Comparing The USC Linebackers Sophomore Seasons: Cushing and Matthews

HOUSTON TX - DECEMBER 13: Linebacker Brian Cushing #56 of the Houston Texans during warm ups before playing the Baltimore Ravens at Reliant Stadium on December 13 2010 in Houston Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Reading the National Football Post's article about the Houston Texans, who plan to switch to a 3-4 defense, and the move of LB Brian Cushing to inside linebacker, made me think back on his rookie season. Even after he was suspended for violating the NFL's steroid policy, he was still re-voted the 2009 NFL defensive rookie of the year over Green Bay Packers LB Clay Matthews. A lot has changed since then.

In 2010, Matthews improved statistically in tackles, sacks, forced fumbles, and recorded his first career INT. After entering the 2009 season as an unknown, he missed almost the entire preseason that year with a hamstring injury, he's become the team's best defensive player. And he was runner up for NFL defensive player of the year

After sitting out the first four games due to that suspension, Cushing's stats dropped as he had half as many tackles, fell from 5 to 1.5 sacks, and had zero INTs after recording four in 2009. Some of that was expected because he missed 4 games, but not by that much. It didn't help that he was moved around from outside to inside after the season ending injury to LB DeMeco Ryans. And now he's moving back inside with the arrival of Wade Phillips as his new defensive coordinator.

Things can change suddenly in the NFL, and Cushing could become a major force in a re-built Texans's defense. But as a Packer fan, I'm pretty happy with the linebacker they drafted from USC.

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