James Houston was an instant difference maker for the Lions as a rookie, and PFF is buying into his potential for a full-on second-year breakout.
Houston also had three sacks of Bears quarterback Justin Fields in Week 17, and he went on to register eight sacks in seven games as a rookie. Oh, and he only played 140 snaps.
Then Lions defensive line coach Todd Wash had no good excuse for why Houston didn’t play until Week 12, though it’s fair to say he had some refining of his game to do on the practice squad before he was truly ready.
Houston should have a larger role from the get-go next season, even if the Lions shuffle their edge rusher mix this offseason (Romeo Okwara and Charles Harris are possible cap casualties). So it’s easy to have visions of huge things to come.
Pro Football Focus buying into second year breakout for James Houston
The Lions have an obvious 2023 second-year breakout candidate in wide receiver Jameson Williams. But Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus also tabbed Houston as a looming big problem for opponents next year on his list of second year breakout candidates for next season.
It feels easy to say Houston already broke out as a rookie after ending the season with eight sacks, but those sacks came on just 140 snaps of play and 92 rushes. Obviously, that rate of production is unlikely to continue on a much greater workload, but it does create real excitement for what he can achieve across more snaps. He finished with 17 total pressures on those 92 rushes, itself an outstanding pressure rate, and the Lions have an opening for a secondary threat opposite Aidan Hutchinson.
As Monson noted, a sack every 17.5 snaps simply isn’t sustainable. An 18.5 percent pressure rate (via PFF) feels more sustainable, as that would have been a bottom-10 pressure rate in the league for a team last season.
Projecting the future based on a sole small sample is a dangerous game. But Houston’s small sample as rookie was so enticing it’s hard not to get excited about what he could do with more work, let alone with the benefit of experience, in his second season.