Kubiak confirms Cushing tore ACL
The impact is big for the Texans, as they've lost the quarterback of their 3rd ranked defense until deep in the playoffs at the earliest. The Texans may not place Cushing on the injured reserve, just in case he could be ready for the Super Bowl, should they make it that far - just as the Jets are doing with Darrelle Revis (ha). The Texans, however, are one of two undefeated NFL teams and actually have a realistic shot at a Super Bowl run.
The Texans proved last season that the loss of a defensive superstar doesn't necessarily cripple their defense. After losing Mario Williams to a torn pectoral muscle in Week 5, the Texans still finished the season with the 2nd ranked defense in the league. Cushing's absence hurts, but the Texans have plenty of other playmakers on the defensive side of the ball who can step up and make up for their loss.
One of those players is defensive end JJ Watt, who leads the NFL with 8.5 sacks. Through five games, Watt is on pace to break the single season sack record. Johnathon Joseph, a Pro Bowl cornerback last season, will also need to continue his elite play, shutting down opposing wide receivers in the passing game.
The players that will need to step up the most, however, are obviously the linebackers. Tim Dobbins, who started 15 games for the Texans last year, will start in Cushing's place. Though he started almost every game last year, Dobbins had little starting experience previous to 2011, earning only 16 starts through the first five years of his career. He has two career sacks, two career interceptions, and a career high of 37 single season tackles. The responsibilities of making defensive adjustments, plugging rushing lanes in the middle, and covering tight ends and running backs in the passing game now falls on Dobbins' shoulders - the Texans have to hope he's up for the challenge.
Other linebackers Bradie James and Connor Barwin will also have to step up in defending the run and covering tight ends and running backs.
The loss of Cushing hurts, but for a defense as talented as the Texans, it won't cost them a shot at the Lombardi Trophy.