FLORHAM PARK, NJ — The fourth installment of the Official JetsInsider.com’s “Meet the Prospects” Week features Georgia Bulldog junior outside linebacker Justin Houston. As already reported, the Jets are actively pursuing defensive pass-rusher, whether it be a defensive end or an outside linebacker. We’ve already featured Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward, who predominantly played the defensive line for the Buckeyes. Houston has sky-rocketed up the NFL Draft big board after following a promising 2009 season (7.5 sacks/15 TFL/ 16 QB Pressures) with a monster 2010 season (10 sacks/18.5 TFL/44 QB Pressures) . Unlike Phil Taylor (who we featured yesterday) and Heyward, who still reminds me way too much of Vernon Gholston, Houston has production to match his potential. And, if I may add, he is also my personal favorite OLB/DE in this draft.

Posting such a phenomenal junior season in what is the unquestioned toughest conference in college football has made him one of more sought-after prospects in this year’s draft. The rivaled New England Patriots, also in the running for an outside linebacker/defensive end, have Houston high on their wish list as well. Truth be told, any team — even one who is set at the OLB/DE position —  would love Houston’s relentless motor and his knack for getting to the quarterback.

Justin Houston, OLB/DE, Georgia:

  • CLASS STANDING: Junior
  • HEIGHT: 6-3
  • WEIGHT: 258
  • BENCH PRESS (225 lb.): 30
  • NFL COMPARISON: Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens

Collegiate Career: Justin Houston 2010 Highlights UGA

  • 2010 — Started all 13 games recording 67 tackles including a team-leading 18.5 for loss and 10.0 sacks to go along with 44 quarterback pressures, two pass break ups, an INT, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Named a FWAA All-America selection, a Walter Camp All-America Second Team selection and a Pro Football Weekly All-America selection. Named a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Butkus Award and a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award. Named All-SEC First Team by Associated Press SEC Coaches, Phil Steele and Rivals.com; Also selected to SouthernPigskin All-SEC Team. Chosen as team’s Most Valuable Defensive Player. Awarded CFPW 2010 National Linebacker Trophy. Named preseason All-SEC first team by Phil Steele and second team by SEC Media and Athlon Sports. In the SEC, ranked second in sacks per game (0.77) and tackles for loss per game (1.42). Named SEC Defensive Player of the Week & CFPA Honorable Mention DL of the Week after he had five tackles, three for a loss, including two sacks and a pass break-up at Kentucky. Named to Phil Steele’s 2010 Midseason All-America First Team. Earned CFPA Honorable Mention DL of the Week recognition after recording five tackles, 2.5 for a loss including 1.5 sacks, vs. Tennessee.
  • 2009 — Appeared in 10 games with 10 starts making 39 tackles featuring a team-leading 15.0 for loss including 7.5 sacks while adding 18 quarterback pressures. Led SEC in TFL per game (1.5) and ranked second in sacks per game (0.75). Named All-SEC Second Team by Associated Press, SEC Coaches and Phil Steele.  Named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week (9/28) after he made four tackles, two for a loss including a sack, vs. Arizona State. Named to Athletic Director’s Honor Roll for summer semester. Named Most Improved Defensive End at conclusion of spring drills.
  • 2008 — Appeared in 13 games making one start recording 19 tackles including 2.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hurries.
  • 2007 — Redshirted.

Calvin Pace was rated by ProFootballFocus.com in a recent study as one of the worst pass rushing OLB/DE in the NFL. Justin Houston may just take some pressure off of him. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Strengths:

  • Has experience playing outside linebacker and defensive end. Fairly good instincts verses the run. Does a good job at locating ball carriers after disengaging blockers. Is discipline in his run fits.
  • Has the strength to get underneath linemen’s pads and walk them back into the quarterback. Displays good lower body strength which allows him to anchor against the run.
  • A dynamic edge rusher that is multifaceted. He can use his speed to bend the corner or his strength to bull rush linemen and collapse the pocket. Gets off the ball extremely well with an explosive first step. Motor runs hot when rushing the passer. Has the closing speed to chase down mobile quarterbacks.
  • The definition of a hybrid player as he saw his production go sky-high after switching from defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker for the Bulldogs.

Weaknesses:

  • Is susceptible to delays and draws, because he gets too far upfield.
  • Against the pass, his instincts are below average. Often displays a one track mind when rushing the passer, which causes him to fail at recognizing screen plays. Also lacks awareness in underneath coverage.
  • Will sometimes give up on plays that are not ran to his side. Will also jog around while in pursuit of balls carriers that have reached the second level and beyond.
  • Struggles on occasion to break down in space against shiftier ball carriers.

Why the Jets?:

  • If you’ve gotten this far and still can’t see why Rex Ryan would love this guy on his team, then maybe you need to re-evaluate your fanhood to the Jets.
  • As mentioned above, Houston reminds scouts and analysts alike of Terrell Suggs, a former player for Ryan while he was coaching the Ravens’ defense. Place him next to Bart Scott and David Harris and that linebacking core may very well be second to none.
  • In a report released last week by ProFootballFocus.com regarding pass rushing productivity, the Jets current starting OLB, Calvin Pace, ranked among the bottom ten defensive end/outside linebackers in all of football. Needless to say, they need to get some pressure on the outside edge while also getting younger in the front seven. Houston answers both of those questions.

 
 
 

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