- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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As we sort through the needs each team has with free agency and the draft approaching, inside linebacker comes up often for the Houston Texans.
I believe the need is being overrated and the focus is on the wrong element of the team’s two inside guys.
The Texans do need a steady, reliable second inside linebacker, but it’s their first inside guy who’s the key. Brian Cushing was lost to a torn ACL just five games into the 2012 season. The defense suffered the rest of the way without him, and when a bunch of other inside guys got hurt the position became a real problem.
Put a healthy Cushing back in the lineup, and the second inside guy is a role player. Ideally he’s a good run defender who supplements the defensive front. But he’s just a part-time player, often leaving the field when Houston shifts to nickel.
That’s why Cushing’s progress is very important.
He’s about a week away in his rehabilitation from jogging, per Nick Scurfield of the team’s website.
“Really looking forward to that. Really, where I stand right now is just looking forward to the next step always and what’s coming up and my progression. It’s been a long, long journey and I still have a lot to go, but you know, it just makes me cherish playing that much more, because when it’s taken away for you, you realize how much you love it.”
“…(It’s) been going well. I’ll be here for the majority of the time and really just focusing on my rehab, getting back, getting my knee back to 110 percent and just really looking to the year coming up. Obviously, my year was cut short last year, and I’m looking forward to getting back out there with the guys and playing football.”
Bradie James was the starter alongside Cushing at the start of the season. He and two others who saw significant action inside for the Texans last season after Cushing’s injury -- Tim Dobbins and Barrett Ruud -- are heading for unrestricted free agency.
That leaves injury-prone Darryl Sharpton as the other inside guy, for now.
Certainly the Texans need to restock the position. Dobbins tends to get banged up, but he can be a solid player when healthy.
The Texans need to add a couple of guys at the spot. But I don’t believe they need to spend a premium pick on a guy who will be a part-time player.
The biggest offseason development at inside linebacker for the Texans will be Cushing’s rehab progress, not the addition of the guy who will play next to him.