Detroit Lions sixth-round rookie James Houston only played five defensive snaps in his debut, but he sure made most of them memorable. Houston tallied two sacks against the Buffalo Bills, both of them ending threats from Josh Allen and keeping the Lions in the game. If you asked his teammates and coaches, little about his performance was a surprise.
“We knew we needed a little rush and we thought he could provide that,” coach Dan Campbell said on Thursday. “You don’t think the first game he’s going to get straight off there will be two sacks. But some of the things he’s able to do doesn’t surprise us. Good to get him up.”
Defensive captain Alex Anzalone saw it coming, too.
“He has some special pass rush abilities that we’ve been seeing for weeks,” Anzalone said. “Just trying to find a way to get him up. He definitely capitalized on his opportunities and they were not ready for him. It’s fun to watch when young guys like that get an opportunity and capitalize on it.”
Houston’s role going forward, though, is unclear. At this point, it appears the Lions are comfortably using him as primarily a pass rush option on obvious passing downs. That’s a pretty limited role—especially with a defense that hasn’t done a great job creating third-and-longs this season.
Further complicating Houston’s role are the impending returns of several defensive ends. Though it’s quite possible Houston will take over for Julian Okwara—who suffered a painful-looking elbow injury on Thursday—what will happen when Josh Paschal, Charles Harris, and Romeo Okwara are ready to come back? Will there be room for Houston on the 53-man roster? Will there be room for him on the gameday roster? Houston brings something a little different than the other players, but will such a limited role be worth activating on game days?
Then there’s the issue of keeping him on the Lions roster entirely. Houston is a young, promising prospect with a lot of tempting physical tools. On Thursday—in front of a national audience—Houston showed what that potential could turn into. So will the Lions even be able to keep him on the practice squad (where he currently stands), or will they need to sign him to the 53-man roster to protect him from being poached to another team’s 53?
Myself and Erik Schlitt discuss this and a whole bunch of other things in this week’s mailbag. Other topics include:
- Could Jameson Williams really play vs. the Jaguars? (9:30)
- Does the ending of the Bills game prove that the Lions need an upgrade at QB? (12:45)
- Should the Lions draft a quarterback and keep Jared Goff? (20:00)
- Debating the third-and-1 deep shot to DJ Chark (26:00)
- Should the Lions have gone for it on fourth-and-1? (32:15)
- Taylor Decker’s post-game comments (38:00)
- How does this Bills “almost win” compare to the one against the Chiefs in 2019? (39:00)
- How likely is a run of the table the rest of the way? How about 5-1? (44:15)
Check out all of our answers here:
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