Now that Brian Cushing is out for the season, he will be missed tremendously. Houston's defense will have an aching hole in its heart until Week One of the 2014 season. With Cushing patrolling the middle of the field, Houston's defense has allowed 4.1 yards a carry, a run defense DVOA of -9.3% (15th in the league) and has stuffed the running back for two yards or less 104 times (10th in the league). The entire defense will miss Cushing and his production, but nobody will miss him as much as J.J Watt.
I can just see Watt stopping by the hospital after every practice bringing Cushing a bouquet of flowers in exchange for a smile on his face. Then on game day, he will look back behind him and see Darryl Sharpton in Cushing's spot. The tears streaming down Watt's face will be covered up by the blood from his nose.
Joking aside, these two have morphed into their own version of the Bash Brothers. Watt is the denizen of the backfield, leading the defensive line, with Cushing patrolling the middle like a crazed hyena. These two might be the best defensive lineman/linebacker combo in the NFL. So far this season, their stats have looked like this:
||Sack Yds Lost
These two have accounted for 20% of the Texans' tackles, 37.5% of the team's sacks, and 62.5% of the team's tackles for a loss.
Not only that, but Wade Phillips used both Watt and Cushing together to rush the passer and schemed the defense in a way for both players to play off each other. I wrote about this at length here after the 49ers game, and I had this to say earlier in the year.
Among the clutter of an offense wasting away aimlessly in the sands of time and a quarterback who is mentally beaten like a fourteen year old who loves to steal, drink, and smoke in an episode of Scared Straight, there's still a top ten defense to pay attention to. Cushing and Watt (even if the stats aren't as gaudy as last year) are the best defensive lineman/linebacker combo in the league. It's not just the fact that they are denizens of the back field and own the box score. They actually play off each other. The best coaching decision made this season hasn't been keeping Schaub at quarterback, having Arian Foster and Ben Tate split carries or using the tight ends to attack the middle of the field. Instead, it has been the way Wade Phillips has used Watt and Cushing together to terrorize offenses like a horde of ants on a fallen pushpop.
In a season full of dumpster diving and garbage bathing, the Texans' bright light has been the Watt-Cushing combo. Fate has been cruel, striking Cushing down. Our only form of enjoyment now is Case Keenum.