But that breakout train got derailed when Houston suffered a fractured ankle in Week 2 while covering a kick. There was the ongoing idea he would play before the season ended, but it ultimately didn't happen until the NFC Championship Game when he played 11 defensive snaps and four special team snaps.
It's easy to forget just how little football Houston has played. He didn't play a lot over three seasons at the University of Florida, and that was not as an edge rusher. He spent his final college season at Jackson State under Deion Sanders, and had a huge season in transition to being an edge defender (16.5 sacks, 24.5 tackles for loss).
Then he of course played seven games and just 140 defensive snaps as a rookie for the Lions, then played just 43 defensive snaps (counting the playoff game) due to his ankle injury this year.
James Houston ready to pay off the breakout buzz next season
Naturally and as expected, via Ben Raven of MLive, Houston is ready for the offseason and he's ready to pay off this year's breakout buzz when fully healthy for Week 1 of next season
"I feel like I can only go up, you know?” Houston said as Lions players were cleaning out their lockers this week. “Come back from the injury, I feel like things are just going to continue to ramp up as they were. Yeah, just try to get my leg back right and work on some more moves. Headed back into the offseason."
It's well-known how the Lions sorely lacked for pass rush off the edge outside of Aidan Hutchinson this season. The group as a whole is headed for turnover this offseason, with Charles Harris and Romeo Okwara locks to be gone, but a healthy Houston with another offseason to expand his pass rush arsenal is definitely an intriguing boost to the situation for next season.