Cushing making his mark

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When the Texans drafted Brian Cushing in the first round back in April, they expected him to add a physical, aggressive presence to their defense.

They thought they were getting a player with a mean streak, a player whose nasty disposition on the field would rub off on his teammates.

So far, so good.

"He gives us that energy, that sparkplug, that extra thumper in there," linebacker Zac Diles said. "He really brings it and just runs around and makes a lot of plays."

After the Titans game, when he had a team-high 10 tackles, Cushing declared that "I know the running back on the other side is going to get tired of me tackling him, and I know the offensive line is going to get tired of blocking me."

Cornerback Dunta Robinson, one of the Texans' hardest-hitting players, likes the tenacity he's seen from the rookie so far.

"Any time you cut on the film and you see a guy playing physical, running around hitting people and making plays, you can't help but watch that guy the whole time," Robinson said. "Cushing is one of those guys that even when you're supposed to be watching yourself, you end up watching him."

{QUOTE}Cushing missed the entire preseason with a knee injury, meaning his first live-action snaps in the NFL were in Week 1 against the Jets. Leading up to the game, coach Gary Kubiak said that he thought Cushing's big-game experience at USC would help him to make a quick adjustment.

He was right. Cushing had eight tackles against the Jets, and he leads the team with 18 tackles heading into Week 3.

"He's a rookie, no training camp, and two starts in the NFL and he's made some mistakes – but boy, he's made some big plays," Kubiak said. "None bigger than in the fourth quarter (at Tennessee). He seems to play his best football when the game is on the line."

In that fourth quarter, when the Texans shut out the Titans, the entire defense had 12 tackles. Cushing had five of them.

One of his tackles came on a third-and-four in Texans territory. The Titans gave the ball to running back Chris Johnson on a draw, and Cushing sniffed it out, fought through traffic and stuffed him for a two-yard loss. The Titans turned it over on downs on their next play.

Though his standout game made him one of five finalists for NFL Rookie of the Week honors, Cushing knows that he can get better.

"I'm doing alright," he said. "There are obviously some things I can clean up, some rookie mistakes here and there. I think my hustle and my play, everything's right where it needs to be, right where I expect to be. But like I said, I can keep improving."

Cushing and the Texans will try to get their 32nd-ranked run defense in line this week against one of the league's most dynamic backs, Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew and Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis were teammates at UCLA, and USC beat them 66-19 in 2005 during Cushing's freshman season.

Cushing admitted that he was "a little ticked off" by USC's upset loss to Washington this past weekend, saying that it gave him motivation for the Titans game.

How does he feel about going against two players from his collegiate archrival?

"I wouldn't say there's motivation, but I definitely do know there's a couple of UCLA guys on the team," Cushing said. "I played against them before, so there'll be that competitive spirit. They know I went to 'SC, I know they went to UCLA. It'll be good."

And that probably isn't good for the Jaguars.

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