Head coach Gary Kubiak said Wednesday that the Texans could use Brian Cushing at middle and strongside linebacker against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 10.
Cushing has been playing in the middle since Week 6, when he moved over from the strongside after DeMeco Ryans suffered a season-ending injury. Kubiak said the Texans have more flexibility now that linebackers Kevin Bentley and Darryl Sharpton are healthy.
"We did what we had to do two weeks ago with our situation," Kubiak said. "Now, we're starting to get a little bit healthy. The fact that Kevin and Sharpton got through last week and they're in good shape today does give us a little wiggle room as we move forward."
Kubiak said that Cushing could play at strongside linebacker in base defense and at middle linebacker in nickel defense. Bentley, a ninth-year veteran, backed up Ryans in the middle for each of the past three seasons.
"I think what you could see is you could see (Cushing) doing both, a little bit of both," Kubiak said. "…Kevin can play the MIKE, so that's not an issue. It's just nice now that after what we've been through that Brian's knowledge of doing it for a couple of weeks gives us some flexibility as a football team."
In two games at middle linebacker, Cushing had 10 total tackles in losses to the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers. He averaged 8.3 tackles per game at strongside linebacker as a rookie, when he also had four sacks and four interceptions and was named the AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He doesn't have any sacks or interceptions in four games this season.
Cushing said that he feels more comfortable at outside linebacker, where he's free to play more instinctively and doesn't have to think as much.
"I think the coaches could see the frustration I had with the two games I played at the middle linebacker position," Cushing said. "I felt OK; I didn't feel like anything was wrong, I just didn't feel like I was really playing the game that I can. And now I'm moving back to SAM and doing the things that I'm good at, which is playing the edge and rushing the passer and doing those kinds of things. It's going to be a lot more pressure off of me and Bentley."
A reporter told Cushing on Wednesday that there'll be more pressure on him now to make impact plays when he does line up on the outside.
"Well, I'm going to make them," Cushing said. "I'm back at my position. It's going to be right back where I need to be. As a defense, we're just trying to improve in anything we can do. I want to have more of an impactful game, and I think all of the other 10 guys on defense do as well."
The Texans have the fourth-fewest amount of sacks in the league, a major reason why their passing defense ranks 32nd.
"When Cush plays the SAM, we're more apt to get him involved in the pass rush," Kubiak said. "It has been tricky how we're trying to organize our defense with Cush moving around, so hopefully with some of this health we can get rid of some of those problems that we have."