A potential second-year breakout for edge rusher James Houston was knocked off course when he suffered a broken ankle back in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks. Missing the rest of the season was a real possibility early, but the updates from Lions' head coach Dan Campbell have had hints of optimism more recently.
Campbell most recently pointed to late this month as the timeframe for Houston to return, with the important caveat "if it's going to happen."
Talking to reporters in front of his locker on Wednesday, the second-year man was a bit more optimistic.
"It’s looking like the timeline is before the playoffs, I should be able to get some games in", Houston said.
The Lions broke through a little with two sacks last week against the Saints, including one by newcomer Bruce Irvin, but they are just 27th in the league with 25 sacks this season. The prospect of getting Houston back, after he was a revelation with eight sacks in seven games as a rookie last year, is big to help boost the pass rush.
James Houston talks about importance of getting some action in before the playoffs
Houston got his foot caught in the turf when he was hit covering a kick against Seattle. He needed fairly extensive surgery, which inserted a plate, multiple screws and two tight ropes to fix his ankle. He said he's in the last legs of his rehab, and explained why it's important for him to play before the playoffs.
"I can get my feet under me, get a couple games before (the playoffs) even more. It’s even higher in the playoffs,” Houston said. “I know a lot of guys here probably haven’t been in too many (postseason) games, but the guys that have been, they’ve been telling me, playoff games are a whole different animal.”
Houston believes he can make a big difference for the Lions, with the benefit of having fresher legs than if he'd been playing the last three months.
"I feel like I’m an extremely explosive player. I like to say I’m a game-changer."
In a small sample last year (140 snaps), Houston had the aforementioned eight sacks with 11 quarterback hits, 17 total pressures, seven tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. It will be a small sample of work again this year due to his injury, but the Lions will welcome whatever he can possibly offer.