Cushing Cleared To Make Comeback
Yes, it seems unlikely that an NFL player can win two regular season awards, but if there is one player that I think can do it this year, it is Texans linebacker Brian Cushing.
If Cushing is a force to be reckoned with this season on the defensive side of the ball, he likely will be named the Comeback Player of the Year and the Defensive Player of the Year for the 2013 season.
In order to reach those accomplishments he will need to play at the level he did during the first few years after joining the league.
Cushing made his presence known early, making an impact right out the gate finishing his first NFL season as the defensive rookie of the year and being named to the pro bowl.
He also gained the respect of his teammates, who named him a team captain in 2011 to start the season and ended that same season as the team’s MVP.
But Cushing did not see a lot of time during the 2012 season after leaving a game against the New York Jets in week five of the season.
Cushing tore his ACL and was out for the remainder of the year.
With that said, he will be ready for this upcoming season after receiving clearance on July 17th from Dr. James Andrews.
It's not that Cushing is injury prone, but the Texans are expected to ease him back into action during training camp. If he plays at the same level he did mentally and physically without any setbacks, Cushing could finish the season as comeback player of the year.
Another reason why Cushing can achieve success this year is because he was at the top of his game while being the top player on the Texans’ defense.
However, a lot has changed since Cushing's injury, which can be a good or bad thing as far as individual success, though I am sure that is not at the forefront of Cushing’s mind anyway.
But the argument can even be made that Cushing is not the best defensive player or featured player on his team’s defense anymore.
J.J. Watt has emerged to the scene and even won the Defensive Player of the Year award for 2012 while anchoring one of the NFL's best defenses last season.
The Texans signed veteran safety Ed Reed, who is coming off a Superbowl victory with the Baltimore Ravens. Reed is also considered one of the Top 20 players by his peers over the past few seasons.
So while it may not be entirely true, but Cushing can almost be seen as the third wheel on this defensive unit.
Which can work to his advantage at least for the first part of the season. Cushing will not be the focal point of opponents' scouting report because of other players such as Watt.
With offenses calling plays to avoid Watt's play making ability, it will give Cushing the chance to showcase his play making ability once again on the field and make his case to be the top defensive player.
It may be scary next season for offenses in the NFL to look at two potential defensive player of the year candidates on the same team trying to out do one another.