Lions second-year edge defender James Houston is “at least a few weeks away” from returning to game action, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes. As we are presently in Week 13, it sounds as if Houston may not be back until the very end of the regular season or the start of the playoffs.
Detroit’s 23 sacks are the fifth-fewest in the league, and the team has struggled to find an adequate complement to standout defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. Though he was selected in the sixth round of the 2022 draft and did not make his professional debut until last November, Houston finished the 2022 season with eight sacks in just seven games (two starts). It appeared as if he would at least serve as a rotational pass rusher in 2023, but he suffered a fractured ankle in Week 2 and has been on injured reserve ever since.
To be clear, Houston played in just 21 snaps in the Lions’ Week 1 victory over the Chiefs, and he may not have realized an immediate uptick in the 32% snap share he enjoyed last season. However, given the lack of production from players like Romeo Okwara, John Cominsky, Josh Paschal, and Charles Harris, Houston could have earned more playing time as the season went on.
Instead, he has been forced to watch from the sideline. Birkett reports that Houston spent one practice before Thanksgiving working with trainers, thereby underscoring the point that the 25-year-old still has a long way to go to get back on the field.
In an effort to bolster their flagging pass rush, the Lions recently added 36-year-old Bruce Irvin to the taxi squad and have elevated him for today’s game against the Saints. According to Justin Rogers of the Detroit News, the Lions were the first team to express interest in Irvin this year, and it took him several weeks to work himself into game shape.
Irvin himself noted that Lions LB coach Kelvin Sheppard helped him get an opportunity with the Lions. The two men were high school teammates in Georgia, and Irvin says that Sheppard “stood on the table” for him.
Over 11 seasons spent with five different teams (the Lions are his sixth), Irvin — the No. 15 overall pick of the 2012 draft — has amassed 55.5 sacks and 69 tackles for loss.