INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts defensive end Justin Houston today spoke to the local media via conference call. What did he have to say about becoming teammates with his old AFC West Division rival Philip Rivers, the impact he expects DeForest Buckner to make on the defense and more?
You can check out that entire session above, but here are some top takeaways:
» Philip Rivers used to be enemy No. 1 for Houston; now they're teammates: Houston, of course, established himself as one of the league's top pass rushers with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he would have two divisional battles a year against Rivers and the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers.
Houston sacked Rivers 7.5 total times in those matchups when he was with the Chiefs, including an impressive five Rivers takedowns during his historic 2014 campaign, when he had 22 total sacks, leaving him just a half-sack shy of tying Michael Strahan's single-season NFL record of 22.5 set back in 2001. Included in Houston's total that year was a four-sack performance against the Chargers in Week 17 at Arrowhead Stadium.
Houston even gave his old rival a jolt last year in his first season with the Colts, logging a sack of Rivers in Indy's 2019 season opener against the Chargers.
But now the two veterans are on the same side, a fact Rivers immediately acknowledged upon signing with the team as a free agent back in March.
"He just said, 'I'm glad I'm on your team now.' He texted as soon as he signed," Houston said with a smile. "We've been texting all offseason just talking to each other. But he is a great guy, great teammate. I think we're going to have a lot of success with him in the backfield. I think this is probably the best offensive line he's had blocking for him. So I'm excited and ready to see what he is going to do for us."
Houston said what sets Rivers apart on the field from a defensive perspective is the fact he's seen it all in now as he enters his 17th NFL season.
"This is his 17th year, that's a coach on the field," Houston said. "There is nothing he hasn't seen. As a quarterback, there is nothing he hasn't seen – no blitz or pressure. He's seen it all. As a coach on the field, when you have that kind of coach with the athletes surrounding him – that is amazing."
» Houston is looking forward to having the luxury of a guy like DeForest Buckner taking the attention away from him: The Colts this offseason made a major move — and addressed a major need — when they traded their first-round (13th-overall) pick to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for the All-Pro Buckner, who at just 26 years old is one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL.
Buckner can do it all from the defensive interior — he can wreak havoc on quarterbacks and he is solid against the run. And he's expected to make a major impact on the other 10 defensive players out on the field, too.
"When you have a big guy that can do it all, that helps the defense out a lot and that frees up your linebackers," Houston said. "We have speed at linebackers – they run and make plays all day. So, when you have someone like that up the middle, that just changes the whole defense's game."
Buckner, of course, is also expected to take some of the heat off of Houston.
"I feel like when you have a guy like that up the middle, the guard can't slide out and help as much as he usually does," Houston said. "They definitely have to take care of him before they take care of me, and that will give me more of a one-on-one opportunity."
And Houston likes his chances in those one-on-one matchups.
"I definitely believe in myself," he said.
» Houston wants to continue playing beyond 2020: Where he'll play is the question, however.
The 31-year-old veteran is entering the final year of the two-year deal he signed with the Colts last offseason, and still feels as if he's got plenty left in the tank, as evidenced by his 11 sacks a year ago.
"I've definitely shown I still have plenty in the tank, and I'm ready to show it again," Houston said. "There's still a lot left in me. I'm definitely going to show it this year. I'm ready to get started."
With that said, Houston isn't focusing too much on 2021 or beyond. It's all about 2020 right now for this four-time Pro Bowler and his 89.5 career sacks — who's back in his old No. 50 after donning No. 99 in his first year in Indy.
"I definitely want to continue to play football, but whether I want to play here – I haven't even thought that far ahead," he said. "I just want to focus on one game at a time, one day at a time. Right now, I'm just focused on this season. Whatever happens after that, I'll leave it up to God."
See the best images of Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Justin Houston from his 2020 photo shoot.