Houston, We Have A Pass Rusher

From Soldier Field, Chicago

It’s been building slowly, advancing every week in the positive direction for Justin Houston.

The Chiefs third-round draft choice has been feeling his way, finding his comfort zone in Romeo Crennel’s defensive schemes. It finally came through with a breakout performance on Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

With the Chiefs sacking Caleb Hanie seven times in the game, the youngster led them. Houston had three of those seven sacks, his first in the NFL. He added seven tackles, two other quarterback hits, a forced fumble and a pass defensed. It was easily the most productive of the dozen games he’s played as a pro.

“It was great out there, a great feeling to finally get the quarterback on the ground,” Houston said. “I was waiting a while for one, and now I want more.”

They may come his way. Houston entered last April’s NFL Draft with first round-million dollar talent and a 10-cent head. He tested positive on the drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, even though he was well aware that there would be drug testing. That knocked him into the third round, where the Chiefs gambled that his was not a problem that would cause them problems.

And so far, he’s displayed evidence that within that 2011 draft class, he has the chance to make the biggest impact. He’s big, fast, quick and strong. Coming off the edge on the pass rush, he can be an explosion. Week after week he’s gotten better at playing the run on the outside, leaving now only some much needed improvement in pass coverage where he remains lost.

Here’s the key with Houston – rather than playing the Bears on Sunday, he could have been playing Saturday in the SEC Championship Game for Georgia against LSU. He left with a year of eligibility remaining and he’s just 22 years old.

“We were all excited about getting him on our team when we picked him, but we also knew it would take some time,” said head coach Todd Haley. “Well those young guys like Justin Houston are starting to make contributions. Justin is a great example of a guy that as he has gotten more comfortable, he’s helping us during these last few games. I thought it looked like he played good again.”

Houston’s first sack came with five minutes to play in the second quarter when he simply ran through a blocker and almost ran through Hanie, taking him down for a nine-yard loss. No. 2 came late in the third quarter, when DE Tyson Jackson and Houston had back-to-back sacks deep in Chiefs territory to force Chicago to attempt a field goal, which they missed.

Sack No. 3 for Houston included his knocking the ball out of Hanie’s hands in the fourth quarter. Hanie recovered his fumble, but the Chiefs had their fifth sack of the day. LB Derrick Johnson and OLB Tamba Hali followed up with two more late in the game.

“We want to get the sack, but more than anything we want to get the ball,” said Houston, who several times hit the pocket with a chop on Hanie’s arm, trying to force him to drop the ball.

4 Responses to “Houston, We Have A Pass Rusher”

  • December 5, 2011  - bhive01 says:

    This is a very good thing. He seems like he’ll be a good player for many years. With DJ, Tamba, Houston, 2 Brandon’s and Berry we’ll have a very solid defensive core. Let’s hope some of the others step up to the plate and Crennel can keep the heat on opposing QBs.

  • December 5, 2011  - cupp says:

    There’s a lot of up side to Houston. However, he is still a liability in pass coverage. He never would have had a chance at his 2nd sack if Haine had any type of accuracy. Houston was burned by Doucett on what should have been an easy TD. Fouranatly they didn’t connect, and Houston had a chance to atone for his mistakes.

  • December 5, 2011  - ED J says:

    Guys need slowdown on pointing out the guys flaws he jus rookie. Im impressed with his progress

  • December 5, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    Loved the pick. He will be fun to watch in the years ahead. Now we need a thumping ILB to go with DJ and we’ve got ourselves a truly great group of linebackers.

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