KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston is tied for the NFL lead in sacks with Robert Quinn of St. Louis. Both players had three sacks in their respective season openers.
Houston has a great chance of finishing the season at or near the top of the sack charts. Don’t look for Houston to catch Derrick Thomas, who in 1990 set the Chiefs’ record for single-season sacks with 20. But Houston could chase down Jared Allen, second on the single-season list with 15.5 in 2007.
Houston’s rise to becoming one of the NFL’s top pass-rushers has been dramatic. Houston didn’t get a sack as a rookie in 2011 until a December game against Chicago, when he had three. He then led the Chiefs with 10 sacks last season, becoming the first Kansas City player other than Tamba Hali to lead the Chiefs in sacks since they traded Allen to Minnesota after the 2007 season.
Hali, a two-time Pro Bowler, is fourth on the Chiefs’ all-time sack list. He does most of his pass rush work with sheer effort rather than an abundance of skill. Houston is the most natural pass-rusher the Chiefs have had since Thomas and Neil Smith played for the Chiefs in the late '80s and early '90s. That includes Allen, who like Hali, is a relentless player.
“He’s a better player than me,” Hali said of Houston late last season. “He’s younger, he’s quicker, he’s faster. He’s definitely worked on his technique.’’
Houston showed his array of pass rush skills in getting his three sacks last week against Jacksonville:
• Houston was unblocked on his first sack, but was quick to get to Blaine Gabbert and bring him down for a 13-yard loss.
• He beat guard Will Rackley with a bull rush for his second sack. Houston pushed Rackley into Gabbert, and then disengaged to tackle the quarterback for a six-yard loss.
• Houston beat rookie tackle Luke Joeckel around the edge for his third sack, an eight-yard loss.
Houston plays with some other strong pass-rushers, such as Hali, nose tackle Dontari Poe, inside linebacker Derrick Johnson and safety Eric Berry. But that should only help and not hurt his cause. Opponents can spend only so many resources blocking Houston.