By TERRANCE HARRIS, SportsRadio 610

HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – It’s nothing unusual for Connor Barwin and Brian Cushing to joke around and do little things to try to distract each other during the Texans’ linebacker meetings.

But with Cushing now out for the remainder of the season after suffering a torn ACL during Monday night’s win over the New York Jets, Barwin quickly found out on Wednesday that Cushing’s replacement, Tim Dobbins, might not be much of a willing participant in the meeting-room horse play.

When Barwin kicked at Dobbins and tried to make faces to distract him, Dobbins remained stone faced with his focus on the board and note taking.

“Me and Cush have some fun in the meetings sometimes … We’ve been here for a long time and know the system pretty well,” said Barwin, the Texans outside linebacker. “But Dobbins wouldn’t even … He knew I would be making jokes at him or something but he wouldn’t even look. He’s all ears in right now, taking everything in to make sure he doesn’t miss any assignments.”

That’s because Dobbins, a seven-year veteran, knows the opportunity that is facing him right now. His job is to fill the enormous shoes of the Texans defensive leader at inside linebacker. Anything short of that could hinder the Texans’ lofty Super Bowl hopes.

“I’m focused right now,” Dobbins said when asked about looking past Barwin’s antics. “This opportunity does not come often so I plan on taking advantage of it.”

The Texans are certainly hopeful he can and will because he is now charged with replacing a player that is so much more important than his team-leading 43 tackles this season. Cushing is the pulse and undeniable leader of the Texans top-ranked defense.

On Wednesday, the players were dealing with the unexpected blow of losing Cushing for the entire season.

“It’s tough,” said defensive end J.J. Watt.  “You feel for Brian because of what football means to him, what this team means to him but it’s time to take it to a new level. It’s time for me to step up, it’s time for our team to step up. It’s just another challenge.”

Dobbins will fill Cushing’s spot but it will take the collective efforts of all of the Texans on both sides of the ball to fill the void left by the Pro Bowl-caliber linebacker.

“It’s a challenge for our team, that’s what that is,” said coach Gary Kubiak, whose 5-0 team is preparing to host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night. “When you lose a player like that, it’s a challenge for our team. We’ve got a darn good football team.

“We know Dobbins is going to go in there and play well and every player in our locker room is going to take on a little bit more responsibility. We are going to spread that responsibility around and everybody is going to take a little bit bigger piece of it.”

Dobbins, who seems to favor staying out of the spotlight, is ready to take on his piece. He came in and played well in place of Cushing on Monday night.

The 6-foot-1, 236-pound Dobbins, who knows defensive coordinator Wade Phillips defense well after being drafted by him in fifth round in San Diego, has gained the reputation as a big hitter both in special teams play and in the Texans goal line defense.

“I am not (Cushing), of course, but I will try to do my best to fill in his shoes,” said Dobbins, who was elected special team’s captain this season. “It’s a great system we have here and I’ve been running it for years and I know a little bit about the ins and outs of our system. I plan on doing what I do and definitely to stop the run and keeping this defense going as we have been doing so far.”

He certainly seems to have the faith of his teammates and coaches.

“I have no doubt in him,” Barwin said. “He’s going to get his opportunity to show what he can do. But if you look at what he has done and what he did last year when he stepped in and made huge plays in the run game. He has always played in goal line situations for us and always done well so I think he will be fine.”

“Tim is a smart player, he’s been in this league a while,” Kubiak said. “He is very much on top of what Wade wants him to do. He can make all the calls for us if we want him to do that. He’s capable of doing that.

“The fact that the team named him special team’s captain tells you how much the team thinks of him. It’s an opportunity in his career. He’s worked hard for it and I know he is looking forward to it.”

Contact Terrance Harris at or follow him on Twitter @Terranceharris


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