As we head for the Draft, Gang Green Nation will take a look at some potential picks for the team. Today we will profile Brian Cushing, a linebacker from the University of Southern California.
What NFL Draft Countdown thinks:
Ideal size and bulk...Good athleticism...Adequate speed...Extremely versatile...Reliable tackler...Excellent strength...Tough...Intense and very competitive...Decent pass rusher with a burst to close...Changes directions well...Good range...Able to shed blocks and work through traffic..Good special teamer...Smart...Hard worker...May have upside.
Durability is a major concern...Does not play up to his workout numbers...Marginal instincts and can be late to react...Does not have fluid hips...Too aggressive at times...Struggles to match up in coverage...Does not have great hands... Might not have a true position.
What SB Nation's Mocking the Draft thinks:
Strengths: Incredible instincts. Very quick off the snap. Locates and runs down the ball faster than just about any strong-side linebacker in the nation. Does a good job getting low around the corner. Has good straight-line speed. Gets to his top gear quickly. Can get reckless and needs to be more controlled with his speed. A violent tackler. Wraps up and drives through the ball carrier. Hits hard enough knock the ball loose. Does a good job of just avoiding and running around blocks, but he exposes his legs too much. Good, solid build
Weaknesses: Mostly uses his speed and athleticism as a pass rusher. Still developing moves. Rushing around the outside is his best pass rush skill. Can have trouble changing direction. Will sometimes get too excited and run himself out of a play. Struggles at times in pass coverage and will sometimes be taken off the field when he's not asked to rush the quarterback on passing downs. Has shown the ability to run with tight ends and break up passes, but he can improve in coverage. Has a long injury list.
What I think:
Versatility in a 3-4 linebacker is a beautiful thing. The system is based on sending pressure from all different angles to make blocking assignments more difficult to identify. When a player is capable of lining up at different linebacker spots, these assignments become even more confusing. Cushing, like other first round linebacking prospects, is strong and fundamentally sound enough as a tackler to play inside and a good enough blitzer to go outside. He also has the ability to stick his hand on the ground and play end in spot situations. He also has the skills to play any spot when a team shows a 4-3 front. He would be quite a commodity in a hybrid flexible system like the Jets will run.