The future is set: With the combo of DeMeco Ryans, Brian Cushing and Zac Diles, Houston seems to have the pieces in place at the LB position for years to come.
I am pretty much an offensive side of the football kind of guy. So this is going to be new territory for me. So take it easy on me if I forget someone or I botch the whole thing altogether.
With the announcement of the 2010 Pro Bowlers yesterday, two Texans linebackers made the cut. DeMeco Ryans and rookie Brian Cushing. It got me to wondering where Houston lines up to the rest of the league in their linebacking corps. I did some quick research (and know I left out some really talented groups; like I said, Defense isn't my forte) and came up with some quick numbers of some of the top groups of linebackers in the league. I'm not really a stat guy. I never have been. So these are just some quick numbers to briefly compare:
(These are combined stats through 15 games for the 2009 season)
|Team||LB Core||Solo Tackles||Sacks||Forced Fumbles||Interceptions|
|Steelers||Woodley, Harrison & Farrior||168||24.5||7||1|
|Bears||Urlacher*, Briggs & Hillenmeyer||146||5||4||2|
|Jets||Scott, Pace & Harris||190||13.5||5||2|
|Cowboys||Ware, James & Brooking||195||15||6||0|
|Ravens||Lewis, Suggs & Gooden||167||6.5||3||0|
|Chargers||Merriman, Cooper & Phillips||144||11||10||0|
|Texans||Ryans, Diles & Cushing||210||5||4||4|
(* The Bears numbers are deflated due to Brian Urlacher being out for the entire season. But he still needs to be in the debate.)
As previously stated, I am sure I left some others out, but this is what I could think of as far as dominating LB corps go.
Some big names in that group. Obviously Pittsburgh and Dallas get after the quarterback much more efficiently than Houston (but who doesn't?). As long as Ray Lewis is still in the game, Baltimore is always going to be under consideration in this topic. I don't like the guy personally, but that doesn't change the fact that he is a future Hall of Famer. Bart Scott jumping to New York certainly helped shore up a LB corps that was already pretty solid. With the Steelers' shaky secondary this season, their trio of LBs' numbers went down, with their Safeties and Corners compiling huge tackle totals. San Diego has about as solid of a group as you're going to find in the league, even if many question Merriman after being busted for roids in the past.
But how does the combo of DeMeco Ryans, Zac Diles & Brian Cushing really stack up to these juggernauts? You have to take into consderation that they are young. Ryans is 25, Diles 24 and Cushing is only 22. The thought that they haven't even hit their prime yet is staggering. The fact that Diles, who is certainly the most underrated of the trio, is a 7th round pick is spectacular. Ryans, who just got his 2nd Pro Bowl nod, is as solid as any LB in the game. And I am sure this scares the hell out of Rick Smith. Seriously, pay the man, Rick. A Defensive Rookie of The Year in 2006, he led the NFL in tackles with 156. The rookie production of Brian Cushing is stunningly similar to Ryans' rookie campaign, and Cushing is the current favorite to follow Ryans as a Defensive Rookie of The Year in 2009. He is the lone rookie representative for the AFC in the 2010 Pro Bowl.
So, in my opinion, they may not be the best trio of linebackers in the NFL yet. But they are young. And they haven't come close to peaking yet. Let's hope the team finds a way to keep them together for the majority of their careers.