Amidst the NFL trade deadline news and losing their long snapper, the Detroit Lions had one promising update on Tuesday afternoon. Per coach Dan Campbell, Lions edge defender James Houston is potentially on track to return before the 2023 season is over.
“Yeah, I think so,” Campbell said. “We’ll see. That’s another one. Some of these guys that we’ve got on IR, it’s just part of the rehab process. What he had was pretty clean, so the rehab to it, the healing should be pretty clean. But, there again, if it happens, we’re talking about December. So we’ll see.”
Houston suffered a fractured ankle on a special teams play against the Seattle Seahawks back in Week 2. The injury was initially reported by NFL Network as “at least 6-8 week” injury, meaning Houston could have been ready to return as soon as the bye week. However, Campbell’s answer suggests he’s still at least a month away.
Regardless, Houston’s return to the Lions could be extremely helpful. In 2022—his rookie season—he tallied 8.0 sacks in just seven games and two starts. His electric and unorthodox pass rushing moves drew the eyes of multiple national analysts. This year, the Lions have lacked a pass rushing weapon opposite Aidan Hutchinson all season: Charles Harris, Julian Okwara, and Romeo Okwara have combined for a total of just 3.5 sacks through eight games.
That said, the Lions challenged Houston to become a more well-rounded player in 2023, hoping to develop his skills in both coverage and as a run defender. That process was slow, as Houston only played a mere 32 defensive snaps in the first two games of the season. Still, Houston managed two pressures and a quarterback hit in those limited opportunities.
The Lions may not have added any defensive players at the trade deadline, but getting Houston late in the season could be a nice boost for a playoff run.