Packers Prospect Profile – LB Justin Houston, University of Georgia
Position: OLB (3-4), DE (4-3)
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 260 lbs.
Born: January 1, 1989 From: Statesboro, GA
2) High School / College Highlights: According to his Georgia bio, Houston was a class 4A All-State Honorable Mention his senior season, and was All-Region in both his junior and senior years.
Coming out of high school, Rivals.com ranked him as their No. 21 defensive end prospect, ESPN had him at No. 27, and Scout.com ranked him No. 42. During his junior season, Statesboro High won the class 4A State championship.
Houston decided to stay home and attend the University of Georgia. Like many mid-level freshman recruits, Houston began his college career by redshirting in 2007. He played in 13 games (2.5 sacks) the next season, but 2009 was the year that he really broke out. In 10 games, Houston had a team-leading 15 tackles for losses and 7.5 sacks, and was awarded with AP Second Team All-SEC honors.
While still somewhat of an unknown before last season, Houston stamped his name among the draft’s top pass-rushers with a dominant 13-game showing. He racked up 10 sacks, 18.5 tackles for losses and 44 quarterback pressures on his way to being named an AP First Team All-SEC selection. Originally slated in the middle rounds, Houston’s play last season shot himself into the first round discussion.
3) College Stats: 36 games/24 starts, 70 solo/26 assisted tackles, 20.0 sacks/134 yards lost, 38 tackles for losses/168 yards lost, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 5 passes broken up, 1 interception, 78 quarterback pressures.
4) NFL Combine Results: 4.68 second 40-yard dash, 30 bench presses, 36.5″ vertical jump, 10’5″ broad jump, 6.95 second cone drill, 4.37 second 20-yard shuttle, 11.46 60-yard shuttle.
5) Strengths/Weaknesses: His 4.68 40-yard dash at the combine suggests Houston might not be explosive off the edge, but that number is very misleading. Houston has an excellent first step, and his flexibility has allowed him to dip his shoulder around offensive tackles. He also counters the dip move with a solid outside-to-inside fake that kept SEC tackles on their heels all season.
Georgia also switched their defense to a 3-4 last season, so Houston has experience rushing the passer from a standing position. His performance at the both the combine and his pro day erased many of the big concerns about playing in space.
Houston does have some weaknesses, however. In college, he tended to rely on his speed to get around tackles and very rarely used power moves to get to the quarterback. At the next level, he’ll need to improve and expand his pass rushing repertoire to be a consistent sack-threat.
And while his recent workout performances did alleviate many of his coverage concerns, Houston will never be a specialist in that area. In fact, chances are he’ll struggle early on in his career if asked to do that consistently.
Finally, Houston was suspended for Georgia’s first two games in 2009 after violating team rules. However, all accounts say he matured as a team leader afterwards and was one of the most active Bulldogs in the Athens, GA community.
6) Fit for the Packers: If you’re a believer in the idea that the Packers need an outsider linebacker opposite Clay Matthews, than picking Houston makes a lot of sense. His skill set rivals, and most likely dwarfs, any outside linebacker (excluding Matthews) the Packers had on their 2010-2011 roster.
Given the adequate time with coach Kevin Greene, you’d have to believe that Houston can become a disruptive force rushing the passer. If that’s the case, the Packers would feature a defense with two highly skilled pass rushers on the edge—certainly a scary endeavor for any NFL offense facing Green Bay.
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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.
You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.Follow @zachkruse2