Kansas City Chiefs: 6 Bold Predictions for Rookie OLB Justin Houston in 2011
When the Kansas City Chiefs were evaluating their team needs before this year's NFL Draft, outside linebacker stood out on defense.
With veteran linebacker Mike Vrabel nearing the end of his pro career, it was time for KC to find his eventual replacement.
They got their man with their first third-round pick in former Georgia star Justin Houston.
Houston should immediately improve the Chiefs pass rush, which already includes the likes of Pro-Bowler Tamba Hali.
He is a great talent that the Chiefs just couldn't pass up with the 70th overall selection in the draft.
Here are my bold predictions for Houston's rookie season in KC.
Justin Houston Will Have at Least Nine Sacks
Not since Derrick Thomas have the Chiefs had rookie that has picked up at least nine sacks in his rookie season.
That is, until Justin Houston bursts onto the scene this season, and becomes the next player to accomplish this amazing feat.
Houston's quickness off the edge will help him beat many offensive lineman this season, and his quick closing speed on the QB will give him plenty of opportunities for sacks.
Getting nine sacks in a season is something that many veteran OLBs never accomplish, but I believe that Justin Houston will be up to the challenge this season.
Justin Houston Will Lead the League in QB Hurries for Rookies
If Houston wasn't picking up sacks while at Georgia, he was at least registering many quarterback hurries each game.
He had an incredible 44 hurries in his junior season, which was good enough to lead his team by a landslide.
His ability to get so many hurries stems from his 4.68 40-meter speed that he possesses.
I don't expect Houston to get 44 hurries in his rookie season in the NFL, but he should lead the league in this category for rookies when the dust settles at the end of the regular season.
Justin Houston Will Struggle Some in Coverage
It has been documented that Houston was not the best in pass coverage while playing in college.
He has been known as more of a pure pass-rushing OLB, and gets by because of his strong ability to get to the QB, not for his ability to cover guys out of the backfield.
Unfortunately for Houston, it won't get much easier covering backs and receivers once he steps foot in the NFL this fall.
He will have the added benefit of three-time Super Bowl Champion defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to help him with this, but I expect Houston to still have problems in coverage during his rookies season.
Justin Houston Will Get Be in Todd Haley's Doghouse at Some Point
Chiefs head coach Todd Haley has had the tendency to put high-profile players in his "doghouse" during his time in KC.
In Haley's first season with the team in '09, he benched both starting WR Dwayne Bowe and starting ILB Derrick Johnson for a considerable amount of time, mainly due to their lack of consistency in practices.
Fortunately for Haley and the Chiefs, both responded to the adversity and had the best seasons of their respective careers last year.
Houston is a similar to both Bowe and Johnson, as he has loads of talent, but takes plays off from time to time.
It's only a matter of time before Haley gets after the young OLB, and hopefully it will make him become a better overall player as well.
Justin Houston Will Have the Best Rookie Season for a KC LB Since Derrick Thomas
If there is one thing that is never questioned about Justin Houston, it is his ability to rush the QB.
There was a guy that Houston reminds me of named Derrick Thomas who used to do that for the Chiefs in the '90s, and he is now in the Hall-of-Fame.
Thomas also had an amazing 10 sacks in his 1989 rookie season in the NFL.
It's not out of the question to say that Houston could put up the same numbers in his first year with the Chiefs in 2011 based on his talents.
Justin Houston Will Make the Pro Bowl
I realize that this is a very tough feat to accomplish for a first-year player, but Justin Houston isn't your ordinary NFL rookie.
He had 19 sacks from his OLB position in three years for Georgia while playing in arguably the toughest conference in college football.
He will also benefit from already having an elite pass rush on the Chiefs defense, with Tamba Hali playing on the opposite side.
If Eric Berry could make the Pro Bowl last year as a rookie safety, I think that it is very attainable for Justin Houston to make it at his outside linebacker position as well.