Chris Houston is a much different player than the one that arrived via trade with the Falcons before the 2010 season.
His ball skills have significantly improved, his understanding of offenses and what opponents are trying to do is enhanced and he’s a much more relaxed and confident cornerback.
Over the past three seasons, Houston has established himself as the clear-cut No. 1 corner on the roster and is one of its most valuable free agents this offseason. He led the defense with 11 passes defended (the only player with more than 10) and was tied for the team lead in forced fumbles (2) and interceptions (2), which has earned him the Lem Barney Award as the team’s most valuable defensive player, as voted on by the players.
“You know, he’s a couple of words – accountable, available, reliable. He’s all of those,” Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said of Houston at the end of the season. “He’s a competitor and he shows up. He loves his teammates.”
For the first time in his career, Houston shadowed the opponents’ best receiver from week-to-week, which is something head coach Jim Schwartz and Cunningham had never trusted any cornerback to do since arriving in 2009.
Houston’s importance on the field can be calculated in his statistics, but what he means to young cornerbacks Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green is immeasurable.
“I don’t even know how to explain how important Chris Houston has been to me,” Bentley said earlier this season. “Chris has been one of the best veterans I’ve been around. He took me underneath his wings, helped me, and tells me when I’m doing things wrong. He’s like a big brother to me. He helps me on the field, off the field, in the film room, he just keeps me on my toes and he’s just trying to get me ready.”
Houston is likely to be a hot commodity on the free agent market and he’s a player the Lions can ill afford to lose.
The Lem Barney Award is given in honor of Lem Barney, one of the premier defensive backs in the history of football. As a rookie, Barney intercepted 10 passes — returning three for touchdowns — and was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
He played in seven Pro Bowls, earning All-Pro honors three times. Barney played in 140 games, missing just 14, and totaled 56 interceptions. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.
Tags: Chris Houston, Lem Barney
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