Don't expect Justin Houston to tank after getting big contract

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – I’m not expecting another 22 sacks in 2015 from Justin Houston, though I also wouldn’t be particularly surprised. What would surprise me is if Houston tanked.

I’ve been asked whether I believe it’s a coincidence that Houston had his breakout season in 2014 in what was a contract year for him. I believe it was.

It was a matter of time before Houston busted out. He had 26 sacks in 37 starts during his first three NFL season and in that light, it made sense a healthy Houston would have a big year for the Chiefs last season.

His preparation is a reason why. Houston keeps himself in impeccable physical condition. That’s not a guarantee of great performance on game day, but it is an indication of Houston’s hunger to excel.

That’s why if I had to guess, Houston will respond to his big contract -- six years and $101 million -- with another big season. I certainly liked the way he approached this issue when he answered questions from reporters on Wednesday.

“I just want to be great at what I do,’’ he said. “I take pride in what I do. That has a lot to do with it. Getting a new contract is not like you won the lottery. You’ve still got work to do. You’ve still got to prove yourself. You still can get better each and every day so that’s my goal.

“I’m going to treat this as a normal day. I’m going to put this behind me and look forward to the season. We’ve got to get ready for the season and hopefully it will be a big year.’’

Things will certainly be more difficult for Houston this year. He will receive more attention from opponents. His pass-rushing skills are no longer a secret.

I’m still predicting a big season from Houston, even if he doesn’t challenge for the NFL record. If he gets to 15 or 16 sacks, nobody’s going to look at that as a disappointing season.

History is on Houston’s side. Ten of the other 11 players with at least 20 sacks in a season had at least 10 sacks the next year, though only one led the league.