Justin Houston

Justin Houston Could Miss Multiple Games

The Chiefs’ defense took a noticeable step forward in Sunday’s victory over the Jaguars, but the unit finished the game without its top pass rusher. And that situation may continue for the near future.

Justin Houston suffered a hamstring injury against the Jags, and NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo reports (via Twitter) this could shelve the eighth-year edge defender for a few weeks. He’s considered “very iffy” to face the Patriots on Sunday night, per Garafolo.

Houston’s issue appears to have the Chiefs looking at free agent outside linebackers, Blair Kerkhoff, Brooke Pryor and Lynn Worthy of the Kansas City Star report.

Knee issues have been Houston’s biggest problem as an NFLer, keeping him off the field during much of the 2015 and ’16 seasons. He’s played in all five of Kansas City’s wins thus far this season, however. He has three sacks and two forced fumbles, teaming with Dee Ford as starters for the AFC’s lone unbeaten. Ford, who’s off to a strong start himself with four sacks and a forced fumble (which came against Blake Bortles on Sunday) may have to shoulder more responsibility against the Patriots.

The Chiefs invested second-round picks in OLBs the past two years, bringing in Tanoh Kpassagnon in 2017 and trading up to select Breeland Speaks this year. Speaks has played 116 snaps thus far this season.

Kansas City faces AFC North-leading Cincinnati in Week 7. The Chiefs have a home tilt against the Broncos on tap for Week 8. Kansas City’s bye is not until Week 12.

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AFC West Notes: Houston, Chargers, Broncos

Knee trouble has impacted Justin Houston for lengthy stretches during his career. Although the Chiefs‘ top pass rusher played 15 games last season, he admitted he wasn’t at full strength. Houston missed 11 games in 2016 and five in 2015 due to a troublesome knee, one that required surgery during the 2016 offseason. But Houston’s participated throughout Kansas City’s offseason program this year and will be counted on to supply consistent edge pressure.

When you have the surgery I had on my knee, it takes time to get your pop back and get where you want to be,” Houston said, via Nate Taylor of The Athletic (subscription required). “I’m beyond there right now. It just feels great to be back in that feeling.”

These knee problems have limited Houston since he signed that six-year, $101MM contract at the 2015 franchise tag deadline. He has not recorded double-digit sacks in a season since his NFL record-threatening 22 in 2014.

After examining the latest on the Raiders, here’s what’s new from the rest of the AFC West:

  • In addition to the season-ending injuries sustained by Hunter Henry and Jason Verrett, the Chargers‘ recent spree of misfortune affected another tight end Sunday. Rookie UDFA Austin Roberts suffered a torn ACL and will miss the season, Anthony Lynn said (via Eric Williams of ESPN.com, on Twitter). Roberts was one of Josh Rosen‘s options at UCLA the past two seasons. The Bolts remain in discussions regarding an Antonio Gates reunion.
  • The Broncos drafted two running backs and have two young holdovers in Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson, but rookie UDFA Phillip Lindsay is turning heads early in camp. The 5-foot-7 speedster out of Colorado has Von Miller and Brandon Marshall expecting him to play a key role this season. “We’re definitely going to have some things planned for Phillip,” Miller said, via Jon Heath of Broncos Wire. “Guys like that in the league, you just can’t cover them. They’re just assets to the offense. You have to have a back like that and we definitely have one.” Marshall expects Lindsay, whom Mike Klis of 9News observes battling Henderson and seventh-round pick David Williams for a role behind Booker and Royce Freeman, to be Denver’s third-down back. Lindsay posted 1,700-plus yards from scrimmage in his final two college seasons. UDFAs like Chris Harris, C.J. Anderson and Shaquil Barrett have made impacts in Denver, but the franchise hasn’t deployed much of an outlet threat since Knowshon Moreno.
  • Cameron Erving is in the mix to win the Chiefs‘ left guard job, per Taylor, who adds Mitch Morse looks to have reasserted himself as the center starter. Erving served as a Chiefs backup last season, but with K.C. having lost Zach Fulton in free agency, a spot is open for the former Browns first-round pick. Erving’s last full-time role came when he started 13 games with Cleveland in 2016. The Chiefs declined Erving’s fifth-year option, making this season particularly pivotal for the former Florida State standout.

Chiefs To Keep Justin Houston

The Chiefs are parting ways with Derrick Johnson, but they won’t be casting fellow linebacker Justin Houston aside. Houston remains in the team’s plans for 2018, according to a source who spoke with Mike Florio of Pro Football TalkJustin Houston

Houston is slated to carry a cap number of $20.6MM in 2018, including a base salary of $14.75MM. That’s arguably too much money for a player who has seen his production dip in recent seasons, but the Chiefs would be left with $12.7MM if they were to trade or release him. Houston was still a major contributor in 2017, so it would make little sense for KC to eat that kind of money in order to move on.

Last year, Houston started in all 15 of his regular season appearances, plus the Chiefs’ first round playoff loss against the Titans. The 29-year-old amassed a team-high 9.5 sacks plus 59 total tackles and graded out as the 15th best edge defender in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. His 87.6 overall score was down from his best work from 2013-2015, but still nothing to sneeze at.

The Chiefs have been active early this offseason. Already, KC has traded Alex Smith to the Redskins and released Darrelle Revis. The Chiefs are expected to jettison other veterans, but Houston will not be among them.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Lockett, Kelly, Rams, Houston

Tyler Lockett underwent surgery today to repair a broken right leg he suffered during the Seahawks‘ loss to the Cardinals on Saturday, but the wide receiver avoided any further damage. The second-year player avoided ligament damage, Pete Carroll said (via Curtis Crabtree of Pro Football Talk, on Twitter).

The tibia and fibula bones breaking through Lockett’s skin provided the Seahawks with some urgency to complete this surgery as soon as possible to prevent infection, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times reports. Per Carroll, Lockett should be up and moving in four-to-six weeks. However, the team does not expect the receiver to return should it make a third Super Bowl trip in four years, and Lockett will likely head to IR to open up a roster spot, per Condotta.

Seattle has already made a roster move involving a wide receiver, Condotta reports (on Twitter), so that would point to Lockett venturing on IR as another pass-catcher rises to the 53-man roster. Seventh-round rookie Kenny Lawler and 2015 UDFA Kasen Williams comprise the receiver contingent on the Seahawks’ practice squad.

Here’s more from the West divisions as Week 16 winds down.

  • Chip Kelly says he hasn’t had discussions with 49ers ownership about his status for 2017, but the first-year San Francisco coach figures to do so once season ends Sunday, Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group reports (on Twitter). Both Kelly and GM Trent Baalke are on thin ice after this 49ers season included a 13-game losing streak, the longest in franchise history.
  • The Rams are considering moving Greg Robinson to guard for Week 17 against the Cardinals, interim coach John Fassel said (per Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com). Robinson started 35 straight games at left tackle for the Rams and has led the NFL with 31 penalties since the start of the 2015 season. Gonzalez writes the Rams may have already moved on from Robinson at left tackle after two different head coaches deactivated him in the past two weeks. The Rams used the No. 2 pick on Robinson in 2014 and are in danger of seeing next to nothing from another No. 2 overall tackle. Then-St. Louis abandoned the Jason Smith experiment after three seasons in 2011, giving Smith 26 starts.
  • Andy Reid said Justin Houston experienced swelling in his surgically repaired knee, leading to the Chiefs deactivating him on Christmas night. When asked about the possibility Houston could miss the playoffs, the fourth-year Chiefs coach said the team “will take it day by day and see.” Houston, who was severely limited during Kansas City’s two-game stay in last year’s AFC bracket, missed 10 games this season after offseason ACL surgery. “It felt a little bit better than it did the day before. He felt like things were getting better,” Reid said of Houston, via Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star. “That’s what we’re going on here. It’s just a matter of that thing calming down a little bit and he’ll be back.”
  • Gary Kubiak said he will make a decision on Paxton Lynch starting Week 17 for the Broncos soon, Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post reports. The defending Super Bowl champions are now eliminated from the playoffs, and this season finale against the Raiders would give the first-rounder a third start in advance of an offseason where he’ll be expected to compete with Trevor Siemian for the 2017 starting job. Although, Siemian seems to have the leg up despite being previously viewed as a stopgap solution.

Zach Links contributed to this report

Justin Houston Expected To Miss Week 16

The Chiefs possess a clearer path to the AFC’s No. 2 seed with Derek Carr no longer in the equation for the Raiders, but they look set to have to complete the first leg of that journey without their best defender.

Justin Houston is not expected to play on Christmas night against the Broncos, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com and Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star (Twitter link) report.

Given a questionable designation by the Chiefs after not practicing this week, Houston has played in the past five games since being activated in advance of Week 11. Kansas City’s cornerstone defender has registered four sacks since returning from knee surgery this offseason, with three of those coming against the Broncos in the teams’ first 2016 meeting. The pass-rushing onus against a vulnerable Broncos offensive line stands to fall on Dee Ford and Tamba Hali, who got in one limited practice this week.

Before missing the first nine Chiefs games this season, Houston missed the final five games of the Chiefs’ 2015 campaign and was ineffective while attempting to play through an injury in the team’s two playoff contests. This obviously bears monitoring as the playoffs near considering the outside linebacker’s impact and recent history with knee problems.

The Broncos are set to be without defenders T.J. Ward and Brandon Marshall, with the Chiefs already missing two starting defensive linemen and Derrick Johnson, so neither team will be as healthy as it was in the rivals’ Week 12 overtime showcase.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Pryor, RG3, Chiefs, Chargers

With his contract set to expire at season’s end, Browns receiver Terrelle Pryor is amid a breakout year at the right time. He and the Browns have already begun extension talks, but re-signing the former quarterback is going to be costly for the club. The 27-year-old Pryor could be in line for a deal similar to the one the Rams signed wideout Tavon Austin to in August ($10.55MM-plus per year with $28.5MM in guarantees), according to CBS Sports’ Joel Corry (Twitter link). Despite being on the NFL’s worst team, one that has shuffled through five QBs, Pryor has totaled 51 catches for 627 yards and four touchdowns. Along with Pryor’s solid production, it’ll help his earning power that he’s big (6-foot-4, 223 pounds) and fast (4.4 speed), as Corry notes.

More from Cleveland a pair of other AFC cities:

  • One of the signal-callers the Browns have used, Robert Griffin III, was cleared for non-contact practice Wednesday, per Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com (via Twitter). Griffin didn’t participate, though, as he hasn’t yet been designated to return. RG3 has been sidelined since suffering an injury to his non-throwing shoulder in Week 1. The Browns put Griffin on injured reserve with the hope that they could take advantage of the new IR rules and bring him back later in the season.
  • When asked about a possible return to the field this week for linebacker Justin Houston, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, “We’re heading in that direction” (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). The Chiefs activated the pass-rusher extraordinaire from the PUP list last Wednesday, but he sat out their 20-17 win over the Panthers on Sunday. Houston was a full participant in practice Wednesday for the first time this year, though, which bodes well for his return from an ACL injury, notes Adam Teichner of ESPN.com.
  • The Chargers worked out linebackers Kevin Snyder, Ryan Langford and Reshard Cliett on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan (Twitter link). Nobody from that group has suited up for a regular-season game in the NFL.
  • The Chiefs tried out former Cal receiver Kenny Lawler on Tuesday, reports Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star (on Twitter). Lawler didn’t join the Chiefs, however – he instead re-signed with the Seahawks’ practice squad Wednesday.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Justin Houston, Jeremy Maclin Out Sunday

Although the Chiefs activated linebacker Justin Houston from the physically unable to perform list Wednesday, he won’t play Sunday in Carolina, Adam Teicher of ESPN.com was among those to report (Twitter links). Houston has been recovering from an ACL injury that has kept him out all season, but he didn’t suffer a setback this week, per Teicher. Instead, the Chiefs want to give the pass-rushing force another week to work his way back.

Justin Houston (vertical)

Kansas City has impressively gone 6-2 without Houston, who has racked up 56 sacks and eight forced fumbles in 70 career games. Its defense could use a reinforcement, though, as it currently hovers around league average in DVOA (11th), yardage allowed (16th), quarterback hurries (20th) and sacks (21st). Four of the Chiefs’ final eight games are against AFC West foes, including a pair of matchups with the 6-3 Broncos, so Houston’s eventual return could make a significant impact in what should be a tightly contested division race.

In addition to Houston, the Chiefs won’t have No. 1 receiver Jeremy Maclin in Carolina, head coach Andy Reid said Friday (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). Maclin left in the first quarter of the Chiefs’ game against the Jaguars last Sunday with a groin injury, but the team managed to pull off a 19-14 win without him and quarterback Alex Smith. The latter will be back in Kansas City’s lineup this week, but he’ll have to make do without the club’s top wideout. Among Chiefs, Maclin trails only tight end Travis Kelce in catches (30) and receiving yards (376). Maclin leads the team in targets (56) and has scored a pair of touchdowns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chiefs Activate Justin Houston

Linebacker Justin Houston has been activated from the PUP list, as ESPN’s Field Yates tweets. However, Houston’s status for this Sunday’s game against the Panthers is still uncertain.Justin Houston

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“We’ll see how he does this week,” Reid said on Monday. “He’ll let me know on that, how he feels. He’s obviously been cleared to play, but there is more to it than that. You have to make sure that you’re right and you have opportunities to practice and get yourself back. We’re not in a hurry there. We just want to make sure he’s safe going out there and playing.”

Houston, who has missed the duration of the 2016 campaign while recovering from an ACL injury, was cleared to practice in mid-October. Under the rules of the physically unable to perform list, a player must be activated within three weeks of starting practice again, or else be kept on reserve PUP (essentially injured reserve) for the remainder of the year. Houston, therefore, will take up a roster spot regardless of whether he plays this weekend, and Kansas City already cleared a place by waiving cornerback Terrance Mitchell earlier today.

One of the league’s top pass rushers, Houston inked a six-year, $101MM extension with the Chiefs last summer, but was hampered by injuries in the first year of his new deal. After leading the NFL with 22 sacks in 2014, Houston still played very well in 2015, but totaled just 7.5 sacks in 11 games. The outside linebacker also showed some versatility by grabbing a pair of interceptions, including one for a touchdown.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

La Canfora’s Latest: Trades, Collins, Harvin

Let’s take a look at the latest deluge of notes from CBS Sports scribe Jason La Canfora:

  • La Canfora confirms that the Eagles and 49ers had multiple discussions about a potential trade that would send Torrey Smith to Philadelphia, but the two sides could not agree on compensation. The Eagles would have sent a fifth-round selection back to the Bay Area in exchange for Smith, but the 49ers would not consider anything less than a third-round draft choice. Likewise, the Jets were asking for a “very strong return” for Sheldon Richardson, which some executives believe meant a first-round pick.
  • The Patriots‘ decision to deal Jamie Collins was not about money, per La Canfora, who observes that New England now has only $65.8MM in salary and cash committed to the 2017 payroll, by far the least in the NFL. Indeed, the Pats could have easily paid (or overpaid) for Collins if they really wanted to, but the trade suggests that Collins was simply not in their long-term plans. Some industry sources wonder if the trades of Collins and Chandler Jones suggest that New England is set to splurge in free agency, though it is difficult to imagine the Patriots being big spenders in March. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com confirms that the Pats did not consider Collins to be a part of their future, and that the team was slowly turning him into a part-time player and was concerned about the locker room issues that such a transformation could create (Twitter links).
  • Percy Harvin was not contemplating a return to the league when he was contacted by the Bills, La Canfora reports. Instead, the Florida product was happily retired and was investigating potential business deals. Buffalo senior vice president of football administration Bill Overdorf first raised the potential addition of Harvin several weeks ago, and other Bills executives got on board when the team suffered a second consecutive loss. Harvin is expected to see at least limited action Monday night in Seattle.
  • La Canfora reports that Chiefs brass is fully supportive of head coach Andy Reid‘s decision to keep Alex Smith out of game action this week, despite the fact that Smith remains asymptomatic of a concussion after taking two significant blows to the head last Sunday. Smith was able to lift weights regularly and work out as he normally would this week, and by Tuesday already had been cleared by an independent neurologist. However, Reid adopted a “better safe than sorry” approach that was heralded by team executives and by the NFLPA. Smith is expected to return to full practice tomorrow, which ESPN’s Adam Schefter confirms via Twitter. Justin Houston is also expected to return next week, according to La Canfora.

Chiefs DE Allen Bailey Could Be Done For Year

The Chiefs are worried that defensive end Allen Bailey could be done for the season due to a shoulder injury, tweets freelance NFL reporter Rand Getlin. Bailey missed time during yesterday’s victory over the Raiders, and after the game, Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star reported (via Twitter) that Bailey was dealing with a shoulder contusion.Allen Bailey (Vertical)

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Bailey, 27, is in the midst of his sixth season with Kansas City, but he’s only been a starter for the past two-plus years. After posting 9.5 sacks from 2014-15, Bailey had started all five games in 2016, but hadn’t posted exemplary results. According to Pro Football Focus, Bailey has graded as just the No. 94 interior defender among 116 qualifiers.

If Bailey is forced to miss an extended period of time, second-rookie Chris Jones would seem to be the next man up. Jones, the 37th overall pick in this year’s draft, has only played on roughly a quarter of Kansas City’s defensive snaps thus far, but that percentage would likely rise if Bailey is sidelined. Fellow lineman Nick Williams and Dadi Nicolas are also options to see more playing time.

Meanwhile, star linebacker Justin Houston was cleared to practice over the weekend, and was officially eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list today. Head coach Andy Reid expressed optimism on Houston’s status, telling reporters, including Paylor (Twitter link), that “we’re close” to Houston’s return to the field.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.