Posted on: May 10, 2010 10:38 pm
The news that Houston outside linebacker Brian Cushing failed a drug test last September and, after losing his appeal, could now lose his Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, as well as be suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season has generated plenty of attention.
Too much attention, in my opinion -- at least in terms of the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
The reality is, Cushing won the award in a landslide, but was outplayed -- apparently too quietly -- by Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd.
Now, don't get me wrong. Cushing was spectacular last season. In starting all 16 games, he provided the Texans' with the playmaker in the back seven that this team has been lacking. His 134 tackles, four interceptions, four sacks and two forced fumbles showed the all-around game that scouts had seen him flash throughout his career at USC. Cushing's play was critical in several of Houston's victories this past season -- the team's first winning season (9-7) in franchise history. For his exploits, Cushing received 39 of the possible 50 votes by AP writers and broadcasters for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He was also voted to the Pro Bowl, though he was unable to play due to various injuries.
All of that said, Byrd's impact on the Bills was even more rare and deserved greater attention.
Byrd, who only played in 14 games due to suffering a torn labrum in his hip that required off-season surgery, nonetheless tied for the league-lead with nine interceptions. Like Cushing, Byrd was voted to the AFC Pro Bowl -- the first rookie defensive back to be honored since Charles Woodson burst into the NFL with the Oakland Raiders... in 1998.
For his play, Byrd only received six -- yes, six -- first place votes as the top defensive rookie of the 2009 class. Again, Cushing received 39.
Whether he wins it in his second attempt or not, one thing is clear: Byrd will get a helluva lot more consideration now that voters will have to take into account Cushing's failed drug test.
And that is a shame.
Byrd was better in the first place...
Posted on: April 2, 2009 11:59 pm
Oregon junior cornerback Jairus Byrd was unable to workout at the Combine due to a groin pull, but struggled to reward scouts for their patience in testing in the mid to upper 4.6s in the 40-yard dash, according to scouts in attendance.
The time is certainly a concern for scouts, though they were also quick to point out that Byrd tested very well in shuttle drills (4.10 short shuttle, 6.75 3-cone). Each of these marks would have ranked among the top ten cornerbacks tested in Indianapolis and are indicative of the rare agility and burst Byrd showed throughout his career with the Oregon Ducks. If Byrd's name is familiar, it is because his father, Gill Byrd, was a long-time standout for the San Diego Chargers at cornerback.
A few hundred miles south, Hawaii cornerback Ryan Mouton suffered the same fate at his Pro Day today (held at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles) that limited him at the Combine over a month ago -- a pulled hamstring. Still, the 5'09, 187 pound cornerback flashed some eye-popping explosion by dropping his 40-yard dash time from 4.51 seconds at the Combine to 4.46 seconds Thursday. So why did five-hundredths of a second rate as a significant improvement? Because Mouton, according to scouts in attendance, pulled up with the hamstring at about the 30 yard mark in the event and still posted a 4.46 second time. Had the injury not occurred, he likely would have been in the low to mid 4.3s... Mouton's explosiveness was on display in the broad jump, where he leapt 11'0 -- a mark beaten only by potential first round pick Darius Butler (Connecticut) among the cornerbacks tested at the Combine.