We’re going to take a look at Justin Houston in this post. I know that this post has changed from week to week but I wanted to write about something positive and re-watching the Jets game one thing stood out early, and that was Houston showing off his versatility. So I thought why not just show-off our rookie third-round linebacker and have a discussion on him and why it’s so huge that he’s come around these last few games.
He hasn’t been perfect by any means but he’s given us another pass-rushing threat opposite of Tamba Hali recently, and it is HUGE that he’s come around and shown that he can make some plays for this defense. There’s no reason to think he won’t continue to develop every time he steps on the field and that’s one less position to worry about heading into the offseason.
It’s not going to be long before most fans’ attention starts wandering towards the mock drafts and player rankings for those declaring for the draft this year. A teams’ success can be directly related to at what point in the season most of the conversations switch toward mock drafts and trade scenarios for the fans. That’s about now for any Chiefs‘ fan that hasn’t already started based on the recent Chiefs’ struggles.
But most people can say right now that the SOLB position for the Chiefs is going to be held-down by Justin Houston and his back-up, Andy Studebaker, heading into next season and beyond. And not just as a position filled, but a position (and player) to be optimistic about when thinking about an entire, healthy Chiefs defense in 2012. Here are some examples from the Chiefs recent game against the Jets of why being optimistic about Houston holding down the SOLB position for the Chiefs in the future is a good thing.
Here are six plays that show the versatility this guy brings to the Chiefs defense. Thanks again to Clay for editing these clips.
In these consecutive plays on the Jets first possession you’ll notice what makes him such a talented all-around linebacker and one of the great ‘finds’ of this season, if we want to look for such a thing.
First play. 1st quarter – 3rd and 4 with 13:07 left. Houston is lined up on Jets’ running back LaDanian Tomlinson. After the motion, (And DJ probably reminding Houston of his responsibility) you’ll see Houston take a few steps up-field. I believe he’s been called to blitz/cover the RB. Basically try and take him out of the play. If LT stays in to block, you blitz, if not, you cover him. Either way on this 3rd down play you’ll see a very understated athleticism for a SOLB in a 3/4 system.
LT was Sanchez’ first look when he dropped back and began his progression. The line did a good job picking up the blitz but by Houston coming up-field on those first few steps, he took away Sanchez’ first option. LT may have had a wheel route called from the beginning, or option-route (sideline or upfield), and was the hot-read on a blitz, but when he turned his route up-field, Houston was right there with him stride for stride.
I’m not impressed that Houston can run with LT, I’m impressed that he could change directions like he did after taking those first few steps up-field. It’s nothing earth-shattering or highlight-reel material. But when looking for classic examples of what you need from a guy in that position, this is a good example of having ‘fluid’ hips for a LB and covering in space.
Because covering RB’s in space is just one piece of the puzzle, the other being a physical enough player to take on the strong side of an offensive formation and play against the run. The SOLB must be able to disengage lineman and make plays in traffic. That skill combined with what we saw Houston do in the last play is why finding a good SOLB isn’t always easy. You must be athletic enough to cover in space, but also big and physical enough to take on offensive lineman. The other side of that spectrum is next.
Second play. 1st and 10 with 12:19 left in 1st quarter. You’ll see on this play, which is coincidentally the very next play in the game, that Justin Houston uses his physical skill-set to get off the double-team and make a play on the running back. Houston gets double-teamed on this double-tight to the strong-side play and still Houston makes the tackle for just a one-yard gain.
Finding a player that can perform like he did on these last two plays isn’t easy and the Chiefs have found a good one. Like I said above, these aren’t all-world plays, but it’s showing off a versatile skill-set that’s needed to be a 3-down linebacker in the NFL in this kind of defense.
Third play. Same drive. 1st and goal with 9:45 left in 1st quarter. Houston is lined up head-on Dustin Keller (#81) split-right. I’ll just call this an example of recognition and reaction skills. Not only does Houston get a quick jam on Keller, he gets to his “zone” in the right flat, where LT is quickly headed, fast-enough and through a possible ‘pick play’ by the WR in the perfect time that Sanchez looks LT off when he sees Houston there.
After the pass (bottom of screen) and in the second replay you’ll see LT open in the end-zone, but he was the first-read for Sanchez on this play, and Sanchez made a quick, bad decision on where to go with the ball after Houston initially got in the throwing angle of Sanchez going to LT in the flat. You’ll see Sanchez’ hand come off the ball as to say, “I want to throw it now but that Houston guy just jumped it and now I have to go somewhere else”. That thought-process could have been an INT for the Chiefs if Flowers was 6’3, or 6’1 and had mad one-handed skills.
Fourth play. 3rd and goal with 8:59 left in 1st quarter. Does this need more than a link to explain? He’s lined up outside the RT and is about to ‘do work’.
Fifth play. 1st and 10 with 13:40 left in 2nd quarter. The defensive line did a great job as a whole on this play, which resulted in a loss of yardage. But Houston sealed the edge and kept the play from being bounced to the outside, which is one of his main responsibilities and something Studebaker had struggled with this year. Great job on this play by Houston.
Sixth play. We’re going to end this post with this one. 3rd and 3 with 12:19 left in 2nd quarter. I’m hoping to see a lot more of this over the next few years. How about you? Interesting to note that in this dime defense by the Chiefs, Houston is lined up on the weak side while Tamba is on the strong side.
Thoughts on Houston and what his development could mean for the defense heading into next season?
23-year old RB Alex Green was a third round pick out of Hawaii last April. He lasted 4 games for the Packers in which he carried the ball 3 times for 11 yards (3.7 ypc). He also caught 1 pass for six yards for the Packers this year. Green is set to undergo season ending surgery on his left knee soon. This is a bad break for Green, but the Packers should be o.k. without him for now.
The Cowboys have waived 24-year old rookie WR Dwayne Harris. Harris played in five games for the Cowboys but he didn’t catch any passes. Harris did return 11 punts for 73 yards (6.6 avg) and 3 kickoffs for 74 yards (24.7 avg) for the Cowboys. He had a very solid pre-season for the Cowboys, but he hasn’t produced for them in the real games. This is no big loss for the Cowboys.
The fifth in a series looking at the Patriots‘ 2011 NFL Draft picks, and the roles they might play for the Patriots next year.
Name: Ryan Mallett
Drafted: 3rd Round, 74th Overall
Projected Stats: 2 Games Played; 11/18, 124 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Projected Role: Ryan Mallett has absolutely zero expectations heading into the season for the Patriots (expectations that will be even lower if the lockout does not end soon). He will get the chance to play in the preseason, and possibly even compete with Brian Hoyer for the backup quarterback spot. Most likely, however, he will have the #3 spot on the depth chart next season, and will get ready to be the top backup in 2012. Mallett will also likely get a couple of chances to play in mop-up duty (especially at the end of the season, when playoff seeding might be locked up). However, as we all know, Mallett’s greatest value to the Patriots will come in the future (2013, 2014, or 2015) when his trade value is either at its highest, or Tom Brady is ready to hang ‘em up (which I doubt).
Bottom Line: 3rd QB for 2011, 2nd QB 2012, with a chance to be traded or take over in 2014
When Mike Pouncey was drafted last weekend, the first comment I made to a friend of mine was, “Did you see the size of his watch?” The younger Pouncey brother, undoubtedly helped by his older, wealthier NFL brother, was sporting a jewel adorned watch the size of my face.
Personally, I don’t really care what players do with their money, even the ones who haven’t technically made a dime yet in the league. But it turns out, former Kansas City Chief and current Minnesota Viking Jared Allen was disappointed by the jewelry spectacles at the 2011 NFL Draft:
I think the bigger disappointment was to see the jewelry on these kids’ arms and ears. Are you kidding me? You haven’t played a down in the league yet and thousands and thousands of dollars on these kids arms and I’m like you guys understand you’re getting drafted into a lockout where you don’t know what rules you’re playing under or how much money you possibly might get.”
Granted, Allen isn’t exactly a fan of the NFL draft in general:
I don’t like anybody who was drafted ahead of me. Kind of pisses me off. You know it did. I honestly think it would’ve been cool to see none or all of the players elect to not show up. I think that would’ve given a really big sign to the NFL. You want us to appease you guys by coming to this show, because that’s what the NFL Draft is on TV, it’s a show for their fans and a show for the league, you want us to do that than let’s get this deal done, let’s quit locking us out, and let’s get back to work.
Check out the whole Jared Allen interview at SRI.