James Houston

Lions Activate James Houston From IR, Waive Julian Okwara

The Lions’ edge rush has received a boost in advance of the team’s divisional round matchup. Per a team announcement, James Houston was activated from injured reserve on Thursday. In a corresponding move, Julian Okwara was waived.

Today marked the end of Houston’s 21-day activation window. Had he not been brought back onto the roster, he would have reverted to season-ending IR. Instead, he will be an option to play on Sunday against the Buccaneers. The 25-year-old has not played since Week 2 due to a broken ankle.

A sixth-round pick last year, Houston became a late-season surprise for the Lions by debuting on Thanksgiving and finishing the season with eight sacks. The Jackson State alum did not have a chance to build on that success this season, but like C.J. Gardner-Johnson, he will make a late-season return after a major injury.

Detroit has seen its Okwara investments deliver up-and-down tenures. Drafted with Romeo Okwara already on the team, Julian came in as a third-round pick in Bob Quinn‘s final year as GM. While the younger Okwara brother did post five sacks in 2021, he has combined for only four over the past two seasons. The Notre Dame alum played in nine games and started one this season, doing so as Romeo — effectively sidelined for two seasons due to an Achilles tear — made his way back. Romeo played in 16 games this season, working as a rotational rusher off the bench and collecting two sacks.

Despite the Lions making their first venture to the divisional round since 1991, Aidan Hutchinson has not received consistent help in the sack department this season. The NFL’s QB pressures leader came on strong late this season, totaling 11.5 sacks along with two more against the Rams in the wild-card round, but the Lions have no other player with more than five. And DT Alim McNeill, who joined Houston in being activated off IR recently, is the only non-Hutchinson Lion with more than three. This seems like an area Detroit will address in the offseason, though Houston coming back healthy for the 2024 campaign will bolster the group.

Having seen Houston, Gardner-Johnson and McNeill return from IR over the past three weeks, the Lions have one IR activation remaining.

Lions LB James Houston Returns To Practice

The Lions will be getting some reinforcement on both sides of the ball before the playoffs. The Lions designated linebacker James Houston to return from injured reserve today, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. The team has also activated fullback Jason Cabinda off injured reserve, according to Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 in Houston.

Houston returned to practice today, starting his 21-day window to be activated. The second-year pro has been sidelined since the second game of the season thanks to a broken ankle he suffered during a kickoff.

The 2022 sixth-round pick spent a chunk of his rookie season on the practice squad before eventually earning a promotion to the active roster. He was a major contributor for the Lions down the stretch, collecting eight sacks, seven tackles for loss, and 11 QB hits in seven games (two starts).

The Lions could certainly use some pass-rush help opposite Aidan Hutchinson. Charles Harris has found himself in and out of the lineup, while the likes of Romeo Okwara and Julian Okwara have combined for only four sacks.

Cabinda has spent the past four-plus seasons in Detroit, appearing in 45 games while mostly serving as an extra blocker. The veteran last saw the field in Week 3, and he’s spent almost three months on IR while recovering from a knee injury.

Lions’ James Houston “At Least A Few Weeks Away” From Return

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.

Lions Place S C.J. Gardner-Johnson, DE James Houston On IR

The injuries C.J. Gardner-Johnson and James Houston sustained in Week 2 will lead to two key defenders moving off the Lions’ roster. The team placed the veteran safety and young defensive end on IR on Tuesday.

Initially reported as an ankle ailment, Houston is actually dealing with a fibula injury, Dan Campbell said (via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett). Additionally, Halapoulivaati Vaitai may be facing a multiweek absence. Campbell said the team’s right guard starter could be out for a bit, though he added (via the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers) it does not look like an IR move will be necessary.

Gardner-Johnson may be on track to miss the rest of the season. The fifth-year DB is feared to have suffered a torn pectoral muscle. With Houston suffering a fracture, he may also miss the rest of the year.

Despite the Eagles expressing interest in re-signing Gardner-Johnson this offseason, he ended up with the Lions on a surprising deal. Gardner-Johnson, who denied a report of the Eagles submitting a multiyear offer, signed a one-year, $6.5MM deal. While players have landed big-ticket contracts despite season-ending injuries in the recent past — Allen Robinson, Bud Dupree and Dak Prescott are three of note — Gardner-Johnson was aiming to use this season as a trampoline toward a more lucrative pact. A surgery taking place would wound those aspirations. The Lions have exclusive negotiating rights with CJGJ until March of next year.

Houston’s injury will blunt some surprising early-career momentum. Houston went from sixth-round pick to Detroit’s practice squad, debuting on Thanksgiving Day. The Jackson State product managed to rack up eight sacks after that late start. He started one game for the Lions this season.

While it is not known if Gardner-Johnson and Houston are both done for the season, it obviously represents good news Vaitai avoided a serious injury. A back issue sidelined Vaitai throughout last season, leading to a pay cut. The former Eagles draftee also considered retirement this offseason. The Lions have Graham Glasgow back in place as insurance, and although Vaitai beat out the returning blocker for the RG post, Glasgow has been a starter for most of his career. While the Broncos released Glasgow to pick up cap space in March, he started 33 games for the team — at guard and center — from 2020-22. Glasgow, 30, has started 91 career contests.

Lions’ James Houston Suffers Fractured Ankle

Expectations were high for James Houston entering the 2023 season, but his campaign will be put on hold for an extended stretch. The Lions edge rusher suffered a fractured ankle in Week 2, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Further testing will be done today to determine if surgery is necessary, Rapoport adds. Regardless of if a procedure is needed, though, Houston is facing an absence of at least six to eight weeks. The news marks a disappointing turn for the 24-year-old who was looking to build off his surprising production in his rookie season.

Houston announced his presence with a pair of Thanksgiving Day sacks in his NFL debut, and he remained productive after earning a spot on the active roster following that performance. The fifth-rounder totaled eight sacks and 13 pressures on the season, despite seeing the field for only 32% of defensive snaps. A repeat of his 2022 play was thought to be in store, something which would have presumably earned him an uptick in playing time.

Instead, Houston is now likely headed to IR given the severity of the injury. Through two games in 2023, the Jackson State product has totaled just one tackle while remaining in a rotational role. His absence will nevertheless be missed on a Lions team which has registered only one sack so far this season. Improvement in that department was expected in part due to Houston’s success as a rookie as well as the promise shown by 2022 No. 2 selection Aidan Hutchinson.

The latter will remain the anchor of Detroit’s pass-rush contingent, with Charles Harris and brothers Julian Okwara and Romeo Okwara in place. Josh Paschal is on IR, so the Houston injury leaves the Lions even thinner on the edge. In the linebacking corps, the team will continue to lean on Derrick Barnes on the outside, and special teamer Anthony Pittman could be in line for at least a rotational defensive role moving forward.

Lions Place Charles Harris On IR, Sign James Houston From Practice Squad

After re-emerging for two games earlier this month, Charles Harris will see his injury-marred season will be paused again. The Lions placed the former first-round pick on IR on Monday.

A groin injury has kept Harris on the shelf for the past two games. He will be shut down until at least Week 17. Given the timetable here, it is certainly possible the Lions — who have five injury activations left — just keep the veteran defensive end on IR the rest of the way. To take Harris’ roster spot, Detroit signed defensive end James Houston — he of two Thanksgiving Day sacks in his NFL debut — off the practice squad.

The Lions entered the year with reasonable plans for Harris, who re-signed with the team on a two-year, $14MM accord. Harris led the 2021 Lions with 7.5 sacks, helping a team that had lost Romeo Okwara to a severe injury. The Dolphins cut Harris earlier in 2021, leading him to the Lions on a low-cost deal.

Harris, who suffered the groin injury initially in Week 4, opened the season as a starter. After his first hiatus, however, he returned as a backup. The former Mizzou standout played only 24 defensive snaps in Detroit’s past two games. He has one sack and four quarterback hits this season.

A sixth-round rookie, Houston has spent the season on Detroit’s practice squad. Despite playing only five defensive snaps in his debut, Houston dropped Josh Allen twice. He figures to see more opportunities going forward. The Lions have Aidan Hutchinson positioned as their edge anchor but have dealt with considerable injury issues outside of the No. 2 overall pick. Most notably, Okwara remains on the team’s PUP list. But the Lions designated him for return earlier this month, opening the door to a late-season stretch of game action for the veteran pass rusher.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/23/22

Today’s minor moves around the league:

Atlanta Falcons

Buffalo Bills

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

New York Giants

Thanksgiving will mark McKinley’s Cowboys debut after he signed to Dallas’ practice squad last week. The veteran will seek to be more productive in his reunion with Dan Quinn than his previous stops following the end of his Falcons tenure, while providing depth to a Cowboys edge group which has produced a league-leading 42 sacks this season.

Hobbs returning to the fold in the near future will be a welcomed sight for the Raiders’ secondary. The 2021 fifth-rounder was a full-time starter through the first five weeks of the season before landing on IR with a broken hand. Vegas has struggled against the pass, allowing more than 247 yards per game through the air in 2022. The team has three weeks to activate him before he becomes ineligible to play again this season.

Wednesday NFL Transactions: NFC North

Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline Tuesday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters. In addition to waiver claims, teams can begin constructing their 16-man practice squads today. These BearsLions, Packers and Vikings moves are noted below.

Here are Wednesday’s NFC North transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day.

Chicago Bears

Claimed:

Released:

Waived:

Placed on IR:

Signed to practice squad:

Detroit Lions

Claimed:

Waived:

Released from IR:

Signed to practice squad:

Green Bay Packers

Signed:

Waived: 

Signed to practice squad:

Minnesota Vikings

Waived:

Lions Finalize Initial 53-Man Roster

Detroit got an early start on reducing its roster size Monday, but the team made the final moves toward 53 players Tuesday. Here are the moves from today that got the Lions there:

Released:

Waived:

Waived/injured:

Placed on reserve/physically unable to perform:

Houston was the only member of the Lions’ 2022 rookie class that failed to make the initial 53-man roster. The young linebacker should have a good chance to land on the team’s 16-man practice squad Wednesday, if he can clear waivers. On the other hand, undrafted defensive lineman Demetrius Taylor found his way onto the roster after a disruptive preseason. Another undrafted rookie, running back Greg Bell, didn’t make the roster, but will remain with the team on Detroit’s injured reserve.

There were a number of surprising, but necessary, cuts today. Igwebuike had a decent chance to make the roster due to his experience and ability returning kicks. Kennedy led the team in catches, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns during the preseason. His lack of effective use on special teams likely lost him his spot on the final roster. Parker started much of last year at nickel for the Lions. Unfortunately he was expendable after the offseason additions of veteran JuJu Hughes and rookie Chase Lucas.

The winner of the kicking battle has been crowned as Austin Seibert made the final roster over Patterson. Patterson showed plenty of ability during the last couple of weeks and it would be no surprise if he was to be claimed by another team off waivers by tomorrow.

Finally, it appears the backup quarterback battle was won by David Blough, who outperformed Boyle in preseason. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Detroit peruse the mass of recently waived players for a new quarterback. They have the second-highest priority on the waiver wire and should have their pick of the litter if they think they can improve on Blough.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/13/22

Several more mid- and late-round picks agreed to terms on their four-year rookie contracts Friday. Here are the latest agreements:

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

  • LB Malcolm Rodriguez (sixth round, Oklahoma State)
  • LB James Houston (sixth round, Jackson State)

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers