There’s been one player in particular that Falcons fans have been clamoring for since Barkevious Mingo was let go, myself included. I have wanted to bring Justin Houston back home to Georgia for a while, but he makes even more sense now that Mingo is no longer with the team. Apparently, NFL.com agrees with me — and the many other Falcons fans:
— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) July 15, 2021
PROJECTED WIN SHARE: 0.68 wins
I feel like many people don’t realize that Houston has posted eight-plus sacks in each of the past four seasons. But not you and I — we know it! That said, when it comes to pass-rushing effectiveness, sacks aren’t the end all, be all.
If I had to use one metric to judge pass rushers, I’d go with pressures. And I’ve been working on two sub-metrics that I’m calling “key pressures” and “assist pressures.” Key pressures are the ones that are play/drive-ending, so sacks are included. Meanwhile, assist pressures … well, think about how Aaron Donald routinely gets triple-teamed, creating more space for teammates to generate pressure.
Now, I haven’t gotten through the whole multi-year model yet — you know your girl won’t dabble in too-small sample sizes — but I can tell you that Houston generated 23 key pressures as a Colt in 2020, which placed him in the top 30 percent of edge rushers last season. Next Gen Stats show that Houston posted an 11.7 pressure percentage on third down last season, ranking 25th among 62 players with at least 100 third-down rushes. This stuff is key when it comes to my pairing of Houston with the Falcons, who only pressured opposing QBs on 31.1 percent of third-down dropbacks in 2020 (ranking 22nd, per NGS).
While I actually think the key pressures v. assist pressures metric is very interesting, that isn’t what this article is about. The point is there is a near-perfect scheme fit available who has been insanely productive for his entire career, and the Falcons may have enough dough to bring him in. On top of being reliable, Houston is a veteran presence that can help mentor this young defense. Even though his best days are behind him, he is tied for 37th all-time in (official) sacks. I just think the fit and need between player and team is way too good to pass up, and the Falcons should have had this done yesterday.