When Houston took USC LB Brian Cushing with the 15th pick in the 1st round of the 2009 NFL Draft, it wasn’t met too well by the Texans fan base (especially by the BRB staff). It was easy to see why. Cushing had been linked to rumors of steroid use and several questions about his durability. Plus, most college football fans in Texas don’t like much about USC. Be honest, now.
So, when he went down in practice with a knee injury before the first preseason game, those concerns about his durability seemed to be confirmed. He missed the entire preseason and was still given the starting job in Week 1 of the regular season. Since then, he has gone from raising some eyebrows with his play to flat out being, dare I say, adored?
Since opening week at Reliant, the number of fans wearing Cushing jerseys has to of at least tripled. His play against the Titans, where he seemed to be the only guy that could take down Chris Johnson, certainly garnered a lot of Texans fans' respect. And this past Sunday against Oakland when he basically went all UFC on Justin Fargas for a safety, he pretty much silenced any real doubters in Houston he had left.
Now, there are plenty who still say that he hasn’t proved himself to them yet, and that’s fine. Nothing wrong with expecting more out of a 1st round draft choice. Personally, I liked him at USC and I liked the pick when we made it. True, I wanted CB Malcolm Jenkins out of Ohio State, but New Orleans took him right before we picked. But I was extremely satisfied with the pick on draft day and still am today.
I really never had a doubt that he would turn into a good pro player. I would be lying if I said I thought that he would seem to "get it" this fast. But I did think he would get there by about the halfway mark of the season.
The guy brings it on every play. You will never hear anyone talk about how he "takes plays off." He seems to be in on every single tackle. And he actually knows how to wrap a guy up and take him down on the first tackle attempt. He has even gotten the respect of the leader of the Defense, DeMeco Ryans. "I expected him to play well," Ryans said. "There was no reason why he wouldn't have performed the way he's been performing because he's a good player."
But, more importantly, he has earned the respect of Houston fans that were just as frustrated by his draft position as they are frustrated by the lackluster Houston defense. The best part is that he probably hasn’t even reached his ceiling yet. And any way that we can get excited about the Texans defense, I’ll take it.