Ex-Georgia Bulldog, Chiefs Edge Considered ‘Logical Fit’ for Falcons

Justin Houston Falcons

Getty Former Georgia Bulldog edge Justin Houston #42 celebrates after returning a fumble for a touchdown against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

The Atlanta Falcons have a vacant spot on their roster after they released veteran linebacker Barkevious Mingo who was arrested and charged with sexual misconduct last week.

But who could take his place?

Mingo was originally signed to help improve the Falcons’ pass rush which has ranked towards the bottom since 2019 under former head coach Dan Quinn.

Therefore, the Falcons will need to stay focused on the defensive side of the ball after racking up just 29 sacks last season.

NFL. com recently listed the top remaining free agents and their best fits for the 2021 season. They sent veteran edge and Georgia native Justin Houston to Atlanta.

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How Houston Fits in Atlanta

NFL.com didn’t just list the 32-year-old as a perfect Tinder-like match for Atlanta, nope, they also calculated how much he would drive the team’s win total.

And in Houston’s case, key pressures and assist pressures were the numbers that drove his win share up:

PROJECTED WIN SHARE: 0.68 wins

I feel like many people don’t realize that Houston has posted eight-plus sacks in each of the past four seasons. But not you and I — we know it! That said, when it comes to pass-rushing effectiveness, sacks aren’t the end all, be all.

If I had to use one metric to judge pass rushers, I’d go with pressures. And I’ve been working on two sub-metrics that I’m calling “key pressures” and “assist pressures.” Key pressures are the ones that are play/drive-ending, so sacks are included. Meanwhile, assist pressures … well, think about how Aaron Donald routinely gets triple-teamed, creating more space for teammates to generate pressure.

Now, I haven’t gotten through the whole multi-year model yet — you know your girl won’t dabble in too-small sample sizes — but I can tell you that Houston generated 23 key pressures as a Colt in 2020, which placed him in the top 30 percent of edge rushers last season. Next Gen Stats show that Houston posted an 11.7 pressure percentage on third down last season, ranking 25th among 62 players with at least 100 third-down rushes. This stuff is key when it comes to my pairing of Houston with the Falcons, who only pressured opposing QBs on 31.1 percent of third-down dropbacks in 2020 (ranking 22nd, per NGS).

While the Falcons could really use Houston’s strong presence on their defensive line,  NFL reporter Jason La Canfora reported that “at least four teams have reached out” to him.


Houston Would Be Coming Home

A graduate of Statesboro High School and former Georgia Bulldogs linebacker, Houston playing for the Falcons would be a warm homecoming.

His big breakout as a Dawg came in 2009 during his sophomore season after recording 7.5 sacks and earning second team all-SEC selection. Then as a junior, he tallied 10 sacks and led all linebackers in the SEC only behind Auburn’s Nick Fairley who recorded 11.5 sacks.

After forgoing his senior year, Houston was selected in the third round (70th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. He made the Pro Bowl four years straight from 2012-15 and was All-Pro in 2014 in which he led the NFL with 22 sacks.

In his recent stint with the Indianapolis Colts over the last two years, Houston has recorded 19 sacks and 30 quarterback hits. Just last year, he had 8 sacks, 12 quarterback hits and 8 tackles for loss to go with 25 tackles.

He needs just 2.5 more sacks this season to become the 36th player in NFL history to reach 100 total sacks.

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