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HBCU NFL Report: For games of Dec. 29 thru Jan. 2

Jackson State product James Houston (#59) takes to the air to twist down Chicago QB Justin Fields Sunday in Detroit’s 41-10 win over the Bears. Houston’s three sacks landed him in the NFL record book.

This week’s HBCU NFL Report indicates the arrow is pointing up again for Detroit rookie James Houston.

The 6-1, 241-pound outside linebacker out of Jackson State was taken in the sixth round by the Lions in this year’s draft. He transferred to Jackson State from Florida last season and posted 16.5 sacks for Deion Sanders’ JSU Tigers, tied for second in the FCS..

He has continued to stand out since he played his first NFL game on Nov. 24 vs. Buffalo. It was the Lions’ 11th game of the season but the first for Houston.

Houston languished on the team’s practice squad since the beginning of the season. He had two sacks in his initial game and a sack in every game but one since. His playing time has increased in every game.

HBCU NFL Report: Houston steps up

On Sunday, he got his first start and played a season-high 33 defensive snaps, 63% of the Lions plays. He validated Lions’ head coach Dan Campbell’s confidence in him with a season-high three sacks of Chicago quarterback Justin Fields.

BALL’S OUT: James Houston (#59) corrals Chicago QB Justin Fields from behind and knocks the ball out. Houston’s teammate Adnan Hutchinson recovered in the Lions; 41-10 win over the Bears.

Houston has been employing what some are calling a “Euro step,” a basketball move where an offensive player takes a long stride in one direction and then takes another in another direction. He has used the quick step and change of direction to get around bigger offensive tackles. See video of his first sack here.

See video here of Houston closing fast to take down Fields for his third sack.

In the second of his trifecta, he sacked and stripped Fields of the ball. See video of that sack here. The sacks were the only tackles Houston made as the Lions improved to 8-8 with the 41-10 win. Detroit is 4-2 in games in which Houston has played.

HBCU NFL Report: Houston enters the record book

It now gives Houston eight sacks in the six games played. He is the first player in NFL history to post eight sacks in their first six games.

His eight (8.0) sacks are tied for 27th in the NFL with veterans Montez Sweat of Washington and Dorrance Armstrong of Dallas. He also leads all NFL rookies with the eight takedowns. He is ahead of Detroit’s 2022 first round draftee, rookie right DE Adnan Hutchinson. The Michigan product has 7.5 sacks in 16 games.

The Lions close out the regular season Sunday night (8:20 p.m.) at 8-8 Green Bay. A win by the Lions and loss by Seattle to the host L. A. Rams Sunday gives the Lions an NFL Wild Card playoff berth.

HBCU NFL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

For games of December 29 2022 – January 2, 2023

DEFENSE

 – # 59 JAMES HOUSTON IV, OLB, Detroit (1st season, JACKSON STATE) – In 41-10 win over Chicago, Houston got his first start at outside linebacker and had three total tackles, all sacks for -17 yards. One sack forced a fumble by Bears’ QB Justin Fields. Houston got his first two sacks from his right end position and his third from the left side. He set an NFL record with now eight sacks, the most in the first six games of a player’s career in league history. Houston was in on 33 (63%) of the defensive snaps and three (10%) on special teams’ plays.

LOW MAN WINS!
Detroit rookie defensive end JAMES HOUSTON (#59, JACKSON STATE) goes under and around Chicago tackle Braxton Jones (#70) to take down Bears’ QB Justin Fields by the ankles..

OFFENSE

– #60 NICK LEVERETT, OL, Tampa Bay (2nd season, NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL) – Started at left guard in Bucs 30-24 win over Carolina as the Bucs’ rushed for 67 yards and one TD and passed for 432 yards and three TDs while giving up three sacks. He was in on all 78 offensive plays (100%) and five (16%) of the plays on special teams. 

SPECIAL TEAMS

– #12 KHADAREL HODGE, WR, Atlanta (5th season, PRAIRIE VIEW A&M)  – In 20-19 win over Arizona, Hodge had one catch for five yards. He was in on 15 (24%) offensive plays and 15 (60%) on special teams. 

 OTHER TOP PERFORMANCES

OFFENSE  

– #71 TYTUS HOWARD, OG, Houston (4th season, ALABAMA STATE) – Howard started at right tackle in 31-3 loss to Jacksonville. The Texans rushed for 84 yards and passed for 211 yards and gave up just one sack. Howard was in all 70 (100%) of the offensive plays and one (4%) on special teams.

– #78 TRENT SCOTT, OT, Pittsburgh (5th season, GRAMBLING STATE) – Did not play in 16-13 win over Baltimore.

– #72 TERRON ARMSTEAD, LT, Miami (10th season, ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF) – In 23-21 loss to Miami, Armstead was inactive.

DEFENSE

– #45 JOE THOMAS, LB, Chicago (5th season, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE) – Thomas started at linebacker in the Bears’ 41-10 loss to Detroit and led the Beats with 12 total tackles, seven solos including a tackle for loss. He also had a special teams’ tackle. He was in on 70 (99%) of the defensive snaps and seven (23%) of the snaps on special teams. 

– #97 JAVON HARGRAVE, DT, Philadelphia (7th season, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE) – Starting at defensive tackle in 20-10 loss to New Orleans, Hargrave finished with eight total tackles, four solos including one sack for -5 yard. It was Hargrave’s career-high 11th sack of the season. He was in on 45 (65%) of the defensive snaps and six (23%) of the snaps on special teams.

– #14 DECOBIE DURANT, DB, LA Rams (1st season, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE) – In 31-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, Durant had seven tackles, six solos while playing 45 (78%) of the defensive snaps.  

– #36 DANNY JOHNSON, DB, Washington (5th season, SOUTHERN) – Starting at cornerback in 24-10 loss to Cleveland, Johnson had one assisted tackle. Johnson was in on all 57 (100%) of the defensive snaps.

More Defense

– #23 JOSHUA WILLIAMS, DB, Kansas City (1st season, FAYETTEVILLE STATE) – In 27-24 win over Denver, Williams had no stats while playing 14 plays (20%) on defense and 14 plays (48%) on special teams.

– #90  GROVER STEWART, DT, Indianapolis (6th season, ALBANY STATE) – In 38-10 loss to the New York Giants, Stewart had two total tackles, one solo. He was in on 46 plays (73%) on defense and 11 on special teams (46%).

– #41 MARKQUESE BELL, DB, Dallas (1st season, FLORIDA A&M) – In Cowboys 27-13 win over Tennessee Thursday, Bell was inactive.

– #47 DESHAUN DIXON, LB, Jacksonville (1st season, NORFOLK STATE) – Dixon was inactive in 31-3 win over Houston.

– #33 ANTONIO HAMILTON, DB, Arizona (7th season, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE) – Hamilton was not active in 20-19 loss to Atlanta.

SPECIAL TEAMS

– #7  JAMIE GILLAN, P, NY Giants (5th season, ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF) – In 38-10 win over Indianapolis, Gillan punted one time for 47 yards (47.0-yard average, 27.0-yard net) . He was in on eight (33%) of the special teams’ plays.

HBCU NFL Report: For games of Dec. 29 thru Jan. 2
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