Rookie linebacker James Houston made quite the debut last week against the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving. After spending the first 11 weeks of the season on the practice squad, the sixth-round pick out of Jackson State was called up and recorded two sacks in both his pass-rush reps. He also recovered a key fumble on special teams.
Houston was signed to the 53-man roster this week and the expectation is he'll see more run on defense moving forward after such a terrific debut.
Offensive tackles Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell spent 11 weeks going against Houston during practice while he was on the practice squad show team. Talking with both Decker and Sewell about Houston this week, neither is surprised by his debut performance.
"I remember asking (offensive line coach) Hank (Fraley) a month ago, 'Why isn't this guy playing?' Because there would be a couple times here and there where he'd beat me and it's not like one of those where I'm taking the play off or made a mistake, he really got me," Decker said.
Decker said he's really impressed by Houston's ability to bend and his ankle mobility to dip and turn the edge.
"You don't see a lot of guys like that," Decker said. "He's got that natural bend. I feel that's something you either have, or you don't."
Houston also gave Sewell a lot of looks on the scout team.
"Everybody knew what he was capable of," Sewell said of Houston. "I just saw him grow. You could see when he was first coming in that everything was moving at a different speed. As time goes on, and I'm asking for his best out on the scout team, and he's asking for mine, once you do that, now we're just competing. Then once you step out on that field on gamedays it's almost the same speed, if not slower."
Decker and Sewell are big fans of Houston, but defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn reminded the media Thursday that Houston still has a long way to go.
"Thing is, we know that he's a good pass rusher," Glenn said. "There's a lot of other things that go into it to be a good football player. Here's the deal – and I know you guys are putting him out to be the next Lawrence Taylor, I got it, but man, this player has skill.
"He still has a ways to go, and we're going to make sure we protect him from himself and from all this everybody out there just trying to do all the hype right now. And that's our job is to make sure we give him the best chance to be the best football player he can be, and that's what we're going to do."
VERY VERY FAST
Rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams returned to Lions practice last week, but his first full practice (not a walkthrough) happened Wednesday in Allen Park. It was quarterback Jared Goff's first opportunity to see Williams in that setting.
"He's fast," Goff said of Williams. "He's very fast. He's very, very fast."
Goff compared Williams' speed to that of former teammate (with the Rams) Brandin Cooks.
"Brandin Cooks is probably the fastest guy I've played with, and it's a different type of speed though, and again, I haven't seen him play in a real game, but he's longer," Goff said of Williams. "He's a stride guy. He's got length. He's got wingspan. Brandin was more just kind of a burner and has done that well for a long time, but Jameson, he can extend on guys.
"He can really make catches away from his body, that type of stuff. And how much he's able to help us in the next six games, we'll see, but certainly as a quarterback, you want him on the field as soon as possible."
Right tackle Penei Sewell (ankle) returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday's practice. That's certainly good news for the Lions with Detroit playing Jacksonville Sunday at Ford Field.
"They are long, they are strong, they are quick and they could give us some issues," Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said of the Jaguars' defense. "It starts with the front for them with a lot of the teams we faced over the past few weeks. In a lot of ways, it's strength-on-strength when you look at it from our perspective, but they do a great job.
"They've got two great edge defenders with (OLB) Josh Allen and then the rookie, (OLB Travon) Walker, he's coming on. And then they have depth as well. They've got some really good pass rushers that could potentially wreak some havoc. They've done that all year. I don't know if their sack numbers are up, but the pressure numbers are there, so we're very aware of that."
Left guard Jonah Jackson ditched the red no-contact jersey he had on Wednesday for Thursday's practice. He's trending toward returning Sunday, which is huge for the o-line.
The one player still missing is right guard Evan Brown, who's dealing with an ankle injury. He's missed both practices this week. Kayode Awosika could be in line for his second start if Brown can't go.