2. EDGE James Houston
In a lot of places, Houston has been tabbed as a breakout candidate. He was even namedan underappreciated player on the Lions' team heading into the 2023 season by CBS Sports. After he had eight sacks in seven games over 140 defensive snaps as a rookie last year, the hype is easy to tap into.
But as much of a nuisance as Houston was for opposing offensive lines, once the Lions found a way to get him on the field starting at Thanksgiving, there's now tape out on him that has been poured over all offseason. Yes, it's limited tape (see the aformentioned 140 snaps). But it will be a key part of Houston's development in Year 2 to counter what might be done to neutralize him, and become a more complete edge defender.
Then there's the competition/depth factor. The Lions brought back veteran edge rushers Romeo Okwara and Charles Harris this offseason, albeit each with a pay cut. Along as they're healthy, which they weren't for all or part of Houston's late season surge last year, and not a surprise cut or traded before Week 1, both will be a significant part of the edge rusher mix. So that lines Houston up to be a part of a rotation...not that he couldn't quickly show himself as the best of the three. Fellow second-year man Josh Paschal is in the mix off the edge too.
Houston may force himself onto the field more than Harris and Okwara this season by will of raw talent, as both vets have a lot to prove. But the hype for the second-year man is pretty big right now, to the point of needing a reality check.