For the first time since limping off the field at Arrowhead Stadium last October, the Texans' linebacker will play in a regular season game with his teammates. He's back from a season-ending knee injury for the second time in as many years.
Washington comes to NRG Stadium for the season opener, and many will focus on what first overall pick
Or what quarterback
But your eyes should also be on #56.
The defense's quarterback in Cushing is a major injection of playmaking, stability and smarts for defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel.
Evan Koch of the Texans media relations staff crunched some numbers and came up with the table below.
Since the start of the 2011 season, Cushing's presence in the lineup has meant the Texans' defense is the best in the NFL when it comes to yards allowed.
When he's not in there, they drop to 17th.
When he's out, they sink to 21st in the League with 238.3 yards allowed.
The key stats, though, are wins, losses and points allowed.
Houston is 17-11 with 19.5 points allowed while he's patrolled the middle of the field.
They're 7-13 and give up 25.6 points per game when he's not there.
Six games over .500 with Cushing.
Six games under .500 without.
Think about the two seasons in which he's played the full slate of 16 games: in 2009 he was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and the team went 9-7 for the first time in franchise history. In 2011, he was voted the team MVP and the Texans landed their first playoff berth with a 10-6 campaign.
Now he'll call the signals for a defense that features the masterful
THE CUSHING EFFECT
Yds/Gm Rnk Ru/Gm Rnk Pa/Gm Rnk TO/G Rnk
With 279.4 1 100.6 6 178.8 1 1.54 17t
Without 350.1 17 111.8 12 238.3 21 1.20 27
Difference 70.7 11.2 59.5 -.34