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Film Room: Justin Houston vs Andrew Whitworth

How did the newest Colts’ pass rusher perform against one of the best tackles in the NFL last year?

NFL: NOV 19 Chiefs at Rams Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Part two of the match-ups film room series will feature two of the best players at their positions in the NFL. Justin Houston has had an outstanding NFL career as he has made the Pro Bowl four times, 1st team All-Pro once, and has racked up 78.5 sacks in his career. Andrew Whitworth is no slouch as he has made the Pro Bowl four times as well, along with making three All-Pro teams and starting almost 200 games in his career.

In a week 11 shootout between the Chiefs and Rams, these two elite players squared off in an outstanding match-up. Whitworth won most of the reps on the day with his long, sturdy frame holding back the many different rushes from Houston. Houston however was able to wear him down throughout the game and make a few highlight plays later in the game. Let’s look at the film and see this heavy weight brawl between two aging stars.

Film Room

Houston starts the day with one of his patented bull rushes. Despite being a bit undersized for a traditional defensive end, he has outstanding strength that allows him to win with that bull rush more often than not. This time however, Houston is stuffed by the lengthy Whitworth. Whitworth buckles down for the bull rush and is able to establish his base underneath him. With his outstanding size and long arms, he is able to withstand the bull rush from Houston and keep Jared Goff clean on the play.

Next clip here and Whitworth again is able to stuff Houston on the outside. Houston attempts to push outside but Whitworth is too quick with his short strides in his kick-step. Houston is able to get his hands inside on Whitworth but Whitworth is too strong to be moved back that easily. He stands up Houston and is then able to work his hands back inside to finish the play and keep Goff clean yet again.

This next clip is probably the best of the day for Whitworth. Houston lines up out wide on this play and has plenty of room to work. He starts out wide before stuttering and working his way back inside. Whitworth stays square throughout the rush and initiates contact with Houston as he breaks inside. He is then able to drive Houston outside with his outstanding strength and leave a huge pocket for Goff to operate from. In the first half, Whitworth dominated this match-up.

Houston finally gets some pressure on this play. After initially getting stood up by Whitworth, Houston continues to drive his legs and begins to move Whitworth back into the backfield. As Goff gets ready to throw, Houston is able to shove Whitworth in the way of the pass. Normally this would disrupt the play but Goff makes an outstanding throw down the sideline. Positive play though by Houston as he was relatively quiet up until this point in the game.

Another very impressive play by Whitworth on this play. He matches Houston’s steps off the line as Houston tries to get Whitworth to over-commit and lose his balance. Whitworth doesn’t fall for this as he stays on his toes and stays square to the rusher. Houston then attempts to bull rush then rip outside but Whitworth shuts it down. Whitworth’s length and size were so evident and it really frustrated Houston up until this point in the game. He was barely getting any breathing room from the dominant left tackle.

Houston finally starts to break through late in the game. He again gets positioning low on Whitworth with his bull rush and drives the massive tackle backwards. He stays low to the ground and continues to work his hands until he gains a little separation from Whitworth. Houston then tosses Whitworth aside and pursues Goff for the near sack. After being stuffed for most of the game by the length and impressive athleticism by Whitworth, Houston finally starts to make some progress in his moves. His resilience and constant drive on his rushes led to Whitworth tiring out a bit as the game progressed.

Now the highlight play of the game for Houston. After battling all game, he finally gains some room on Whitworth. He pushes to the outside from the wide nine position and sets up the bull rush and under move. He initiates contact and gets a good drive on Whitworth. He then rips under the long arms of Whitworth and bends around the edge. Whitworth does a good job of keeping Houston outside the arc but Houston does the savvy veteran move of sticking his arm out and knocking the ball out of Goff’s hands. The result is a potentially game altering score for the Chiefs.

Final clip of the day is yet another win for Houston. Whitworth over commits on the play-action and Houston takes full advantage of it. He fakes outside and then bursts inside past Whitworth. Whitworth is forced to grab Houston as he is helpless against the speed and quickness of the aging All-Pro. Without help from Gurley and Whitworth’s hold, Houston would have ended up with yet another sack in this game.

Final Thoughts

This was a great battle between two aging stars in this league. Whitworth’s size, length, and strength were tough for Houston to deal with early as his bull rushes and other moves were stymied. Houston however was able to win late as he persisted with his moves and kept his legs driving at all times. He wore down the massive tackle and as a result, he was able to have a positive impact on the game.

The key takeaway is what Houston could bring to the Colts with this ability. Even if he is over-matched and beaten down early, he will continue to battle until he has the advantage yet. In a division where the Colts face two solid left tackles in Taylor Lewan and Cam Robinson, having a pass rusher who wears down opponents is key. Hopefully Houston can perform as well as he did late against Whitworth all year for the Colts in 2019.