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James Houston’s evaluation clock nears expiration, Lions decision looming

Could James Houston return to the Detroit Lions lineup for a playoff push? A decision is on the horizon.

Detroit Lions v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The injury evaluation window for James Houston is set to expire on Wednesday evening, forcing the Detroit Lions to make a decision on the immediate future of their edge rusher.

Houston injured his ankle/femur back in early September and has been on injured reserve working his way back since. On Thursday, December 28, the Lions cleared Houston to practice, thus opening up a 21-day evaluation window to assess if he is ready to return to the active roster.

Both coach Dan Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn have commented that Houston has been making steady progress in returning from injury, and while he has been practicing in full, he hasn’t quite done enough to warrant a return to the roster just yet.

“Practice. That’s it, go out and practice and see how effective you can be,” Glenn said last Thursday. “If you’re effective, then we’ll put you in there and let you play.”

With his evaluation window set to expire on Wednesday, Houston has one more practice to prove to coaches that he is ready. After that, the Lions will have to make a decision and they have just two options to choose from:

  1. If he is ready, the Lions could activate him from injured reserve, and in turn, would have to release a player from their 53-man roster to make room.
  2. If he is not ready, the Lions will not activate him and he will return to injured reserve, thus ending his season, or he could be released outright from the team.

Houston’s ability to get pressure on the quarterback could provide the Lions with a much-needed boost on defense.

“I feel like I’m an extremely explosive player. I like to say I’m a game-changer,” Houston said last month. “So I feel like that’s what I could help with, especially in the pass rushes, sacks, forced fumbles. All types of things.”

Against the Rams in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, Detroit only managed 19 pressures on Los Angeles, per PFF, but nine of those came from Aidan Hutchinson alone. Interior defensive lineman Alim McNeill had three pressures and edge rusher Josh Paschal had two, while no one else had more than one.

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