Maybe a fine, or even nothing at all.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 4:49pm

For an example of the unintended consequences of trying to write such rules see the the Steelers vs. Eagles preseason this year. The NFL has a rule against blocking QBs after interceptions if they aren't involved in the play. Vick throws a long interception to Polamalu, so what does he do? He mills around doing nothing for a bit so he's not part of the play, then since he can't be legally blocked he comes screaming down the field on the tackle.

I think there is a solution, though. You don't want to be in the play anymore? Sit down. Just completely sit down and do nothing. Getting up before the play ends is a personal foul. Reaching out to block or moving to impede a run is a personal foul. If you gain an obvious unfair advantage by getting up and involving yourself that a palpably unfair act just like you'd come from the sidelines.

by Andrew Potter :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 6:41pm

I think there is a solution, though. You don't want to be in the play anymore? Sit down. Just completely sit down and do nothing.

We could call it the Albert Haynesworth rule.

by Zack :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 12:22am

I never said that Slauson's actions should literally be against the rules, because you're right, it's a far too subjective scenario and if it were, at one point would undoubtedly screw over a team making a necessary block. All I said is that it was a dirty play. A play can be dirty and be within the letter of the law.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 10:34am

But if the involved/uninvolved distinction is to be ignored, then what makes it dirty? Going low? People block low all the time. I guess I'm getting hung up on your use of the term "necessary block".

by Zack :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 11:19am

Again, my issue is not with the play being against the rules, I just personally feel that it was extremely unwarranted to dive at someone's knee given how far away the action was. The fact that it's ever acceptable to cut block in this game will naturally create situations where a play can be dirty, but not illegal.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 12:18pm

Perhaps the league agrees with your take. A 10k fine is pretty minor, commensurate with something "dirty, but not illegal." Something PFT raised, and I agree with, is that it's hard not to get the sense that Slauson wouldn't have been fined if Cushing hadn't been injured. Effectively, Slauson has been fined because of the result of his action rather than the action itself.