Player Spotlight: Brian Cushing

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In this series, I will pick a player that I focused on during each game. The player may or may not have been the player of the game, but it's someone who had an impact on the game.

After his season came to a screeching halt last year with a knee injury, Brian Cushing came back to the gridiron looking to prove he was back. From the moment Gary Kubiak told him "Welcome back" to the moment he was announced in player introductions, Cushing had an agenda to prove he had overcome his injury. Cushing looked smooth in his movements and loose in coverage. He played the run well and put pressure on the QB. Throughout the game, there were times it was clear Cushing was knocking the rust off, but overall I was pleased. Cushing played the first quarter and ended the game with just one solo tackle, but that tackle came on a critical drive stopping play where he tackled the Dolphins' Lamar Miller for a short gain to bring up fourth down. Cushing almost had his first sack of the game when he rushed up the middle on a delayed blitz and got a good wrap on the quarterback but lost his handle on him.

Most people didn't really understand the significance of the loss of Brian Cushing last year. The Texans ranked number one in defense through week 5. After the loss of Cushing, there wasn't significant pressure on the quarterback up the middle from the inside linebacker group. Cushing's ability to blitz through the "A" and "B" gaps inside created so many opportunities for the other defensive linemen. For example, Cushing blitzing from the inside would force the quarterback to do one of four things. The quarterback would either 1. Get rid of the ball quicker than he wanted to due to pressure in his face; 2. Flush the quarterback out of the pocket out to the edges where Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed were waiting; 3. Force the quarterback to step up in the pocket and into the arms of the interior defensive linemen (Watt, Mitchell, Smith); or 4. Make the quarterback take a sack. There are other scenarios that Cushing's blitzing could create but these are the most prevalent ones. Make no mistake, Cushing still has a ways to go to reach his optimum level but the game against the Dolphins was a positive step in the right direction. Welcome back Cush...