The Chicago Bears lost a big piece to the defensive puzzle last season when then-defensive-end Lamarr Houston was lost midway through the season to a torn ACL.
It was a long road to recovery for Houston, who did not participate in offseason activities and has been slowly worked back to full speed during the regular season. Houston averaged just 17 snaps through the first eight games but has exploded the past month, picking up four sacks in the club's past four games, while also consistently setting the edge against the run.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the All-22 film to show the many different ways Houston is making plays.
This is an off-tackle goal-line run by Packers RB James Starks. The play is run right at Houston, who is being blocked by TE Richard Rodgers.
Houston keeps the blocker at bay through arm extension then easily throws him aside as he cracks down on the ball carrier.
Houston drops Starks after just a one-yard gain.
Analysis: This was one of roughly 15 quality run stops by Houston the past three weeks. Over and over, he's been able to create separation, then stack and shed. His immense strength and power give him the advantage in most one-on-one situations, particularly on plays like this, where silly head coaches think they can single block him with a tight end.
Here again the Packers will run Lacy off-tackle in Houston's direction. Rodgers will try for a second time to seal Houston to the outside.
As Lacy hits the hole, Houston separates from the block and begins diving inside.
Houston stops Lacy in his tracks after a 2-yard gain.
Analysis: Just another ho-hum between-the-tackles run stop against a powerful running back. While Houston is making it look easy, believe me, it's not. It takes field vision, strength, timing, explosiveness, and agility to disengage from a blocker and bring down the ball carrier at the point of attack.
Against the Rams, Houston will come off the edge. He'll get a single block from left tackle Greg Robinson. On the other side of the defensive line, OLB Sam Acho and NT Eddie Goldman will run a cross stunt.
Houston executes a speed rush around the corner, using his hands to smack away Robinson's attempted punch. On the other side, Acho crashes inside, taking both the tackle and the guard with him, allowing Goldman a pass-rush lane around the outside.
Houston closes on Nick Foles and nearly tears his head off. A split second later, both Goldman and Acho smack the quarterback in the face.
Analysis: Houston isn't a pure speed rusher but he has the ability to dip and turn the corner. His hip bend isn't top tier but it's good enough to occasionally blow past an offensive tackle around the edge.
This is the final drive of the contest against San Diego. Houston is coming off the right side and immediately puts RT D.J. Fluker on his heels at first contact. Notice Houston's hands, which are driving up and under Fluker's arms and into his chest. That's textbook technique.
Houston dips his inside shoulder and uses his leg drive to churn around the corner.
With Fluker looking on helplessly, Houston takes down Phillip Rivers for his first sack of the season.
Analysis: This play is a good demonstration of Houston's blend of power and speed. He uses his upper-body strength to drive Fluker onto his heels, then his quickness to burn the edge and finish.
We saved the best for last. This is two plays later. Fluker already has the previous sack fresh in his head, while Houston has both hands up and ready to attack.
Houston gains leverage at contact and begins pushing Fluker backward.
Houston then flat out dumps Fluker on his butt, using one arm to thrust the blocker to the ground.
Fluker is trying to get the number of the truck that hit him as Houston takes down Rivers for the second time in three plays.
Analysis: Fluker isn't an All Pro offensive tackle but this is a beastly play by Houston, one that demonstrates his ability to absolutely manhandle opposing blockers when he's at his best.
Houston sacks Aaron Rodgers three seconds later.