Texans SLB Brian Cushing believes that Houston's four-game winning streak to finish the season could have a carryover effect in a 2010 campaign in which expectations will be higher than ever.
"I think we definitely have some momentum," said Cushing, voted to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. He added, "We're just really confident."
Cushing, who led the team in tackles (133) and tied for the team lead in interceptions (four), was one of the catalysts of the Texans' defensive improvement in 2009. Houston finished tied for 13th in yards allowed per game and was much more sound as the season progressed.
"He brought an element to our team that, I don't want to say it's been missing, but he brought another element to our football team," head coach Gary Kubiak told reporters after the season. "His love for the game, his passion, his play, playing beat up — all these things — playing like a 10-year vet from the day he stepped on the field. The players respect what he does with the game and how he goes about his business."
The 6-3, 260-pound Cushing, who played with shoulder, foot and rib injuries at various points of his first NFL season, told PFW he wants to "get more flexible, take care of my body a little better." Presently, he's back at USC, taking two classes he needs to earn a degree in sociology later this year.
Cushing drew no shortage of tough assignments as a rookie but thrived nonetheless. He was a force in the running game, and he was very good in pass coverage. When the Texans played the Colts, Cushing regularly found himself matched up with Pro Bowl TE Dallas Clark. When faced with the challenge of covering someone like Clark, "I think you grow up really fast," Cushing said.
The same could be said for the Texans' defense collectively, which has no shortage of young talent entering its prime. Star DE Mario Williams turns just 25 on Jan. 31. MLB DeMeco Ryans and SS Bernard Pollard won't turn 26 until later in the year. Williams and Ryans, like Cushing, will represent the Texans in the Pro Bowl, and Pollard made the secondary more formidable after signing with Houston in September. And Cushing, voted second-team All-Pro, doesn't turn 23 until Jan. 24.
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