Don't measure Brian Cushing by his Pro Bowls bids.
Head coach Bill O'Brien certainly doesn't.
"I think this guy is measured by his leadership, his toughness, everything that he brings to our team in the locker room," O'Brien said. "He's able to communicate with both sides of the ball, different positions, he gets us lined up on defense. He's the signal caller. You can't say enough about the guy's leadership."
The seven-year veteran linebacker did get a Pro Bowl selection in 2010, his second season in the NFL, as well as being named Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year the season before that. In 2012 and 2013, he suffered season-ending knee injuries and underwent surgery in the offseason. Cushing's offseason following the 2014 campaign was his first in three years that he wasn't recovering and rehabbing from a major knee surgery.
This season, Cushing has 104 tackles through 15 games, passing the 100-tackle mark for the third time in his NFL career, and for the first time since his 2011 season. He's put up four games with double-digit tackles, including a season-high 13 in Week 8 against Tennessee. He's part of Texans defense that leads the league in third down percentage, allowing opponents to convert just 29.7 percent of the time.
"I'll tell you this, I've never seen a Mike linebacker play as hard as he plays," O'Brien said. "He throws his body around, he hustles form sideline to sideline, he's done a lot to put in time into the training room to get healthy, and he is definitely one of the leaders of our team."
Cushing's passion for the game doesn't go unnoticed by veterans either. Vince Wilfork, a five-time Pro Bowler, feels teams need players like Cushing in order to win.
"He takes football personally," Wilfork said. "This is his life and someone like that you can always win with. You need a bunch of Brian Cushings on the team. I would take them any day, just because he attacks the field in games and in practice. He attacks with the right mindset and I think sometimes you need people with that mindset to set the stage for everything."
The Texans will host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday in the regular season finale. Kickoff is set for noon CT at NRG Stadium.