There’s little doubt that teams who were integrating new coaches were the ones most hurt by the NFL lockout last season and the lack of offseason workouts. You can include the Houston Texans, a playoff team last year, in that mix. They brought in veteran NFL coach Wade Phillips to take over their defense and Brian Cushing says they spent weeks during the season trying to learn the ins and outs of the scheme.
Fast forward a year and OTAs are back. Cushing says that will only benefit a team that is now its second year under Phillips as its defensive guru. That said, he also says the shortened OTAs — a byproduct of the new collective bargaining agreement — are nothing but good for the players.
Brian Cushing joined KBME in Houston with Matt Thomas to discuss missing OTAs last year, the impact they might have this year, new draft pick Whitney Mercilus, shortened OTAs and the differences in the Texans’ defense this year.
How much did you miss OTAs last year?:
“I don’t think my body did, but being back in them, especially now with being in our second year with Wade Phillips as our D coordinator, I really feel like it’s going to jumpstart our camp and jumpstart our season. We’ll be able to get a lot of the learning down now and a lot of the tricks of the trade that we didn’t know last year. It was kind of a season, as we progressed along, that we were still learning.”
So you do you think that will make a dramatic impact?:
“I think more subtly. I don’t think you’re just going to see a vast improvement. I think it’s one of those things that we hope to be more consistent and just go out every week and continue to improve. I feel that with the OTAs going to be under our belt pretty soon … still remembering that, still having that and not trying to learn a whole playbook during a season is definitely going to be an advantage this year.”
On his early impressions of draft pick Whitney Mercilus and him coming into a defense where he doesn’t really need to be an immediate star:
“I think that takes a lot of pressure off him. He’s a young kid and I think it’s a perfect fit for him right now. You look at someone like Brooks Reed, it was the same way for him last year. He was a starter midway through. I see Whitney having a similar role. … At the same time, we expect major things out of him.”
OTAs are shortened in time under the new collective bargaining agreement. Is that good for your body or do you miss it a little?:
“It’s no question it’s better. Football’s year-round. Whether you’re staying in shape or during the season or whatnot, it really is a year-round sport and it’s a grind. This time of year, it’s more mental than anything and I think that’s where we can definitely get better and progress.”
Is the playbook different or an extension of some of the things you tried last year?:
“I think an extension, considering how we played last year and how comfortable we were toward the end of the year. I think there’s going to be some new things we’re going to mix in there and make our defense more complex. That’s just something we’re looking forward to, keep offenses guessing. At the same time, they’re going to understand the style of play we’re going to come with every Sunday.”