Lions' Houston picking up art of the interception
By Dave Birkett Detroit Free Press
First Posted: September 21, 2011 - 8:11 pm
Last Updated: September 21, 2011 - 8:11 pm
DETROIT — The book on Chris Houston’s first few years in the NFL: good cornerback, bad ball skills. Not anymore.
Houston has one interception in each of the Lions’ first two games, matching his career high for picks and proving his extra practice time is paying off.
The fifth-year cornerback said he tries to catch between 50 and 100 extra balls a day off a JUGS machine, a habit he picked up last year in his first season with the Lions.
“The thing about me, my whole career I’ve been a press corner and, even in high school, guys couldn’t even get off the line; so I never really got the chance to play balls down the field or do anything because I was so much stronger than them,” Houston said. “Even in college, I went against some of the Dwayne Bowe or Robert Meachem, those guys, and they couldn’t get off the line, so I didn’t really ever have to play the ball down the field.
“My first year in the league, it’s not anybody’s fault, but coaches, position coaches, never took the time out to say this is what you need to work on. It took (me figuring out) what I need to do for me to start doing it. And once I said that I know I need to work on this and I’m going to put the time into it, it started helping out.”
Houston had just three interceptions in three seasons with the Falcons, starting 37 of the 44 games he played before he was traded to the Lions last year.
In Atlanta, Houston said he never worked extra on his hands, though strength coach Jeff Fish, who spent time with Nnamdi Asomugha in Oakland, did work with him on technique to better locate passes downfield in his final season with the Falcons.
Houston showed signs of becoming a playmaker last year when he intercepted one pass (off Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers in Week 4) and had two more picks nullified by penalties.
This year, with more passes coming his way because of the Lions’ improved secondary — Eric Wright starts opposite Houston now instead of the revolving door that was last year — he already has intercepted two passes he might have dropped earlier in his career.
In a 27-20 opening-week win over Tampa Bay, Houston arm-fought receiver Arrelious Benn for 10 yards, then snared a slightly underthrown pass at the goal line.
On Sunday, he caught a deflected pass off the hands of Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe.
Both turnovers set up scoring drives.
“It’s something that was on his résumé in the past that he had a difficult time playing the ball down the field, but obviously he’s able to capitalize on these and make those interceptions,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “I think he’s 26 years old. He’s still in that young veteran stage, and to take the next step to being a complete player you need to work on your weaknesses, and Chris is a very hard worker and has done a good job of that.”
Apart from his work on the JUGS machine, Houston, who signed a two-year contract in July, said his improved ball skills are a product of more diligent work in the film room.
The interception he had in Tampa, for instance, came because he recognized Benn’s route off the snap and was able to turn his head and run with the receiver rather than wait and play his hands.“If the ball is up, it’s mine,” Houston said. “That’s my mentality. Just like when they throw it to Calvin (Johnson), when the ball is in the air, I’ve got the mentality now that I’m coming down with it. And that’s the way I’m feeling right now, the ball is coming to me. No matter who’s out there, I can get it.”http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/F ... Y_6116031/