After 10 weeks of the season, Justin Houston has established himself as a key part of the Baltimore Ravens defense. He most recently proved his worth in Week 9, when his performance won him the AFC Defensive Player of the Week award.
Never a doubt ‼️@JHouston50 is the AFC Defensive Player of the Week ‼️ pic.twitter.com/smZOGwGom6
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 9, 2022
Against the New Orleans Saints, Houston recorded 2.5 sacks and an interception to help his team to victory. The 2.5 sacks lifted his career total to 110.5 sacks, which is third highest among current active players.
Justin Houston is the Ravens Unsung Hero This Year
On the season, Houston has recorded 8.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and one interception in just six games. This includes the New England Patriots game in Week 3 when he played just six snaps. So, effectively, Houston has 8.5 sacks in five full games. His elite efficiency can be seen in the advanced statistics too, with PFF and NextGenStats both rating Houston’s impact for the Ravens very highly.
In his 12th NFL season, Justin Houston has been THE most efficient pass rusher by pressure rate & sack rate among 159 players with 100+ pass rushes:
🔸 Pressure Rate: 19.5% (1st)
🔸 Sack Rate: 6.4% (1st)#BALvsNO | #RavensFlock pic.twitter.com/i2YE4MsboZ
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 8, 2022
A quieter season in 2021 meant that many started questioning whether Houston was still good enough to be a starting pass rusher. In that season, he recorded just 4.5 sacks in 15 games. This season, however, Houston has silenced his critics.
There is no doubt that Houston’s age limits him but the veteran has found a way to stay relevant. He was ruled out for three full games through injury and has seen a lower snap share. But, despite this, he has carved out an important role as the team’s primary edge rusher. The four-time Pro Bowler has yet to capture headlines this season but there is no doubt that Houston is an unsung hero for the Ravens.
Baltimore’s Edge Rushers
Houston is fortunate to be playing in a pass-rushing unit that has decent depth at outside linebacker. It is not that the Ravens have lots of high-end talent at the position but, rather, that they have lots of good rotational players.
The depth was really tested at the start of the season when the team was without Houston, Tyus Bowser, and David Ojabo. It resulted in the team signing Jason Pierre-Paul. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker has impressed for the Ravens, and he is the team’s biggest pass-rushing threat outside of Houston.
Odafe Oweh has been the consistent factor at outside linebacker for the Ravens. In the absence of other rotational starters, Oweh was forced to play 100% of defensive snaps. He was solid but is clearly still a work in progress. Since Houston has returned, the Ravens have found more creative ways to use Oweh. Sometimes he has been used as an inside rusher and, other times, as an off-ball linebacker.
ODAFE OWEH TAKES IT AWAY pic.twitter.com/XdXzCuYmU8
— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) October 2, 2022
Before the season, many doubted the talent at Baltimore’s edge position due to the lack of a household name. However, the rotational system that they have developed has worked wonders so far. Baltimore’s sack numbers have certainly exceeded the expectations set before the season. The team struggled when they were missing pieces earlier in the season but, as Bowser and Ojabo return, expect Baltimore’s pass rush to be in peak form entering the playoffs. Houston is the unsung hero for the Ravens pass-rushing corps, but he has a strong supporting cast.