RED ZONE

Chiefs' Houston takes advantage of rookie right tackles

Updated: 2013-09-20T21:43:04Z

By RANDY COVITZ

The Kansas City Star

It’s stating the obvious that Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston is having a monster season.

In three games, he has 7.5 sacks, now that the NFL restored one of his 4.5 sacks from the game at Philadelphia on Thursday night. That projects to 40 sacks for the season, which would nearly double the NFL record of 22.5 held by Michael Strahan.

And his prowess as a pass rusher is no fluke. Houston came on strong at the end of his rookie season in 2011, and has 23 sacks in his last 24 games.

But before we start getting too carried away and start clearing space for him in the Hall of Fame, let’s look at the common denominator in Houston’s two multi-sack performances.

Rookie right tackles.

Houston exploited Jacksonville rookie Luke Joeckel in the season opener when he had 3 sacks playing mostly against the second overall pick in the 2013 draft.

In Thursday night’s win at Philadelphia, he dominated rookie Lane Johnson while collecting 4.5 sacks, including two on consecutive plays in the second against the fourth overall pick in the draft.

And it may only get better. The Chiefs’ next opponent, the New York Giants, also start a rookie at right tackle in Justin Pugh, their first-round draft pick from Syracuse.

We’ve seen how Chiefs rookie right tackle Eric Fisher, the first overall pick in the draft, has struggled, and he had a rough night himself against the Eagles’ Fletcher Cox, allowing a sack and four pressures. Houston has been able to take advantage of similar matchups.

It must be noted that Houston was held without a sack by Dallas veteran Doug Free in week two.

Houston’s performance at Philadelphia was as complete as any by a defensive player that you could hope for -- 4.5 sacks, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, two batted passes and three tackles in the run game.

When he had three sacks at halftime, I was thinking Derrick Thomas’ league-record seven sacks could be in jeopardy.

It’s going to take a heck of a game by someone else this weekend to deny Houston his second AFC Defensive Player of the Week honor in three weeks.

As Thomas used to say, sacks come in bunches, so let’s see whether Houston can keep adding up the sacks against the Giants against another inexperienced tackle.

To reach Randy Covitz, send email to rcovitz@kcstar.com

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