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Houston Texans LB Brian Cushing Can Rush The Passer

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A common thought amongst Houston Texans fans was that outside linebacker Brian Cushing did not have a good season at all. Some pondered whether his performance-enhancing incident really did enhance performance while others wondered if he ever got into gear after missing a month, shifting positions, and having to play without DeMeco Ryans. Both are valid schools of thought that will have to wait until the 2011 NFL season for further support to their claims. Oddly enough, Cushing did excel at something last season – pass rushing. Jump with me to see who said this and why.

According to the guys at Pro Football Focus, Cushing was the sixth productive pass rushing linebacker in 2010 (who met the minimum of 90 pass rushing snaps and played 4-3 LB or 3-4 ILB). Cushing had 25 pressures in 154 pass rushing snaps which equated out to a 12.34 pass-rushing productivity ranking. For math and metrics buffs, PRP can be represented by the following formula (excuse all the parenthesis):

Pass-Rushing Productivity = (Sacks + (Hits x 0.75) + (Pressures x 0.75))/ Number of Pass Rushes x 100.

Pro Football Focus, like with many other metrics they've written about this season, looked at PRP going back three seasons. Cushing’s 2010 wasn’t a fluke as he finished second in the three-year study with a 13.92 PRP (282 rushes, 50 pressures).

Cushing’s ability to blitz should provide a little more hope for Wade Phillips’ front-seven restoration plans. Wade, as many have stated, runs an incredibly aggressive, one-gap system that focuses on getting after the quarterback. The left inside linebacker, Cushing's new position on the defense, plays a significant role in this system.

A month ago, the esteemed Chris Watkins pondered if Cushing could fill the Karl Mecklenburg role in Wade’s defense. This study from PFF is good evidence for the argument that Cushing can play that role and play it well. Once the lockout ends, Cushing will have the opportunity to answer the questions that many had about him last season.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.