After he had eight sacks in seven games as a rookie last season, the second year breakout never came to fruition for Lions edge rusher James Houston. He suffered a fractured ankle covering a kick back in Week 2, and has not played since.
The Lions started Houston's 21-day clock to come off IR in late December, so they had to activate him last Thursday or he would be unavailable for whatever was left of their season. Head coach Dan Campbell was non-committal about being activated absolutely meaning Houston would play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday. Indeed, he was a healthy scratch for the Divisional Round win.
Houston had been a full participant in practice for at least two weeks running. So it was worth wondering what the point was to activate him if he was not actually ready to play, even a handful of snaps. And it's not like the Lions have gotten much of anything from any edge rushers not named Aidan Hutchinson this season.
Aaron Glenn gives update on James Houston for NFC Championship Game
Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn had his usual weekly media session on Thursday. Via Kyle Meinke of MLive, Glenn had a promising update on Houston.
"I think he’s very close,” Glenn said. “The thing that we want to do, we want to protect that player from themselves for the most part. Listen, I do not take injuries lightly, especially making sure we listen to the medical department to make sure we bring that player along exactly how he needs to come along. So, he’s doing a really good job in practice. You can tell he’s getting back to form, to where he was. And hopefully we’ll get a chance to put that player on the field, so he can make some plays for us.”
Glenn mentioned Houston's work to broaden his arsenal of pass rush moves beyond just being a speed/bend guy, which didn't get to be seen on the field much before he was injured.
“He’s very unique when it comes to being a pass rusher. Well, here’s the good thing about Houston this whole offseason, he’s learned different moves other than just being able to just bend around the corner on guys. So, I think we’re all looking forward to seeing the different techniques he has as far as being a pass rusher.”
The Lions slow-play letting players play after significant injuries, which is fine. But there seemingly isn't much more Houston can do to prove he's ready to play, stacking weeks of listed full practice participation. So it would be a big surprise if he isn't in uniform against the 49ers. If he's not, maybe the Lions should've given up the ghost and just let his season end.