Justin Houston Instantly Improves Colts Biggest Need
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INDIANAPOLIS – If Justin Houston’s end to the 2018 season is any indication, there’s still some juice left in that Pro Bowl rusher.
While Houston, 30, has batted injuries in recent seasons (missing 21 games the last 4 years), he was quite the menacing pass rusher in closing out last year.
Including the playoffs, Houston recorded sacks in 5 of his final 6 games last season, with multi-sack efforts in three of those five contests.
Two of those sacks came against the Colts, in the Divisional Round, and it had to have Chris Ballard thinking in the press box about what it would be like to have such a presence off the edge.
He’s got that now after inking Houston to a two-year deal worth a very reasonable $24 million, especially when factoring in the ample cap space the Colts had in 2019.
“I have plenty in the tank,” the 30-year-old Houston said on Thursday, after joining the Colts. “I think some people don’t believe that, so it’s more so what I am about to show the world than myself, because I know what I am capable of.”
Even if Houston doesn’t have the same fastball he had earlier in his NFL career, he’s got more action on his pass rushing pitches than anything the Colts currently have on the roster.
Instead of relying on slower developing stunts or blitzing Kenny Moore’s/Darius Leonard’s to get home, Houston provides the Colts an individual rusher who can be effective by himself, and attract some attention from opposing offenses.
Houston clearly comes to Indy motivated after being released earlier this month by the Chiefs.
The 8-year vet thinks the looming question of his fit into a 4-3 system, which was a reason why the Chiefs chose to move on from him, as they now switch defenses, is a bit overblown.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a big difference because nowadays it’s a passing league,” Houston says of the defensive switch. “So, 70-80 percent of the time you’ve got your sub (group) out there and I’m rushing the passer anyway. I think that’s just going to be part of the game and I get to do that every down and not have to worry about dropping into coverage. So I think my job will be easier than it has been in the past.”
Houston’s sack numbers/games played as of late are as followed:
-2015: 7.5 sacks/11 games played
-2016: 4.0 sacks/5 games played
-2017: 9.5 sacks/15 games played
-2018: 9.0 sacks/12 games played
Those numbers might not be to Houston’s peak form from earlier in his career, but they still trump anything the Colts have had in those same seasons.
Connections to Chris Ballard and Robert Mathis definitely contributed into Houston joining the Colts.
“I think it played a huge role,” Houston said of his prior relationship with Ballard from their days together in KC. “He’s a good guy. We’ve had a lot of contact going on. We’ve been calling and texting each other. He is somebody I can trust and just talk to knowing I’ve got an honest answer and to know exactly what he’s looking for and feel like I can help played a large role.
“I feel like he is a great guy and I also feel like I can learn a lot from him,” Houston said of Mathis. “I’m excited to work with him.”
Houston, without a doubt, is the Colts’ most feared pass rusher off the edge since Mathis tormented the NFL back in 2013.
Difference makers like Mathis were why the Colts were perennial Super Bowl contenders a decade ago.
And the Colts hope Houston still has enough left in him to get the franchise back to that level.
“I think they can help me as much as I can help them,” the 2011 third-round pick said on Thursday.
“I love the way they play, their attitude and their effort they play with on the field. I think we can help each other. I just want to be another pass rusher within the scheme that can help cause some more headaches.”