“He’s come back and had a hell of an offseason,” O’Brien said, per the Houston Chronicle. “He’s moving well. He made a play out there in a two-minute drill on about a 20-yard pass, where he got back in coverage and he tipped the ball away. That was a big play. It was good for me to see that.”
A healthy Cushing would do wonders for a Texans defense that allowed 100-plus yards on the ground in eight games last season. His once-promising career has been sideswiped by a rash of injuries including ACL and LCL tears and a broken fibula.
The former Defensive Rookie of the Year spent this offseason recovering from a trio of surgeries to his left ankle, left knee and broken right wrist. He told ESPN.com’s Tania Ganguli in February that he played through the painful wrist injury, one reason he wasn’t the same run-stuffing machine we’ve seen in years past.
“It just feels really good to be getting my range back,” Cushing said. “I felt very limited last year and just kind of my health, coverage, and a lot of things, I couldn’t do really on the field. Really feeling like myself again and kind of feeling like I can play anywhere on the field and make a play anywhere on the field. I’m getting that range back and feeling very explosive and very happy about that.”
The Texans still have the league’s most terrifying defender in J.J. Watt, but Cushing is needed to pad the team’s cast of inside linebackers. O’Brien also told NFL Media’s Michael Silver on Friday that he believes former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney will be ready for Week 1, a disturbing reality for NFL quarterbacks everywhere.
The Texans on paper have a talented defense, but getting everyone on the field at once was an issue last season. They have a chance to improve on their 9-7 record if that happens in 2015.
The latest Around The NFL Podcast welcomes Jeff Darlington to discuss minicamp stories, and Conor Orr calls in for the debut of a new segment. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.