Justin Houston Ready For Less Responsibility In Switching To Colts 4-3 Defense
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INDIANAPOLIS – It’s just not something you typically hear a new free agent signing say.
When asked about why Player A chose Team A in free agency, normal answers lead to something about the team’s Super Bow trajectory, the locker room, the quarterback, the head coach, or (if the player is being honest) money.
But Justin Houston doesn’t offer up those reasons.
No, instead, Houston points to his relationship with Colts general manager Chris Ballard as the ‘major reason’ why he is now calling Indianapolis home in his 8th NFL season.
“That was the main reason why I came here,” Houston says of Ballard. “He’s a trustworthy guy. I trust that man. To hear him talk, and to hear from someone else who still believes in me and my ability was big.”
Ballard believes in Houston and the new defense that is waiting for the former Pro Bowler in Indianapolis.
The Colts have pitched heavy pass rush responsibilities to Houston, compared to the multiple tasks that he was accountable for as a 3-4 outside linebacker in Kansas City.
Houston says he’s looking forward to having less asked from him in this system.
“I think it’s easier to switch from an outside linebacker to a D-end, because you are playing with your hand down,” Houston says of the switch. “I actually played in a 4-3 my first three years of college. Just have to get back used to playing with my hand in the ground the whole game again.
“You aren’t thinking as much. You are just going forward the whole time. You are not trying to figure out if you are dropping or rushing. This time you are going in one direction.”
That direction is towards the quarterback, as Houston brings 78.5 career sacks with him to Indianapolis.
Houston, who spent the first 7 years of his NFL career in Kansas City (with Ballard working there from 2013-16), now will be wearing a different uniform for the first time.
And even though Houston doesn’t say the decision was ‘easy’ it was definitely made easier thanks to the guy in charge of re-building this roster.
“I knew when I got here what I was getting myself into,” Houston says. “They were straight forward with me the day I signed when I came up here on a visit. So that’s part of the reason why I signed because what they told me.
“I feel like that’s who they are from the get go.”
Early on, the Colts like what they've seen from their starting right defensive end.
“He just has a presence,” Frank Reich says. “Justin Houston has done a lot in this league. You can feel his leadership. Justin is a really savvy, smart player. You can tell his veteran leadership out there that this guy is a really smart football player. Then physically, just big and strong. I mean he is a big strong dude.
“So, I really feel like he is stepping in and not only going to provide us with production up front, but really a leadership that I guess I knew about, but probably not to the extent. I really sense a strong leadership from him even early on.”