Lions rookie James Houston finally got to play against the Bills on Thursday, and he made the most of the opportunity.
With Charles Harris and Josh Paschal out again on a short week, the Lions elevated sixth-round rookie James Houston from the practice squad to the active roster on Wednesday. Head coach Dan Campbell had noted Houston as someone he wanted to see a few weeks ago, and circumstance finally lined up for the Thanksgiving game against the Bills.
Houston had two sacks of Josh Allen on Thursday, and he also fell on a fumble by Kalif Raymond on a punt return to allow the Lions to retain possession. Houston had 16.5 sacks at Jackson State last season, after transferring from Florida, so his edge rushing prowess translated quickly.
After the game, Houston talked about the role he expected going into the game and how it changed.
"I was expecting to spare a little bit and go in on third downs and help out a little,” Houston said after the Lions’ 28-25 loss. “With (Julian Okwara) going out, I went in a little bit more. It’s just, opportunity meets preparation and that breeds success.”"
James Houston is definitely in line for more opportunity moving forward
Ultimately, Houston played five defensive snaps and 10 defensive snaps on Thursday. As mentioned, Julian Okwara left the game with an elbow injury and never returned, so his status going forward is up in the air until there’s concrete news beyond a simple acknowledgement he has an elbow injury.
Houston seems like a no-brainer to be added to the Lions’ active roster, like ASAP, so no other team can just poach him off their practice squad. Julian Okwara’s status shouldn’t really matter that much to that decision, but the looming return of Romeo Okwara from an Achilles’ tear could complicate matters.
Houston seems ready for more though.
"Knowing that I was on the practice squad and switching positions, I had a lot on my plate mentally, physically, everything,” Houston said. “Obviously, the guys in the front office knew that I had a little bit more process to go. They unleashed me and it showed.”"
For the first time in awhile, on the fringe of the NFC playoff picture, the Lions will play some games that are meaningful as we look to December. But the final six games could also present a bigger opportunity for someone like Houston, and based on his debut he has earned the chance to play more–perhaps a lot more.