Exhibits good balance and acceleration when flattening out around the end and possesses impressive closing speed around the corner. However, is a bit limited as a pass rusher at this stage, at times will work the bull rush and does a nice job getting his hands under the pad level of blockers, gaining leverage and driving his legs through contact. And through contact does a nice job working his way inside. However, doesn't display much of an inside move laterally and doesn't use his hands well enough to slip blocks inside before contact. Too often can be overplayed toward the edge and pushed past the play, as he will let his pad level get a bit upright once he is clean from contact.
Is a willing run defender, but lacks ideal girth at the point of attack and can be overwhelmed on contact. Played with his hand on the ground mostly at Georgia and isn't a guy who looks like an ideal fit as a down defensive lineman unless it's in more of a cover two scheme. However, showcases the ability to make his way up the field from a two-point stance, reads pulling linemen well, plays with proper leverage and can accelerate toward the football. Doesn't use his hands well enough to disengage through contact, but has some natural strength to his game. Plays with a good motor, works hard from the backside and exhibits a passion for the game.
Impression: An explosive pass rusher who has been productive in the SEC the past two seasons and knows how to consistently threaten the corner. Has the fluidity to develop a counter move and drop off into coverage, just needs some time. Looks like an impact-caliber rush linebacker at the next level."
After redshirting in 2007, Houston showed flashes of ability in his first season on the field, accumulating 19 tackles and 2.5 sacks despite only starting one game. He started 10 games as a sophomore, earning second-team All-SEC accolades as an undersized defensive end. He posted 39 tackles, including a team-leading 15.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks.
Houston emerged as one of the most feared pass rushers in the SEC in 2010. He had 67 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and finished second in the conference, behind Auburn's Nick Fairley, with 10 sacks. Houston was credited by Georgia with 44 QB hurries -- three times as many as any other Bulldog defender -- and was named All-SEC as a finalist for the Butkus and Nagurski Awards.
Roughly half of the 32 NFL teams use a three-man line as their base defense. Versatile pass rushers like Houston are more valuable than ever. With a season of experience already under his belt -- as opposed to making the transition in training camp -- Houston has an advantage over similarly built athletes yet to prove they can make the switch. He might be viewed as a one-trick pony but, because of his burst off the edge, Houston the potential to be a top-50 pick.
Read and React: A work in progress. Typically asked to rush the passer in the Georgia scheme but shows moderate overall awareness dropping into coverage. Locates the ball quickly and shows good flexibility and balance to scrape and pursue.
Run Defense: Lacks the bulk to move back to defensive end on a full-time basis in the NFL. As a linebacker, has good upper-body strength and arm length to fight off blocks at the point of attack. Locates the ball quickly. Keeps blockers off his chest and shows some explosiveness in his hands to disengage. Good balance and lateral agility to keep his feet while fighting through blocks.
Pass Defense: At his best rushing upfield. Fires off the snap with an explosive burst from a three-point stance and as a stand-up pass rusher. Shows some agility to elude blockers. Good flexibility and balance to dip under the blocker's reach and the burst to plant his foot and drive toward the ballcarrier. Has a closing burst when the ball is near.
Tackling: Has good but not elite lateral agility to break down in the open field to make one-on-one tackles. Good strength for the drag-down tackle. Generates explosiveness as a hitter, bringing his hips through to launch himself into the ballcarrier. Has the awareness to attempt to knock the ball out in pursuit but had only two forced fumbles in three seasons.
Pass Rush/Blitz: His greatest strength is his explosive burst upfield. Varies his speed off the edge, showing the speed to cross the pass blocker's face and beat him around the corner, as well as the quick feet and balance to fake outside and cut back inside. Learning to use his hands, but is not as developed in this area as you might expect, considering his time as a defensive end. Relies on his burst to beat blockers, and lacks a repertoire of rush moves. A bit of a one-trick pony. Too often stymied when his speed off the edge is contained.
Intangibles: Wrestled with the decision to leave school early. Was thought to be leaning that way, but reconsidered amidst private and public "re-recruiting" by the Georgia coaches. Ultimately declared on January 15, the NFL-imposed deadline for underclassmen to enter the draft. Was suspended in May 2009 for reportedly violating university substance abuse policy.
Instincts/Recognition: Houston gets such a good jump because he's able time the snap count really well. Uses his jump to get the power advantage on offensive linemen. Will be a work in progress recognizing passing routes.
Pass Rush: Houston's best asset as a pass rusher is his ability to get off the snap and to the edge. Is best rushing to the outside where he can get low and work under the tackle. Wasn't used a lot working the inside lane. Needs to develop a counter move. Hand usage could be better, which is a reason why he's better suited as a linebacker. Played as a standup rush end in Georgia's 3-4 in 2010. Played end previously.
Pursuit: Has good initial step and move which allows him to get outside the blocker. As good as his first step is, you'd expect Houston to have better closing ability. He's not as violent of a closer as you'd expect.
Run Defense: Houston struggles against the run when he has to change direction in short areas. Is a little tight in the hips. Where he does do well here is locating the ball and getting after it. Has enough upper body strength to handle ball carriers in the open field. Is a solid form tackler.
Strength: If Houston is being considered as a linebacker, his strength is ready for the NFL. He just needs to figure out how to better use his hands to get the most out of his strength. If Houston is used as an end, he may have to get stronger in his lower body.
Final Word: Houston is a good speed rusher when he gets a good jump off the snap. He has NFL size and enough athleticism to play outside in the 3-4. Against the run, Houston is only average and he's a work in progress in pass coverage. Had 17.5 sacks in his last two seasons at Georgia."
Houston is a versatile pass rusher.
Houston ended up redshirting and bulking up in the weight room for his freshman season. He immediately made an impact getting significant playing time in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman, and really came on the scene as a sophomore. As a sophomore he registered 15 tackles for loss, including 7.5 sacks. He made plays behind the backfield consistently, and became feared by every SEC offense that had to face him. Houston exploded in his junior season as he only built on his production from 2009.
Houston is a pure pass rusher with an excellent first step. He’s powerful, and he’s quick around the edge. His size and speed provide a favorable matchup even against the best SEC offensive lineman. Houston is versatile as he has lined up as a defensive end, defensive tackle, and outside linebacker when Georgia runs their situational 3-4 defense. Houston gets upfield in a hurry, and has excellent straight line speed. He’s a great wrap up a tackler, and he uses his power to stop the ball carrier in his tracks. He has an excellent blend of strength and quickness that will translate very favorable for him in the NFL and for the team drafting him.
Houston sometimes plays a bit stiff at times, and doesn’t have much experience dropping back into coverage situations. Despite his athleticism, I do question his ability to work in space, and make the tackle in the open field. At times, he tries to make tackles a bit too high, and doesn’t always do well in pursuit. Houston has been known to get sucked in and lose outside contain, but most of Houston’s flaws are mental and can be taught by an experienced coach at the next level.
Houston is going to be highly coveted by both 4-3 defenses and 3-4. I like him to make the permanent switch to the 3-4 defense as he’ll most likely be selected between picks 10 and 20. Washington, Houston, Miami, New England and San Diego are the most likely targets as teams running a pure 3-4 system. New England two gap 3-4 defense suits Houston the best, and if he’s available at pick 17, he’ll be off the board in a hurry to the Patriots.
NFL Comparison: Cameron Wake"
Positive: Disruptive, game-changing college defender with potential at a number of positions in the NFL. Built low to the ground, naturally gets leverage on opponents, and exploits immobile blockers out of a three-point stance. Forceful up the field, can bend off the edge, and effectively uses his hands to defeat blocks. Fires off the snap with a great first step, plays with terrific pad level, and makes a lot of athletic plays. Fluid moving in all directions of the field and tough to knock off his feet. Plays with balance, smooth dropping off the line in space, and shows the ability to immediately alter his angle of attack.
Negative: Struggles trying to chase the action out to the flanks. Occasionally stood up over tackle and is very late to react. Despite his forty time slows down playing in space.
Analysis: Houston was a terrific pass rushing defensive end in college but may be asked to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment at the next level. He causes a lot of impact up the field at defensive end yet seems very indecisive making plays in reverse. He's overrated by many because of his deceptive statistics, and the transition to the next level may be a difficult one for Houston."
Negatives: Was suspended for the first two games of 2009 for violating team rules, but has since stayed out of trouble and handled the suspension well... Tends to give up on plays when across the field, has a good motor off the snap, but stops when play is too far away... Does not take very good angles in pursuit down field... Tends to tackle too high and does not drive through every tackle, but can afford to do so in traffic because he wraps up well and doesn't miss many tackles... Plays much more like a weakside defensive end on first and second down than he does a linebacker, can get too deep into the backfield and get out of position on plays up the middle of the line... Will never be very proficient in coverage, will be suitable to defend short routes in the NFL, but will likely be predominantly a pass rusher... Has only a year of experience as a 3-4 OLB, so 3-4 teams expecting to use him in that capacity will need to factor in a learning curve at the position."
Strengths: Good timed speed. Plays to his athletic ability. A monster on special teams. Increasingly productive each year. Has the physical prowess to be a starter in the NFL.
Weaknesses: Too light to play with his hand in the dirt. Will be over-powered in 1-on-1 matchups. More of a finesse rusher.
Projection: If he declares, he will likely slip to round 3 based on the fact that he will be a situational pass-rusher at the pro level."
He looks like a defensive end, and that's exactly what he might play at the next level in a 4-3 scheme. In a 3-4 defense he can set up at rush linebacker. Houston has been clocked as fast as 4.64 in the 40-yard dash, but he will want to improve on that if he wants to establish himself as a sure-thing first-rounder. Prior to this season he looked like a third-rounder at best. If he continues at this pace and leaves early, a first-round selection is possible."
He stood out against Kentucky with the balance, bend and lateral agility to consistently pressurize the edge. He shows the skill set to fit as either a 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker, having lined up at both positions with the Bulldogs transitioning to an odd front this fall."
Justin Houston brings a tremendous fusion of Speed, Power,Passion, and Tenacity to the table.
As a Pass Rusher, he commands an absolutely terrific Burst out of the Blocks, an extremely lengthy Wing Span, enormous Hands, excellent Lateral Velocity, and terrifying Closing Speed. His repertoire does need a great deal of development, mind you.
As a Run Defender, he wasn't as stout or Strong as he needed to be, last year, so he promptly went out and added 10 pounds of solid beef to an already strong Core. And then he went and blasted a 4.57 "40" at his Pro Day!!
He's a relentless Gym Rat. And his Work Ethic is absolutely outstanding. Above all, in my book, are the good grades he gets for Diagnostic Skills + Processing Speed. He's not infallible in the mental aspect of the Game, by any means, but he's clearly sharp and increasingly instinctive, and ahead of the curve. Just as importantly, he strikes me as a guy with the relentless focus to do what it takes to pull farther away from the pack, the further along he goes...to become exceptional.
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