Brian Cushing (David J. Phillip)
Before any team starts a season, there are always a handful of questions to answer. How will the quarterback play be? Will your top players stay injury free? Does your team have enough depth to overcome injuries?
There is seemingly an endless list of questions that coaches, fans and journalists alike will have about every team before a season begins. Usually, the more times you say “yes” the better. What really instills confidence though is when there aren’t even questions to answer.
The Texans have some questions, like any team in the NFL, but the questions this season appear to revolve more around health than talent, as Houston seems fit to compete. To further analyze how confident fans should be of the team, we’ll take a look at each position’s positives, lingering questions, and how the position should perform. We will follow this with an overall confidence level, running from 0-10, 10 being the highest.
Pressing Question: Can two rookies and a free agent acquisition beef up this unit?
Breakdown: The Texans aren’t far away from fielding an excellent group of linebackers. Inside, DeMeco Ryans is one of the best defensive players in the league. He is a fundamentally sound middle backer who has produced consistently since his rookie year. Zac Diles is another textbook linebacker who is one of the most underrated players in football. He might be forced to fight for his job with the addition of rookie Brian Cushing, an explosive first-round selection. Xavier Adibi and former Pro Bowler Cato June are expected to solidify the weak side. There is versatility amongst the group as well, as Diles can scoot inside during a 3-4 alignment and Adibi and Cushing can bring pressure off the edge. Connor Barwin, another first-day selection in this past year’s draft, can play all over the defense and should get some reps as a blitzing backer.
The Big If? If unproven players like Cushing, Barwin and Adibi grow up quickly, the Texans can have a deep and sound group of linebackers heading into the 2009 season.
Our Call: There is too much potential here for the group to be average. There are still some “ifs”, but with Ryans in the middle, the team has at least one constant. As long as all the players understand their roles and take to coaching, this group should continue to grow. The big question here is Cushing, who could be the X-Factor for Houston’s front seven. For now though, this is an above average group with the ability to become dominant.
Confidence Rating: 8