One of the most ascending young linebackers not only on the Chiefs but in the National Football League is Justin Houston. Houston was one of the jewels of the dreadful 2012 season as he lead the team in sacks with ten, one ahead of the other pass rusher Tamba Hali. It earned him a spot on the AFC Pro Bowl team in what was likely the first of many trips to Hawaii for Houston.
With a whole new coaching staff including new defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, the Chiefs foresee another big step forward this year for their rising star. In his first two seasons, Houston went from five and a half sacks his rookie year to almost doubling it with ten last year. And as he heads into his third season, it's usually the point in a pass rusher's career where development greatly increases. This does not necessarily mean his sack total will surge as Houston is working on all phases of his game to become the best player he can be. Houston's versatility allows him to do more than just chase the quarterback.
"The thing about Justin is that he does all three phases pretty good," said coach Sutton. "He's a good run defender, he's becoming a much better pass defender and that makes him a real weapon for us on defense."
The Chiefs will be coming after the quarterback more this season than they have in the past, and Houston will be a big part of that. But he will also be asked to drop into coverage, more often than Tamba Hali since he is more versatile than Hali.
"That's what I try to do, I try to be good at everything and not just be one-dimensional," said Houston. "I came in with the mindset of just being a pass rusher but a lot of the great guys can do more than one thing. That's what I want to do."
When comparing the two bookend pass rushers, Houston is the more gifted player than Hali. He makes causing havoc seem effortless while Hali has a motor that does not stop running until the whistle blows. Both guys are relentless in getting to the QB and will continue to give headaches to offensive coordinators. But there are a lot of ways to become a better pass rusher even without recording a sack and that is what Houston is working towards.
"A lot of times, people tie sacks to being a good pass rusher," Sutton said. "There are a lot of times where you're a great rusher and you don't get a sack but you force a throw to be out of rhythm or you force a quarterback to move off his spot, so there are a lot of parts to that."
One thing that is not a secret going into this season is the Chiefs will be aggressive defensively. And you can expect to see #50 Justin Houston right in the middle of that aggressiveness, getting after the QB, stopping the run, and dropping back into coverage. He's still only a young player with tons of football ahead of him. The team believes he can do a lot more than he has in the past. He certainly has the ability to become a superstar in this league.
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