According to new defensive line coach Brian Baker, Indianapolis Colts veteran pass rusher Justin Houston is a ‘very efficient football player’—entering his 10th NFL season (via Colts.com’s Andrew Walker):
“[H]e’s a very efficient football player,” Baker said. “I mean, he’s a guy — and I’ve known about Justin because I’ve actually used Justin as an example of an efficient pass rusher; he takes really precise what I call rush angles, meaning his path to the quarterback, and his timing and feel for blockers and his awareness of the quarterback in the pocket.”
Houston led the Colts with a team-high 11.0 sacks last season, as well as recorded 44 tackles (13 tackles for loss), 60 total QB pressures, 2 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, and a safety in all 16 starts.
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription), Houston was their 8th best graded edge defender in 2019 with a +87.1 overall grade—including a +81.9 pass rushing grade.
In particular, Houston was elite at pressuring opposing quarterbacks on third down, as he finished in the Top 5 among all defenders with a 16.7% overall 3rd down pressure rate.
In an upcoming contract year with the Colts, even at 31 years old, Houston still figures to have plenty of ‘juice’ left—because not only has he remained highly productive as a pass rusher, but because Baker believes his pass rushing skill-set is less reliant on ‘twitch’—and more on technique, knowledge, and awareness than his counterparts:
“And it’s great because as he’s getting a little older, the way he plays is not as skillset reliant as maybe some other guys that I’ve been around that have been just exceptionally twitchy, and then all of a sudden they lose their twitch, and their skill and their production falls off,” Baker added. “Well, Justin is an efficient guy. So what he does and what he’ll continue to do, which means he gets better at it, are things that should translate into production for the foreseeable future.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, Houston has a great ‘speed-power’ combination as a pass rusher, but it’s the other little things that have also helped him become the NFL’s 50th (tied) all-time sack leader with 89.5 career sacks and counting.
With another productive season in 2020, Houston could be a key candidate to be re-signed by Indianapolis to a new deal, as he remains a veteran leader in their locker room and an impact pass rusher for their defense—with the type of ‘efficiency’ that should continue to age well for the Colts.