This week, Tyler Dunne at Go Long posted a terrific article about 2022’s late-season sensation James Houston. Titled “The Problem is the Future,” Dunne’s article is the leadoff for Go Long’s 2023 NFL Kickoff features. In it, the writer delves into Houston’s past in the college ranks to help the reader make sense of both his unusual approach to pass rushing and unyielding desire to succeed.
Solidly researched and written, Dunne recaps episodes in Houston’s time at Florida and Jackson State that fueled the fire leading up to an incredible rookie campaign. We all know the knock against Houston was that he’s short for a pass rusher, but the stories in Dunne’s article about the abuse and disrespect under Dan Mullen’s strict regime at Florida sound Matt Patricia-like. While the public relations problems and recruiting violations are pretty well known, hearing Houston describe the “strong-willed” ways Mullen’s staff handled their players is wild. Specifically, Houston’s side of the story about what went down with the 2020 Cotton Bowl and the particular way he had the rug pulled out from under him as a player looking to contribute to his team for a huge game is fascinating.
So many college football coaches do not sound like much fun whatsoever.— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) July 28, 2023
From the story above: pic.twitter.com/Hyb2EaWjcI
The other part of the article that stood out to me was in some ways just as much about offensive tackle Taylor Decker as it was about James Houston. Remembering back to Houston’s tremendous debut, Decker was one of the players who was quoted at the time as being completely unsurprised by The Problem’s immediate impact. From Dunne’s article, we find out why that was the case. Going up against Decker in practice involved an unusual mentorship across the trenches:
If a specific rush didn’t work, Houston would ask Decker what he’d absolutely not want a pass rusher to do in that situation. Where he was exposed. Decker, an open book, would say he’s susceptible to an inside move.
To which, Houston perfected an inside rush.
So went this song and dance. Each practice.
Houston was working the problem of figuring out how to be a different kind of pass rusher that could exploit his odd blend of physical traits (short stature but freakishly long arms, incredible quickness) dissimilar to the NFL prototype. An incredibly clever guy, the rookie was thinking through his arsenal of moves in an unorthodox way; he was learning through the eyes of a great veteran tackle trying to stop him. Some of this was described in a paywalled article on the Detroit Free Press back in December, but it’s a great story non-subscribers should hear (read?) too.
Head on over to Go Long to read Tyler Dunne’s entire feature on James Houston titled “The Problem is the Future,” which is well worth reading in its entirety. Now, on to the rest of your weekend Notes:
- In addition to Erik’s article about Day 5 of training camp, we have a quick video of observations from Meko Scott on our YouTube channel:
- The team’s official YouTube channel posted video of head coach Dan Campbell’s press conference before practice, the media appearances by Charles Harris and Penei Sewell following Day 5 of Training Camp, and a highlights package from the day’s action. The videos are also available on the team’s website video section.
- The team’s social media folks provided a better look at new Three Thirteen designs that were alluded to in a teaser post from a few days ago:
Introducing: #Lions x Three Thirteen!— Detroit Lions (@Lions) July 28, 2023
Your first chance to buy this limited-run retail collaboration with Three Thirteen is Saturday, July 29, at training camp. The full collection will available in-store and online Monday, July 31 at 1PM! pic.twitter.com/J0I4lwleJy
- Defensive end John Cominksy and his daughter Emersyn were interview guests for Fox 2’s Jennifer Hammond after practice on Friday.
- According to team reporter Dannie Rogers, it was “fam day” at training camp on Friday:
- Brad Galli from WXYZ Channel 7 posted a short two-minute interview he had with first-round selection Jack Campbell:
- MLive’s Ben Raven wrote about the praise Jack Campbell has been earning from the coaches and his fellow linebackers.
- Some of the players from Crystal Palace Football Club stopped by Allen Park on Friday:
- MMQB’s Albert Breer wants you to know that the guy Erik Schlitt has been telling everybody to watch since May should be taken seriously as a “camp darkhorse.”
- Wayne State’s Anthony Pittman will soon join the ranks of the married players on the Lions roster:
- In other NFC North news, it is being reported that former Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is strongly considering joining Aaron Rodgers in New York.
- Checking in on former Lions first-round pick Jeff Okudah, now with the Falcons. The receiver he is facing is 6-foot-4 Mack Hollins, formerly of the Eagles and Raiders: