Tales from the Tape: Lamarr Houston

The Bears yesterday signed former Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston to a five-year contract. What can Bears fans expect from Houston? We break down All-22 game film to find out.

At the start of free agency yesterday, the Chicago Bears waited roughly two minutes to sign former Raiders defensive lineman Lamarr Houston.

Houston spent four years in Oakland, accumulating 228 tackles, 16.0 sacks and four forced fumbles. He was considered one of the top defensive linemen on the open market and he was paid accordingly (five years, $35 million).

Bears fans are obviously very curious about the team's new addition and the impact he'll have on the defense the next few years. In an attempt to answer some of those questions, I poured over All-22 game film of Houston from last season. Let's see what we found.

Play I

Houston lines up on the right edge. The play will be a B gap run to Houston's side of the field.

Houston does not move at the point of attack and sinks his hips to take on the block, using his arms to create distance.

Here you see Houston disengaging as he leans in to make the tackle.

Houston sheds the block and is able to wrap up the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage.

Play II

Houston lines up on the right edge. The play is a counter to his side, with the right guard pulling behind the line on a kick-out block.

The collision at the point of attack is massive, as Houston takes the offensive lineman head on. This rocks both players, yet Houston is still able to track the ball carrier.

As the runner hits the hole, Houston dives at his feet and gets a piece of the tackle.

Play III

This is a pass play. Houston will rush off the right side, slamming inside on a stunt move with the defensive tackle.

Houston hits the hole with so much force that he forces a double team. Yet he powers right through two blockers.

He splits the double team and is in the quarterback's face as he releases the football.

Play IV

Here we see Houston playing defensive tackle with both hands in the dirt. The play is a pitch to the right side.

Houston is double-teamed at the snap yet keeps leverage and is able to work his way down the line, spreading the play out.

It's hard to see, but the white arrow is the ball carrier and the blue arrow is Houston, taking the runner down for a short gain. This play alone shows how incredibly hard it is to block Houston on run plays.

Play V

The play is a run play up the middle. Houston will crash down to the inside of the offensive tackle at the snap.

Houston locks up the blocker, keeping him at arm's length, all while keeping his eyes in the backfield.

Once he sees Maurice Jones-Drew with the ball, he immediately sidesteps the offensive lineman, using a swim move to fly right past him.

Here we see Houston leaving the blocker in his wake as he prepares to make a tackle for a loss.

Play VI

This is a third-down pass play with Houston rushing off the edge.

He initially rushes to the outside shoulder. At this moment, he has the blocker off balance and expecting an edge rush. He's got him right where he wants him.

Houston changes directions on a dime and uses a swim move to cut inside the blocker.

Here we see him in the backfield just before he takes down Peyton Manning for the sack.

Analysis

Houston is a versatile defender who can line up at either defensive end or defensive tackle. His power at the point of attack is extremely impressive, particularly when taking on lead blockers. He also possesses very quick hands and feet, which allow him to sidestep and shed blocks. Houston also has experience dropping into coverage. He lacks awareness when dropping back but it says a lot about his athleticism.

When taking on blocks, Houston keeps his arms extended and has the strength to rip and shed. Even when taking on double teams, he's able to maintain leverage at the point of attack.

As a pass rusher, Houston is hot and cold. He lacks consistent burst at the snap, particularly at defensive tackle. Yet he's fairly relentless when getting after the quarterback and uses good balance dipping his shoulder low when turning the corner. His inside pass rush is strong as well.

Houston is a very solid all-around player. He'll make his presence felt in the run game immediately and will collapse the pocket on occasion. According to Pro Football Focus, Houston had four games last season with six or more QB pressures. The Bears will take that.

Houston's ability to play multiple positions, and play them well, will give Bears defensive coordinator a lot of flexibility going forward. With Houston, Tucker can formulate a number of different looks and schemes.

Finally, let's not forget how durable Houston has been, having played in 64 of 64 games during his four-year career. Film work on him took longer than usual because there was just so much of it. For a Bears defense that was decimated by injury last year, Houston's dependability goes a long way.


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is entering his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.

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