Shooting the Bull: Keenum the right move?
For the second year in a row, the Texans will have to finish their season without their best linebacker. The rest of the season starts on Sunday against the Colts.
Brian Cushing’s season ended in Week 7 against the Chiefs with a broken fibula and a torn LCL. His season ended early last year against the Jets in early October.
“We’ve been here before,” J.J. Watt said. “Obviously, we lost Cushing Week 5 last year. Any time you lose a player, it’s a tough situation. I feel like we have the type of guys, we have the type of locker room that we’re going to go out there and do what we need to do to get it done.”
In Cushing’s absence, Darryl Sharpton will start at inside linebacker next to Joe Mays, who arrived to training camp this summer and took the starting job next to Cushing.
“That’s what we’re here to do the job for,” Sharpton said. “I think I’m prepared. We’ve prepared all year and all offseason and this won’t be my first start. I’ve played in pretty much every game this season so I’m ready to play and get this thing turned around.”
Sharpton said he wasn’t sure which linebacker will remain on the field in third-down passing situations, the job Cushing held, but said both have the ability. Sharpton’s skill set probably makes him more likely to remain on the field.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips expressed confidence in the starting inside duo of Sharpton and Mays this week, saying “they can play.”
Sharpton has practiced this week but has struggled with a toe injury for the last several weeks but hasn’t missed any action. He finished each of his first three seasons on Injured Reserve.
Sharpton and Mays competed for the starting job next to Cushing before the season and haven’t played much together. But Sharpton said the two get along very well on and off the field.
“I feel comfortable in the system with all these guys,” Mays said. “We’ve had a little bit of time playing in there with each other. I feel comfortable knowing that he’s going to go out there and give his all.”
After Mays and Sharpton, there isn’t much depth at the inside linebacker position. Mike Mohamed was signed off the practice squad before the Chiefs’ game and the team signed Tavares Gooden and Jeff Tarpinian off the street on Monday. If necessary, Brooks Reed and Justin Tuggle are also capable of playing inside.
“Anytime you lose an inside ‘backer like Cushing, certainly you worry about depth and (Tim) Dobbins is gone,” Phillips said. “We have some other guys that I think could come in and play if they had to certainly. But we’re counting on the two guys we have.”
Without Cushing, the team didn’t just lose one of its best defensive players and one of the better inside linebackers in the NFL, it also lost its leader for the second straight season.
This is Mays’ sixth season in the league, and he considers himself a vocal player and leader. Some said he picked up the intensity with Cushing out, but he didn’t think so.
“I’ve always tried to be vocal, be as vocal as I can, try to communicate as best I can and just try to get all the guys on the same page,” he said. “That’s all I do. That’s what I just try to get us to do so we can go play ball.”