What went wrong? Inside Linebackers

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
5:25
PM ET
We continue our daily series on what went wrong with the Houston Texans this season with linebackers.

This position was hit hard by injuries during the 2012 season, which resulted in team owner Bob McNair decrying the team's lack of depth at inside linebacker. It started with Brian Cushing's torn anterior cruciate ligament and the injuries piled up from there.

The Texans' luck was better in 2013 with injuries to their linebackers, though they still suffered a significant blow midway through the season.

Cushing
Key Players: Brian Cushing, Joe Mays, Darryl Sharpton, Jeff Tarpinian

What Went Wrong: Against the Kansas City Chiefs, Cushing suffered a season-ending injury, this time when Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles' helmet went into his knee. While Cushing and his teammates were furious about the block that caused his torn ACL in 2012, this time they found no fault with Charles. He and Cushing even exchanged pleasantries on Twitter shortly after it happened. The Texans' defense as a whole changes without Cushing and it did this season. Joe Mays remained a consistent presence in all but one game. Darryl Sharpton missed the season opener with a concussion and played the rest of the season despite being on the injury report for ailments to various body parts like his wrist and knee. Sharpton's ratings on Pro Football Focus's advanced statistics are telling. He had the second-highest rating among inside linebackers against the run. But when quarterbacks were able to get him in coverage, Sharpton's rating was 52nd out of the 55 inside linebackers rated.

Reason For Hope? Cushing's injury streak is bad luck more than anything. It's good news that it hasn't been a series of nagging injuries that have kept him out. His return will help every aspect of the Texans' defense. According to ESPN Stats & Information, since he was drafted in 2009, the Texans' defense allows .7 yards per play more without Cushing than with Cushing on the field. Mays, who was signed last offseason, and Sharpton become free agents in March, so it's possible this position sees a lot of change this offseason.

Tania Ganguli

ESPN Houston Texans reporter

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