Cushing’s return great relief for Texans’ defense

Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing.  

Kirby Lee/Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

HOUSTON – Of all the story lines for the Houston Texans heading into the Sunday’s season opener against the Washington Redskins, Brian Cushing’s return to action on the defense has often been overlooked.

Cushing last played for the Texans on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7 last season, where he suffered a season-ending knee injury that required surgery.

While news stories such as J.J. Watt’s new contract, Bill O’Brien’s first game as an NFL head coach and rookie Jadeveon Clowney’s debut have been the main topic for the Texans this preseason, Cushing has quietly been recovering in time to play in Sunday’s season opener. His return comes to the delight of the team, who historically has performed better when their star linebacker is on the field.

In the 28 games since 2011 that Cushing has played in, the Texans are 17-11, giving up the fewest yards per game in the NFL at 279.4 while holding opponents to 19.5 points per game. Contrasting those stats, in the 20 games the linebacker has played in since 2011, Houston is 7-13, ranking 17th in the NFL in total yards allowed per game at 350.1 while giving upper an average of 25.6 points.

Now that Cushing is back, playing under new defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, the Texans are hoping he, along with the rest of the potentially stout defense, can bring Houston back into contention.

While Cushing alone can’t do it all on the field by himself, the numbers don’t like that the Texans are indeed better when he takes the field with his teammates on game days.

Follow Shawn Ramsey on Twitter: @ShawnPRamsey