LIONS INSIDER

NOTEBOOK: Houston's prognosis for Sunday; Riddick's new role and the importance of nickel defense

Posted Oct 4, 2013

Lions hoping they will have starting CB Chris Houston against Green Bay's high-powered offense

During a conference call with the Detroit media this week, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had some kind words to say about Detroit Lions cornerback Chris Houston.

"I think one guy in particular who has improved every year that we’ve played against them is cornerback Chris Houston," Rodgers said. "He’s a guy who has impressed me and he is a very competitive guy, high effort guy that makes a lot of plays."

Houston was told about those remarks in the locker room after practice Friday.

"Wow, I’ve made it," Houston joked, knowing what a compliment that is coming from a former MVP quarterback.

"That is a big compliment, but he’s still one of those quarterbacks who’s still going to try you. That maybe was to soften me up a little bit, but I’m not going for that, because I know if I’m over there, and Jordy Nelson is over there, the rock is coming over there."

The Lions know how important it will be to have Houston in the lineup in Green Bay on Sunday, which is why it was good news he was able to return to the practice field Friday for the first time this week since injury a hamstring last week vs. Chicago.

Houston is, however, listed as questionable to play Sunday.

"I’m just taking it day-by-day and see how it feels," Houston said.

He could be a game-time decision.

The Packers feature a receiving trio  – Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones – who all have at least 200 yards receiving and a touchdown through the Packers’ first three games.

It's a daunting task to face that kind of fire power with Houston, let alone without him.

EMBRACING THE ROLE

Rookie running back Theo Riddick hasn’t made much impact on offense. He has two carries for minus-two yards and one catch for eight yards.

The same can’t be said for his impact on special teams.

Riddick has been terrific for special teams coverage units that are vastly improved this season.

"In college, a lot of times your skilled players aren’t covering kicks or punts," head coach Jim Schwartz said. "He has shown good speed, toughness and good instincts. He’s made some good plays for us on the coverage units. You need to do that."

The Lions were expecting veteran Montell Owens to have a big role on those teams, but he’s been sidelined on short-term injured reserve because of a knee injury.

Riddick has stepped in and the coverage units haven’t skipped a beat. That's a compliment to Riddick and others.

"He gets it," Owens said of Riddick. "A lot of guys don’t get it, meaning a lot of guys come in and don’t realize how important special teams is. He’s a guy that gets it, but also has the ‘want to’ to be great on special teams."

Theo RiddickRB Theo Riddick (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

MENTAL HEALTH

Speaking of Owens, he felt a little closer to that return date in Week 9 on Friday.

He’s been working out and running for weeks after suffering a knee injury in the preseason, but it’s always been in the indoor facility and away from the practice field.

Friday, Owens was outside working on the side as his teammates practiced.

"I don’t want to be a distraction to the team," he said. "But as we get closer, it’s good to get those juices flowing again, get than camaraderie and look into another man’s eyes while he’s out there preparing. I feed off that and they feed off me as well."

NICKEL MORE PREVALENT

The Green Bay Packers run a lot of their offensive out of three-receiver sets. If that holds true on Sunday, expect to see a lot of nickel defense on the field for the Lions with second-year cornerback Bill Bentley.

That's becoming more and more for teams in today's NFL as offensive skill players get better and better.

"Our opponent this week has three really talented wide receivers and a really talented tight end," Schwartz said. "Randall Cobb is technically their third wide receiver. He is also their leading receiver. He plays about three quarters of their snaps out of a three wide receiver formation when they’re in two tight ends or two backs they only have two receivers on the field so they have a good player that’s going off the field."

It’s getting to a point in the NFL where defenses are in nickel (which means an extra cornerback comes in the game for a linebacker) just as much as they are in base.

"It’s the first time in the NFL that teams have featured three wide receiver sets," Schwartz said. "There are a lot of playmakers on offenses that they want to keep on the field. That’s up to defenses that fend them. A lot of times you have to go to extra defensive back packages to do that."

EXTRA POINT

--Linebacker Rocky McIntosh was fined $15,750 for a horse collar tackle on Devin Hester in last week’s Chicago game.