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
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 4 Comments »
No Lions player had more of an impact on defense this season than Cliff Avril.
His 11 sacks led the team and his six forced fumbles were second most in the NFL to only the Ravens’ Terrell Suggs (7). Avril also recovered three fumbles, the second most in the league.
Avril became the first Lions player to register 10 sacks and have at least one fumble return touchdown and one interception return touchdown in the same season. He’s only the sixth player since the NFL started registering sacks as a statistic in 1982 to accomplish that feat, and the first since 2006 (DeMarcus Ware).
Avril’s monster season earned him the Lem Barney Defensive MVP Award, as voted by his teammates.
“He’s a young player just coming into his prime,” said Lions defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. “Each year he’s gotten better and each year he’s having a bigger impact and making bigger plays. It’s not just the sacks and the fumbles, either, it’s also the plays Cliff makes down the field.”
Avril has improved his sack total in each of his first four seasons since being drafted by the Lions in the third round out of Purdue in 2008. In 47 career games (44 starts), Avril has 30 sacks, 129 tackles, 14 forced fumbles, 12 passes defended and two touchdowns.
“It’s one thing to have double-digit sacks, but Cliff had more of an impact than just that because of the forced fumbles,” said Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. “It goes hand-in-hand with getting sacks a lot of times, but Cliff has a knack for it and that gave us a big push.
“We didn’t finish the way we wanted to defensively, but we got a lot of turnovers and Cliff was a big part of that. Cliff is also a guy that was drafted before I got here, but we’ve developed him. He’s developed with us, he’s become a better player every year, he’s added to his arsenal every year and he’s been a hard worker.”
Avril was voted the NFL Defensive Player of the Week after a Week 8 victory over the Broncos that saw Avril record two sacks, two forced fumbles and returned a fumble for a touchdown.
Avril is a free agent this offseason and Lions general manager Martin Mayhew says he’s planning on offering him a long-term contract.
The defensive MVP award is given in honor of Lem Barney, one of the premiere defensive backs in the history of the league. As a rookie, Barney intercepted 10 passes returning three for touchdowns and was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Barney played in seven Pro Bowls and had 56 interceptions in 140 career games. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.
Tags: Cliff Avril, Jim Schwartz, Kris Kocurek, Lem Barney, Martin Mayhew
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 3 Comments »