The Houston Texans organization and their fans can feel a little bit more optimistic about the upcoming 2015 season.
Brian Cushing is finally healthy and ready to prove that he is one of the better inside linebackers in the NFL.
The Texans selected Cushing in the 2009 NFL Draft with their 15th overall pick in the first round.
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When healthy, Cushing has been one of the best linebackers in the entire NFL and his intensity on the field raises the level of play for the entire defense. The problem is, he has struggled to stay healthy thus far in his NFL career.
Fortunately for the Texans organization and especially the defense, Cushing says that he is feeling better than he has a long time.
"It just feels good to be getting my range back," said Cushing.
"I felt very limited last year and just kind of my health, coverage, and a lot of things, I couldn't do really on the field. Really feeling like myself again and kind of feeling like I can play anywhere in the field and make a play anywhere on the field. I'm getting that range back and feeling very explosive and very happy about that."
A healthy Cushing can improve the playing of the entire defense, especially with the new edition of veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork.
Wilfork will allow Cushing to read and react more quickly without having to fight through blocks because Wilfork usually commands double teams to slow him down. Playing behind Wilfork will also help Cushing take less punishment and keep him healthy throughout the entire season.
In fact, the Texans might just have the most dominant defensive line in the NFL. J. J. Watt is one of the most dominant defensive ends in the entire NFL and is known for give opposing offenses trouble.
Jadeveon Clowney is working his way back from a knee injury that cut his rookie season short, but his addition to the defense could also benefit Cushing.
Making an impression
Cushing's play during the organized team activities (OTA's) was impressive enough to catch the eye of the Texans head coach Bill O'Brien.
"He's a leader of this team. He's taken to heart some of the things that he and I have talked about," said O'Brien.
"He's come back and had a hell of an off-season. He's moving well. He made a play out there in the two-minute drill on about a 20 yard pass, where he got back in coverage and he tipped the ball away. That was a big play. It was good for me to see that."
O'Brien generally doesn't want to speak very highly of his players in public, so for him to single out Cushing's play during OTA's should speak volumes of how well Cushing is playing.
However, we should all keep in mind that these are non-contact practices and a true test of how well Cushing is playing should truly be determined until they put the pads on for training camp.
Still, it is encouraging that Cushing is felling better than he has in a long time and the Texas defense would benefit greatly if he can return to his Pro bowl form in 2015.
With Cushing's return to form the Texans could field while you better defenses in the NFL.
Do you think Cushing's return will benefit the Texans defense in 2015?