In 2012, the Houston Texans were ravaged by injuries, and they were ravaged by free agency in the offseason. Thankfully, their Super Bowl hopes are being kept alive by a few key developments.
Brian Cushing played in only five games for the Texans in 2012, and his impact was definitely missed on defense. Cushing — a Pro Bowler in his rookie season and an All-Pro selection in 2011 — has registered 238 tackles and 9.5 sacks in 49 career regular-season games.
In the 11 games he missed, the Texans allowed at least 25 points in five of those contests. Cushing is also a two-time captain of the defense, and though J.J. Watt was a revelation as a sack machine, Cushing’s leadership was sorely missed as the Texans lost three of their final four games.
But Cushing is now fully healed from that ACL injury, and just signed a contract extension to remain with the Texans for the next six years. For Cushing to stay through 2019, the Texans gave him a contract worth $55.643 million, with $21 million guaranteed.
With Cushing locked up and Watt still on his rookie deal for the next two years, there’s potential for a perennially terrifying duo here. Don’t forget that Johnathan Joseph is also locked up through 2015.
Ed Reed didn’t play a snap of football for the Texans last year, but appeared in all 16 games for the Baltimore Ravens. Last season, Reed put up 58 tackles, recovered three fumbles, intercepted four passes, deflected 15 more and had a defensive touchdown.
In 11 seasons (all with the Ravens), Reed has played in 160 out of 176 games with two different hip surgeries and several other significant injuries.
Reed had his most recent surgery in April of this year, and was cleared from the PUP list just a few days ago. He’s now fully participating in practice, and there is a good chance he’ll play in Week 1 (A.J. Bouye and Andre Johnson have dropped hints here and there, but nothing is confirmed).
If Reed plays all season for the Texans, the secondary will dramatically improve from allowing 29 touchdown passes last year.
Left guard Wade Smith played the entire 2012 season, and made the Pro Bowl along with center Chris Meyers and left tackle Duane Brown.
Smith was healthy most of 2012, but he injured his knee near the beginning of August and had it scoped about three weeks ago. The recovery time for this injury was indefinite, but it now looks like there’s a 50-50 chance he could play for the Texans in the season opener at the San Diego Chargers‘ Qualcomm Stadium.
Even if he doesn’t play in the home opener, his presence will still be felt after spending the 2013 preseason mentoring Ben Jones and David Quessenberry.
With Cushing, Reed and Smith all healthy and all under contract for the next few seasons, things are really looking up for the Texans heading into Week 1.