To become a true Super Bowl contender, the Detroit Lions will need a more consistent pass rush in 2023. Second-year linebacker James Houston said he’s ready to add that to the Lions defense.
Actually, Houston went even further. While appearing on Ermanni & Edwards with Maz on Woodward Sports on June 2 Houston said that he’s setting goals to break more NFL records.
“You know, what I did was extraordinary. I set NFL records, so I honestly just want to continue to build on that,” Houston told hosts Braylon Edwards and Tom Mazawey. “I want to double up my sack total. If I could get that this year, that would be my dream.”
With 8 sacks, Houston broke the record for most sacks in the first six games of an NFL career. He finished the 2022 season with 12 combined tackles, including 7 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, 11 quarterback hits, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery in seven contests.
Lions LB James Houston Aiming for More NFL Records
New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt share the official single-season sack record with 22.5 sacks. Houston will have to nearly triple his rookie season production to break that mark.
But doubling his sack total to 16 would give him the single-season Lions sack record. Robert Porcher holds the official record with 15 sacks during the 1999 season.
Since then, Ezekiel Ansah is the only Lions defender who has reached the 12-sack plateau. Ansah did that twice with 14.5 sacks in 2015 and 12 sacks in 2017.
A bigger pass-rushing presence would be huge for the Lions defense in 2022. Detroit finished tied for 18th with 39 sacks last season. The Lions were also 30th in passing yards allowed and tied for 23rd in passing touchdowns yielded.
Houston making a second-year leap would likely improve the Lions defense in all of those categories.
If Houston, who was a sixth-round pick in the 2022 NFL draft, proves to not be a half-season wonder, then the Lions could have one of the most dynamic, young bookend pass rushers in the league. Houston finished second for the Lions in sacks to 2022 No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson, who had 9.5 sacks last year.
Potential for Lions to Expand Houston’s Role
Houston stood out as a pass rusher during his rookie season, and that’s very likely to remain his speciality. But he didn’t rule out contributing in other ways while appearing on Woodward Sports.
“Being as you know, my role is majority pass rush and getting sacks. I just want to expand on that,” Houston told hosts Braylon Edwards and Tom Mazawey. “Anything else they give me, I’ll be super happy, super blessed and fortunate to have.”
It’s not a surprising viewpoint from a player who spent the first 11 games on the team’s practice squad last season. He took advantage of the opportunity when it finally came to him, and it sounds like he wants to do the same with any new opportunities in 2023.
Pro Football Focus certainly expects big things from Houston this fall. Two of their analysts included the former sixth-round pick on a list of breakout candidates for the 2023 season.
On May 19, PFF’s Zoltan Buday named Houston the Lions’ top breakout candidate for the upcoming season.
“Rookie edge defender Aidan Hutchinson got most of the attention in 2022, but classmate James Houston IV had a very impressive season, too,” Buday wrote. “The sixth-round pick had to wait until Week 12 to get on to the field, but he finished the season strong, ultimately posting a pass-rush grade of 88.2 that would have ranked seventh among edge defenders had he played more snaps.
“Over the last seven weeks of the season, he produced pressure on 18.5% of his pass-rushing snaps, eighth among 121 qualifying edge defenders.”
Houston and Hutchinson recorded 17.5 sacks together last season while the rest of the team combined for 21.5. Obviously, Houston developing into an all-around excellent edge rusher is ideal, but what the Lions really expect and need from the 24-year-old is impactful pass-rushing plays.