Pro Football Focus is all the way on the James Houston breakout bandwagon

Chris Board and James Houston, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Chris Board and James Houston, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

It’s not a fresh sentiment, but Pro Footbal Focus is all-aboard the James Houston breakout bandwagon for 2023.

A sixth-round pick in 2022, with a nod to his nickname, James Houston was a “problem” for opposing offensive lines immediately upon taking the field as a rookie. Starting with Thanksgiving against the Buffalo Bills, his first game on the Detroit Lions’ active roster, he had eight sacks in seven games over 140 defensive snaps.

The prospect of a full second season, even if his rookie season sack pace is not sustainable, brings plenty of promise for Houston. Pro Football Focus had him on their list of second-year breakout candidates a couple months ago.

In a fresh list tabbing a breakout player from each NFC team for 2023, PFF went back to the well with Houston as the guy for the Lions.

James Houston was a top-10 pass rusher, via PFF, when he played as a rookie

"Rookie edge defender Aidan Hutchinson got most of the attention in 2022, but classmate James Houston IV had a very impressive season, too. 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."

With Jameson Williams suspended the first six games of the season, Houston now stands out as a a top breakout candidate for the Lions this year. His pass rush grade and pressure rate were both top-10 numbers for PFF, with only the snap count threshhold to qualify in the top-10 as a thing in terms of his pass rush grade.

Houston won’t average a sack every 17.5 snaps he plays in 2023. That’s just a natural reality. But double-digit sacks, and possibly leading the Lions in sacks, is firmly play.

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