Chicago Bears: Will Lamarr Houston Step It Up?


The Chicago Bears have a lot of work to do on the defensive side of the ball in 2015.

ALSO ON SPIN ZONE: Who Is The Bears Best MVP Candidate?

Two years under former defensive coordinator Mel Tucker led the Bears to become one of the NFL’s most horrific defensive units, despite the franchise’s history is a defensive powerhouse.

More from Chicago Bears

New defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was brought in by general manager Ryan Pace to try and fix a great blemish, one that will take a little more than a coaching and personnel upgrade. Fangio’s 3-4  scheme is set up to allow the defense to apply pressure on the edge, emphasizing the need for pass-rushing outside linebackers.

Lamarr Houston has the chance to be a focal point of that unit.

In 2014, his first season in Chicago, Houston only made it through half of the season. In a contest against the New England Patriots in October, the former Oakland Raider tore his ACL while celebrating his first and last sack of the season.

The sack came in garbage time, with the Bears down 25 points and less than five minutes remaining, so a celebration at the point in time seemed unnecessary.

“I probably shouldn’t have celebrated like that, but it happens,” Houston said to The Boston Globe’s  Shalise Manza Young.

This was before an MRI revealed that he had a season-ending injury, so there was probably a little more frustration following that revelation.

As previously mentioned, Houston only had one sack on the season going into that eighth game–to go along with just 11 total tackles–so 2014 was a down year for him.

Houston played defensive end for the Raiders for four seasons before signing a five-year, $35 million contract with the Bears, eclipsing 4.5 sacks in all but one season in the Bay Area. He led the team in sacks in his final year with the team, producing six of them.

Now, coming off his devastating injury, Houston will have the chance to prove that he’s worth what his contract says he’s worth. In only the second year of a five-year deal, it would be painful for the Bears to see such a long-term investment go to waste.

But Houston will now have the chance to thrive in the 3-4, a defense that he has some experience in from his time in Oakland. The mastermind Fangio sees potential for Houston to be a great pass rusher in his scheme, but he may not be a starter right out the gate.

Oct 26, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) carries the ball as Chicago Bears defensive end Lamarr Houston (99) chases during the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots won 51-23. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

It’s possible that free-agent signee Pernell McPhee and second-year Bear Jared Allen could get the starting nods as the first-string OLBs. Unless one of those players gets injured before Week 1, Houston could be the third stringer at the start of the season.

That also means that he’s the first guy off the bench. If that is the case, Houston could try to embrace the role as the “spark plug” for the pass-rushing unit. Similar to the sixth man in the NBA or a pinch hitter in baseball, Houston could be a guy to fire up the defense with his play, and become a leader of the squad when he’s out there.

He has the ability to stop the run with great efficiency, as well as rush the quarterback from multiple angles. He’s a little bigger than mast pass-rushing OLBs, but he does not lack speed and can his power his way to a quarterback. He’s shown that he has a great work ethic and will make hustle plays when needed.

Houston is still a great player and pass rusher. To say that he might start the year as the first guy off the bench says less about his ability and more about the ability of the guys in front of him.

The system is a little new to Allen, but he’s a natural sack guy. McPhee also has some experience in the 3-4, but has not been an exclusive 3-4-guy.

Houston is in a similar season with McPhee, only the latter is not coming off injury. So to see him come off the bench initially wouldn’t be all that surprising.

Again, that says little about his ability.

Houston has the chance to make a true comeback this season, and if his style of player and effort says anything, there’s a good chance that an improved season is on the way.

Next: Jared Allen Builds Homes for Wounded Soldiers

More from NFL Spin Zone