Two recent moves by the Texans reflect their urgency as they aim to jump-start the NFL's worst defense through nine games.
The first was the decision to give Brian Cushing more work at strong-side linebacker, where he starred as a rookie. Cushing moved into the middle full-time in Week Eight as the Texans tried to best replace stalwart DeMeco Ryans, who suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury in October. However, with the hope that Cushing will be the playmaker he was a season ago, the Texans are moving him back outside in the base defense. The sense is that he could be more effective playing closer to the line of scrimmage, the way we hear it.
Leading up to the Week 10 game at Jacksonville, Cushing said he wasn't surprised he would be playing outside linebacker, noting that he thought "the coaches could see the frustrations that I had. I felt OK; I didn't feel that anything was wrong. I didn't feel like I was really playing the game that I can. Now I'm going back to 'Sam' (strong-side linebacker) and doing things that I'm good at, like playing the edge and rushing the passer. It's going to be a lot more pressure off me."
The Texans say ninth-year veteran Kevin Bentley will play in the middle in the base defense, with rookie Darryl Sharpton in reserve. Cushing may move back to the middle in the nickel defense.
The Texans, desperate for better play in the secondary, also added to their options at cornerback, claiming Jason Allen off waivers from Miami. Head coach Gary Kubiak said Allen, a former first-round pick, could earn a key role if he merits it.
"Obviously, we've got to get better back there from the standpoint of what we've been up to this point," Kubiak said. "If he gives us a chance to get better and we see that, we've got to give him a chance to help us get better."
The 6-1, 200-pound Allen started seven games for the Dolphins but lost his starting job to Sean Smith after struggling vs. Bengals WR Terrell Owens in Week Eight. Allen is physical but not especially fast. He is also a good special-teams player.