The Importance Of Justin Houston to the Kansas City Chiefs

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 01: Linebacker Justin Houston #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates after sacking quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 1, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Chiefs defeated the Broncos 7-3. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)


Everyone who follows the Kansas City Chiefs is well aware of the impact made by Mike Vrabel in 2009 and 2010. It wasn't due to a lack of effort but Vrabel didn't have any gas left in the tank and subsequently was a liability. In fact, the ex-Patriots star mustered exactly two sacks in those seasons, including zero in his last wearing red.

Those are just a few of the reasons why in the 2011 NFL Draft, Scott Pioli picked Justin Houston in the third round. As most of you know, Houston was perceived to be a first round talent until he allegedly failed a drug test. The Chiefs gambled on him and so far, so good.

However, Houston didn't make an immediate impact in his rookie season. He struggled to unseat Andy Studebaker early in the campaign and didn't make too many heads turn even when he was on the field.

Then something happened. Against Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night (you remember, the night Tyler Palko made it look possible for all of us to play in the NFL), Houston was constantly getting pressure. All of a sudden, it looked as though he was on the cusp of breaking through.

After that game, Houston went on to record 5 1/2 sacks in the final five games of the year, including a monster effort against the Chicago Bears when he took Caleb Hanie down three times. Houston gained confidence and Kansas City gained a playmaker opposite Tamba Hali.

The Chiefs have multiple studs on defense. When you consider Derrick Johnson, Eric Berry, Brandon Flowers and Hali (not to mention very good if not studly players like Kendrick Lewis), Houston might be the key piece in making the jump to elite status in 2012.

As MNChiefsFan pointed out earlier, running to the side of Tyson Jackson and Houston was ill-fated last season for opponents. If Houston can rush the quarterback the way he did at the end of 2011, it will be a jailbreak against most teams.

Houston hasn't gotten the attention this offseason from many Kansas City fans because of the somewhat new coaching staff and the return of Jamaal Charles, Tony Moeaki and Berry. All of that is very understandable, but if Houston can get his sack total somewhere around 10 and provide his excellent run defense again, this defense will be among the best in the league.

Hali has spent most of his career with no help in the pass rushing department and still dominates. If he ever had legitimate help he would be virtually unblockable.

Houston's maturation would also help the secondary and linebackers when in coverage. If the quarterback is under duress and has less time, the pass is destined to be less accurate and open receivers won't be found very often.

It's a domino effect that could be put into action by a second-year player with vast potential. Houston may very well be the man who could make it all happen for his unit on Sunday's in Arrowhead.

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