Philadelphia Eagles Draft Prospecting: Georgia OLB Justin Houston

Dan PennwynCorrespondent IFebruary 17, 2011

I’ve recently been told by numerous fans to check out a certain outside linebacker named Justin Hughes, who is supposedly a beast.

I searched the Internet as vigorously as I could, but the best I could come up with is some high school wildcat quarterback who was breaking ankles left and right.

Still, I found myself wanting to see if I could learn more about this “Hughes” guy.

As it turns out, there isn’t a linebacker named Justin Hughes; however, there is an OLB by the name of Justin Houston, who is a former Georgia Bulldog. After looking at some of this kid's game tape, I decided this has to be the person everybody is talking about.

The 6’3", 258-pound Houston waited until the last possible moment to decide to go pro saying: “It’s crazy, I keep putting it off.”

 However, on January 15, 2010 he eventually declared to enter the draft.

All the pro scouts agree that he is a work in progress and doesn’t quite have enough bulk to be a full-time defensive end in the NFL. But he does have the upper-body strength and arm length to be an effective 'backer in the league. His lengthy arms help to fight off blockers at the point of attack.

As the Bulldogs' 2010 MVP, Houston garnered 67 tackles, which included a team-leading 18.5 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks. He also registered an astounding 44 QB pressures, one interception, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

Houston has a tremendous burst off the edge, as both a defensive end and outside linebacker, which is his greatest attribute. His ability to simply run past a blocker and unleash an explosive hit in the backfield is as technically sound as a player can get.

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jeff Owens was a teammate of Houston’s in college, so I figured there was no better person to ask about his (Houston) abilities. 

Jeff’s answer consisted of three words: “He’s a beast." From the game tape that I’ve watched on Houston, it would be hard to disagree with Owens.

Justin is a machine. He has a relentless motor that never quits and he fits the bill for what the Eagles have looked for over the past few years. Houston is undersized, like many of the defensive ends the Eagles have drafted lately, and he’s a hybrid player, which is pure gold in head coach Andy Reid’s eyes.

However, is Justin Houston Philadelphia Eagles material? Jeff Owens simply said he was a beast, which is absolutely true, but he never said anything about being a good fit for Philly.

That’s not saying that Houston isn’t a good football player because he is and his stats back up his claim. But most scouts have him listed as better suited for a 3-4 defensive scheme. The Bulldogs switched to the 3-4 in 2010 and Houston had a fantastic season putting up solid numbers.

Really, nobody can determine if Houston would be what the Eagles are looking for. With an entirely new coaching staff in place, with the exception of Andy Reid, none of us know what type of player the front office will be looking for.

If Juan Castillo, Jim Washburn and Mike Caldwell see something in Houston, I’m going to trust their input.

It is widely known that the linebacker position has not been the dominating unit they thought they were getting when players like Stewart Bradley and Ernie Sims manned the middle and weak-side positions.

The Eagles know they need an upgrade at linebacker, but where will the Eagles decide to draft one (assuming the CBA does get resolved)?

Andy Reid hasn’t graded the linebacker position as a marquee area of need in the past. Will he provide Caldwell with a new toy in his first year as linebackers coach? Or will the Eagles look more to the middle rounds to fulfill a need at linebacker as they’ve done so many times?

It’s just a guess that I’m taking here, but I think the soonest fans will hear a linebacker's name called is with the 21st pick in the third round. Depending on what happens with the CBA, if the Eagles acquire more early-round picks via a trade that is being speculated (Kolb), then maybe as early as the second round.

The players that really stick out at that point are Greg Jones (Michigan State), who is expected to be around until the middle of the second round, and Brooks Reed (Arizona).

As for Houston, he truly is a non-stop phenom and he will definitely make a team much better defensively when he does have his name called. I imagine teams like the Green Bay Packers would be interested in teaming him with Clay Matthews to create an even more feared defense.

The New York Jets, Pittsburgh SteelersWashington Redskins, Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins could also be potential landing spots for Houston.

Really, any team that employs a 3-4 defense should be keeping a keen eye on Justin!


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