As you can tell from the title of this FanPost, I wanted to look into how good Houston REALLY is. Is he an average #1 CB, a good one, or a great one? According to PFF, Chris Houston was ranked #23 out of 113 CB's overall, 40th in pass coverage and 10th in run defense. Seems pretty decent to me, I'd say he's a average-good #1 CB, judging from those numbers. But I wanted to look a little deeper, so I took it upon myself to re-watching a couple of his games from last year to see how he did, focusing primarily on Houston via NFL Game Rewind in "Coach's Film". I decided to go with his worst graded performance on PFF (-1.9 vs. Atlanta Week 16), and his best performance in pass coverage (+3.4 @ Tennessee Week 3). I'll start with the worst performance, so we can feel nice and happy later.
Vs. Atlanta Week 16
PFF gave Houston a -1.9 overall grade, his worst grade of 2012, and -1.3 in pass coverage, which is tied for his worst (Philly Week 6) on the season. This is a pretty interesting game, because the Falcons really killed us through the air. Ryan had a QB rating of 142.6 with 4 TDs and 0 Ints. The most interesting thing about this game to me, is how throughout the entire 1st half we were mostly going with our Tampa 2 defense, but during the 2nd half, after getting killed through the air, we switch to a lot of man/press coverage. Now let's look at each target thrown Houston's way.
Target 1 (1st Quarter 5:59): This is the first play Houston isn't in zone coverage, and plays man on Roddy White. He ends up getting burned on a double-move for a 44 yard touchdown. Yeesh.
Target 2 (2nd Quarter 11:11): Ryan sees Houston giving White too much cushion, and promptly hits White for a 7 yard pass.
Target 3 (2nd Quarter 7:07): Falcons bunch 3 WR's out right, slight miscommunication with Houston and Durant, and Harry Douglas frees up for an easy 5 yard catch, Houston recovers and shoves him out of bounds.
This is a well drawn up play by the Falcons. As you can see they have 3 WR's out right, Harry Douglas is the receiver closest to the QB and will be the last person to break into his route, so as to not bump into the other guys. So what happens with our coverage?
Houston stays on the middle receiver instead of staying with Harry Douglas, who should be his responsibility since they're in their Tampa 2 zone coverage. Houston should be in his area which is towards the sidelines, but both him and Durant stick with the same guy and Douglas is free. Luckily for Houston his weight and hips are leaning towards Douglas, so he is able to recover quick enough to only allow 5 yards, but a definite miscue on coverage.
Target 4 (2nd Quarter 1:24): Lions look to be in their Tampa 2 defense, and Jones gets by Houston. Houston does a decent job of catching up to him, but doesn't make it in time. Carey fails to help make a play on the ball and Julio catches it, and toe taps in the back of the endzone. Hard to tell who's to blame on that one.
Target 5 (3rd Quarter 13:47): Houston is with Julio the whole play and does a great job of turning his head at the last moment to avoid PI and make a play on the ball, Carey is there too to make sure it's not a catch.
***Houston and Green both called for defensive holding later on in that quarter. This is a result of playing press coverage 3 straight plays and being too physical.***
Target 6 (3rd Quarter 5:36): Last target against Houston. In man coverage again, and Suh brings great pressure on Ryan. Ryan tosses it up but a little overthrown. Credit to Suh on that one.
Interesting to see the halftime adjustments on defense. Lions really looked better in man coverage throughout that whole game. Ryan was picking apart our zone defense.
@ Tennessee Week 3
Houston was graded a +3.3 against Tennessee by PFF, which was his 2nd best grade, but received his highest pass coverage grade at a +3.4. He was targeted 10 times, gave up only 5 catches and had 2 pass deflections. A good performance on his part. After re-watching this game, I noticed that the Lions really love using Houston in man coverage, specifically loose-man. Houston seems to be at his best in man coverage when giving the receiver a few yards of cushion, rather than playing him close and jamming him at the line of scrimmage. Houston only played press coverage/mirror technique 11 plays, while playing loose man 20+ plays. We didn't run a whole lot of zone or Tampa 2 plays, surprisingly.
Target 1 (1st Quarter 10:35): Lions look to be in zone coverage. Short pass to Cook for 2 yards, Houston not in position to make the play, but tackles him instantly.
Target 2 (1st Quarter 2:13): Houston in loose-man coverage, Titans in the red-zone, 3rd and 5 on our 13 yard line, Locker tosses it up to his tall WR Britt. Houston recognizes where Locker is going instantly and watches the ball the entire time, gets himself in great position and breaks up the play in the endzone with a nice pass deflection.
Houston starts the play by playing off of Britt by about 7-10 yards, and is reading his man by looking at his receiver, rather than looking at Locker.
After Houston reads his man, he realizes that the ball is in the air, turns his head immediately and makes a great play on the ball ending up with his 1st of 2 pass deflections. Houston had Britt's number all game long.
***In between targets 2 and 3, there was a screen pass to Wright, which didn't count as a target towards Houston, but Houston did a great job of recognizing the screen and was in great position to make the play, although it was dropped.***
Target 3 (Q2 5:55): 3rd and 5 deep in their own territory, the Titans went to their big target Kenny Britt again, and saw Houston in man coverage. They tried to go to Britt for a quick slant, but Houston did an awesome job of jamming Britt at the line. Britt actually made a nice grab after he tipped it up to himself, but Houston did a nice job of holding him for only 3 yards. Huge stop on 3rd down by Houston.
Britt tried to go 5+ yards for the 1st down, but as you can see, Houston did a nice job jamming him at the line, and forced him to make a play on the ball a couple yards short of the sticks.
Target 4 (3rd Quarter 12:13): On this play, Houston is lined up as the RCB to cover Britt. Britt did okay this game, but he couldn't get virtually anything done when covered by Houston, so I'm guessing they liked this match-up and had Houston follow him for most of the game. Locker tried to throw it downfield to Britt, but it was well short thanks to the former lion, Sammie Lee Hill. Houston might have been in trouble on this play, as he had his head facing the receiver the entire time, we can thank SLH for that one.
Target 5 (3rd Quarter 12:06): On 2nd and 15, Houston gives up a lot of room for Nate Washington on this play, resulting in a 9 yard catch on a curl route. Secondary was playing deep, and I assume that Gunny was letting them take their short pass, and trying not to give up a big play.
***Very next play Houston is in press coverage again. He ends up being too physical with his man and gets called for defensive holding. That was the 3rd straight target towards Houston. I guess the Titans didn't get the memo that he was on his A game that day.***
Target 6 (3rd Quarter 3:15): Locker tries to go to Britt again, Houston is mirroring his every move and forces the overthrown pass.
Target 7 (3rd Quarter 8:12): Identical play as the last target, however Houston gives Britt a little extra room. Britt puts his hands on the ball and almost reels it in, but Houston puts a nice hit on him and jars the ball loose for an incompletion.
Target 8 (4th Quarter 11:57): Houston is in man-to-man coverage, but doesn't jam him at the line. Wright makes a move on him and catches the ball on a curl route, but Houston tackles him instantly and is able to force a fumble. Another huge play by Houston.
Target 9 (OT 12:05): Houston plays way off of his man, and allows Williams to get a 13 yard completion.
Target 10 (OT 10:53): Houston blankets Williams this time, and makes a huge pass break up on 3rd down to force the field goal, and allow us to get the ball and try to win the game (we all know how that ends).
I think Houston is a very good corner, and a good #1 CB corner. I think he does best at man coverage when giving his man a small cushion, and gets burned a little too often in press coverage against elite WR's, but can more than hold his own against average/good #1 WR's. Houston showed that he can shut down a guy like Britt, which leads me to believe that if we can get Slay to develop as a #1 CB, then Houston could be a great, or even elite #2 CB, which is what I think he was meant to be. Houston will get beat by elite #1 WR's, but can completely shut down weaker #1 WR's and good #2 WR's (unless you're unfair and have Julio Jones as your #2 WR).
So what do you guys think? Is he average, good, or great as a #1 CB, and how do you think this position will end up going forward? Do you think Slay will end up being our #1 CB in the future like me, or is Houston our guy until his contract ends?
Houston is a good #1 CB, but can be an elite #2 CB if we can develop Slay into a #1 CB (or find one somewhere else). Slay is more of a prototype #1 CB who can play more physical with his height, just needs time to develop. I'm pretty optimistic about Slay, and I think in a few years he can develop as a good shutdown #1 CB, which will allow Houston to move to the other side. Slay strugged a little against the Vikings on Sunday, but he showed flashes of great coverage (I.E deflection leading to Levy's *pick 6*)
Sorry for the extremely long post, didn't realize what I was getting into, lol.