Texans Must Adjust to Life Without Cushing

How will the Texans approach the Colts without 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year Brian Cushing? How will the Colts attack the Texans? Brad Keller breaks it down.

Brian Cushing won the 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year award and collected 23 tackles and two passes defended in two games against the Colts last season.  When it was announced that Cushing tested positive for a banned substance in the offseason and he was suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season, the Associated Press re-voted and decided that Cushing was still the best rookie defender of 2009.

Cushing is a tremendously talented two-way player that was active both in run defense and in the passing game last season and he will be missed by the Houston defense on Sunday.


Ryans will need to have a big game on Sunday for Houston
Getty Images

In addition to the Cushing suspension, the Texans have been beset by injuries at the outside linebacker position and will most likely replace Cushing with Kevin Bentley, who is DeMeco Ryans' backup at middle linebacker.

Bentley does have experience at the position, having started two games in 2008.  Bentley is a veteran journeyman with 29 starts in eight seasons.  He has registered seven passes defended and only one interception — versus the four interceptions and ten passes defended that Cushing had last seasons — and, while he is not a liability in pass defense, does not have the skills that Cushing has.

As part of their game plan for both games in 2009, the Colts avoided the middle of the field, which is the domain of another former Defensive Rookie of the Year in DeMeco Ryans.  Ryans sill had 16 tackles in those two games, but that was mostly as a result of assisted tackles and Ryans chasing the ball down.

The Colts focused their efforts on the strong side and weak side of the formation and were able to relatively neutralize Ryans, who is a tackling machine.  Houston will lean on Ryans to make plays in the running game and cover the deep middle section of the field.  Ryans covers a great deal of ground in the Cover 2 defense that the Texans deploy — a flavor of Cover 2 that is very close to what Indianapolis uses — and will be very active on Sunday.

But Ryans will not be able to blanket the entire field.  His numbers for Sunday will be impressive, but the Colts will again target the strong side and weak side of the formation in an attempt to limit the effectiveness of Ryans.

The interesting thing to note about those two games in 2009 is that Dallas Clark was primarily lined up on the strong side and finished those two contests with 23 receptions for 182 yards and a touchdown.  Cushing had safety help in both games, but the fact that he had 23 tackles and Clark had 23 receptions is an interesting overlap.

Cushing improved in pass defense throughout his rookie season in 2009 and it is important to note that Clark had 14 of those catches and 119 of those yards in the Week 9 match-up, but was "held" to nine receptions for 63 yards and the touchdown in Week 12.  The Texans also had a bye in Week 10 for Cushing to refine his coverage skills.

Regardless of whether or not Cushing was suspended, the Colts were going to test him in Week 1 this season.  The interesting thing to watch will be how much they will test Bentley's cover skills, should he start Sunday's game.

In terms of the running game, Bentley will be able to stand up to whatever the Indianapolis offense will throw at them to the strong side — which should not be too much given the running game's performance in 2009 — but the key matchup to watch will be Clark versus Bentley in the passing game.

It could very well be that Clark would have early and continued success against Cushing in the passing game and the loss of Cushing for this particular contest would not have been felt.  But, with an offseason to refine his pass defense skills, Cushing could have improved and possibly taken Clark out of the game, especially as he continues to recover on his road to being 100 percent.  But, with Bentley to target in the passing game on the strong side, Sunday could be a long day for him.


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Brian Cushing won the 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year award and collected 23 tackles and two passes defended in two games against the Colts last season.  When it was announced that Cushing tested positive for a banned substance in the offseason and he was suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season, the Associated Press re-voted and decided that Cushing was still the best rookie defender of 2009.

Cushing is a tremendously talented two-way player that was active both in run defense and in the passing game last season and he will be missed by the Houston defense on Sunday.

In addition to the Cushing suspension, the Texans have been beset by injuries at the outside linebacker position and will most likely replace Cushing with Kevin Bentley, who is DeMeco Ryans' backup at middle linebacker.

Bentley does have experience at the position, having started two games in 2008.  Bentley is a veteran journeyman with 29 starts in eight seasons.  He has registered seven passes defended and only one interception — versus the four interceptions and ten passes defended that Cushing had last seasons — and, while he is not a liability in pass defense, does not have the skills that Cushing has.

As part of their game plan for both games in 2009, the Colts avoided the middle of the field, which is the domain of another former Defensive Rookie of the Year in DeMeco Ryans.  Ryans sill had 16 tackles in those two games, but that was mostly as a result of assisted tackles and Ryans chasing the ball down.

The Colts focused their efforts on the strong side and weak side of the formation and were able to relatively neutralize Ryans, who is a tackling machine.  Houston will lean on Ryans to make plays in the running game and cover the deep middle section of the field.  Ryans covers a great deal of ground in the Cover 2 defense that the Texans deploy — a flavor of Cover 2 that is very close to what Indianapolis uses — and will be very active on Sunday.

But Ryans will not be able to blanket the entire field.  His numbers for Sunday will be impressive, but the Colts will again target the strong side and weak side of the formation in an attempt to limit the effectiveness of Ryans.

The interesting thing to note about those two games in 2009 is that Dallas Clark was primarily lined up on the strong side and finished those two contests with 23 receptions for 182 yards and a touchdown.  Cushing had safety help in both games, but the fact that he had 23 tackles and Clark had 23 receptions is an interesting overlap.

Cushing improved in pass defense throughout his rookie season in 2009 and it is important to note that Clark had 14 of those catches and 119 of those yards in the Week 9 match-up, but was \"held\" to nine receptions for 63 yards and the touchdown in Week 12.  The Texans also had a bye in Week 10 for Cushing to refine his coverage skills.

Regardless of whether or not Cushing was suspended, the Colts were going to test him in Week 1 this season.  The interesting thing to watch will be how much they will test Bentley's cover skills, should he start Sunday's game.

In terms of the running game, Bentley will be able to stand up to whatever the Indianapolis offense will throw at them to the strong side — which should not be too much given the running game's performance in 2009 — but the key matchup to watch will be Clark versus Bentley in the passing game.

It could very well be that Clark would have early and continued success against Cushing in the passing game and the loss of Cushing for this particular contest would not have been felt.  But, with an offseason to refine his pass defense skills, Cushing could have improved and possibly taken Clark out of the game, especially as he continues to recover on his road to being 100 percent.  But, with Bentley to target in the passing game on the strong side, Sunday could be a long day for him.

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