HOUSTON, TX -- It may be the most indelible image of the Houston Texans' 2011 season - blood pouring down the face of linebacker Brian Cushing after a scrap with Cleveland guard Shawn Lauvao in a November game against the Browns.
The 6-foot-3, 248-pound Cushing led the Texans with seven tackles and a sack that day, helping Houston to a 30-12 victory. The Texans' defense evolved into one of the NFL's best last season, the main catalyst for the franchise's first division championship and playoff berth.
Expectations are higher than ever in Houston for this season, and they are for Cushing, too, with one-time defensive cornerstones Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans now playing for other teams. Cushing has his own tough act to follow after leading the league's second-ranked defense in tackles (114).