Lions scout expects a big year from James Houston this year

After an injury wrecked his second season, a Lions' scout is expecting James Houston to have a big year in 2024.
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After being a sixth-round pick in 2022, James Houston stayed on the practice squad until Thanksgiving of his rookie season. He was a revelation from that point on, tallying eight sacks in seven games (140 defensive snaps).

The next step for Houston heading into his second season was to show he's more than just a pass rusher. But that did not come to pass, as a fractured ankle while covering a kick in Week 2 sidelined him until the NFC Championship Game.

The Lions, to put it mildly, lacked pass rush balance last season. After Aidan Hutchinson's 11.5 sacks, no other edge rusher had more than two. After Hutchinson's 121 pressures (including the playoffs, according to Pro Football Focus), Alim McNeill had the next-highest total on team (43).

A healthy Houston, even if he's still only a situational pass rusher, can only help that situation this season.

Lions' scout expects James Houston to have a big season in 2024

Patrick Mularkey has been with the Lions' personnel department since 2014. He is currently the team's "southwest" area scout. He recently appeared on the "Swartz Talkin' Sports" podcast, and a viewer question asked him for the best player he has "picked."

"I liked that one a lot, that’s the kid we took in the sixth round out of Jackson State two years ago. That was kind of a guy that went under the radar that not a lot of teams knew about or had a lot of love for and I kind of put my name on it, put my stamp on him, we took him," Mularkey said. "As a rookie, we kind of thought of him as a developmental guy, guy that had traits but might take a couple years to really get going."

"We had high expectations for him last year and then he broke his ankle and was out for almost the entire year," Mularkey continued. "That was unfortunate but he’s back healthy now and I think he’s gonna be a really good partner in crime with Aidan Hutchinson coming off the edge there.”  

Last week at OTAs, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn set the expectations for Houston to "take another step" this year, with an injury-forced mulligan on that front. Free agency signing Marcus Davenport and reigning CFL Defensive Player of the Year Mathieu Betts in the mix too, so Houston will have some competition for snaps on the edge opposite Hutchinson.

Here's the full interview with Mularkey, where he also talks about life as a scout, the Lions' front office and rookie defensive tackle Mekhi Wingo.


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