Texans rookie linebacker Brian Cushing wasn’t always the most well regarded linebacker on the USC Trojans. Now he’s been recognized as the best rookie defender in the entire league.
Cushing received 39 of 50 possible votes to win the AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Tuesday. Bills safety Jairus Byrd finished second with six votes, while Cushing’s college teammate Clay Matthews finished third with three votes. Redskins pass rush Brian Orakpo got two votes.
We can’t argue with the result. Cushing racked up 133 tackles, five sacks, four interceptions
and forced two fumbles. He’s a bigger difference maker than teammate DeMeco Ryans, who also won the award.
There were games, like the win in Cincinnati, that Cushing simply took over. It was the ninth time in ten years a linebacker won the award. (Us silly writers like stats!)
We also have to throw some love at Matthews, who deserved serious consideration. Matthews started the final 13 games of the season, compiling 10 sacks, 51 tackles, and 7 passes defensed.
He will be a versatile core player and probably a Pro Bowl candidate for years to come. Now he has only 18 years more to play to equal the longevity of his father (Clay) and uncle (Bruce).
Congrats to all four men who earned votes. It was a strong year for rookie defenders.