Inside linebacker Brian Cushing has been voted the Texans' 2011 Most Valuable Player by a vote of his teammates.
Cushing, a Pro Bowl alternate, led Houston's No. 2-ranked defense with 114 tackles. He had almost as many solo tackles (76) as Texans strong safety Glover Quin, who finished second on the team in tackles, had overall (77). Cushing also had 4.0 sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and five passes defensed.
"I wasn't surprised," Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said of Cushing being named team MVP. "He's been a leader all year long, and statistically what he's done has been tremendous. If you throw away the statistics, what he's done for our defense has been exceptional. There's no doubt from a player's standpoint. I think we've had a lot of guys that have had some great years, but he's really stood out in our room all year long."
With Cushing leading the way in Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense, the Texans allowed only 285.7 yards per game after giving up 376.9 in 2010. That 91.2-yard average improvement was the best in the NFL this season and third-best since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. The Texans' defense improved by 9.3 points per game, from 26.7 to 17.4, also the best turnaround in the league.
Cushing's play prompted Phillips to call him a "holy phenom" last week.
"He's been the heart of the defense, and if you just watch the way he plays the game, you can't help but get inspired," Texans Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster said. " I think that's what the MVP does is he inspires the guys to play better around him. He makes me want to be a better player, a better athlete, not only with the things he does on the field, but with the things he does off the field, like from his nutrition, the things he does to take care of his body. He's an inspiring person."
Defensive end J.J. Watt was selected as the Texans' Rookie of the Year. The 11th overall pick from Wisconsin, Watt started every game and had 56 tackles, including 49 solo. He had 5.5 sacks, a team-high 7.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and four passes defensed.
Inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans won the Texans' Ed Block Courage Award. A defensive captain, Ryans came back from a 2010 season-ending Achilles injury to start all 16 games. He finished third on the team with 64 tackles. The Ed Block Award recognizes players for extra efforts on and off the field and their ability to overcome great adversity. Past Texans winners include tight end Joel Dreessen (2010), linebacker Zac Diles (2009) and wide receiver Harry Williams (2008).
Ryans also won the Texans' Mark Bruener Award for Community Service.