A first-round draft pick in 2009, Cushing was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year. He made 133 tackles that year, the second-most in the AFC behind Baltimore’s Ray Lewis (134).
Cushing again led the Texans in tackles last season (114) and also intercepted two passes and forced two fumbles. He’s only missed four games in his three seasons, all to serve a suspension for a positive test for a banned substance.
Cushing answered questions about it, and now ranks as one of the most respected players in the locker room.
“Those guys really look to him,” Kubiak said. “He’s an emotional leader, the way he plays, the way he works, the way he practices. Cush loves it all. That’s the thing about him. Guys feed off of that.”
Kubiak said Cushing “was in pretty good pain” on the field on Monday night, and seemed to realize the severity of the injury. The team talked about losing Cushing at halftime, then made just enough plays in the second half to survive a gritty effort by the Jets.
“I think there was some added incentive to finish that thing up for Cush,” Kubiak said.
Defensive end J.J. Watt produced another dominant performance, making six tackles, including a sack. He also deflected three passes _ one of them leading to Brice McCain’s interception that ended a Jets‘ scoring threat.
Arian Foster carried the offense and helped Houston win time of possession for the fifth time this season. Foster rushed 29 times for 152 yards, both season highs.
Justin Forsett had four carries for six yards in place of regular backup Ben Tate, who missed Monday night’s game with a toe injury. Kubiak said Tate “was not close” to playing and will be evaluated again on Wednesday.
Aside from the injuries, Kubiak has growing concerns about Houston’s kick-return and coverage teams. Trindon Holliday averaged only 11 yards on three kickoff returns, and the Texans were penalized three times on returns.
Most alarming, though, Houston gave up a 100-yard kickoff return to New York’s Joe McKnight, a momentum-changing play after the Texans had built a 20-7 lead. Houston also comfortably led Miami in the season opener before Marcus Thigpen ran back a punt 72 yards for a touchdown.
“I’m very concerned special-teams wise,” Kubiak said. “We didn’t get a ball past the 20 (on kickoff returns) last night, and we’ve given up two touchdowns. We’re near the bottom of the league in covering kicks. We’ve got to address it. It’s going to cost us, at some point. We’ve been fortunate, but it’s not good enough right now.”