Georgia OLB Houston an easier projection?

February, 27, 2011
2/27/11
5:10
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- One of the challenging aspects for teams that run the 3-4 defense is projecting college defensive ends as outside linebackers. But Georgia's Justin Houston, a possible late first-round selection, might be an easier projection because he played in the 3-4 last season.

"This past season I played in the 3-4, so I'm ready for it," Houston said late Sunday in a visit to the media center at the combine. "I had doubts about it before I switched [from defensive end], but [coach] Todd Grantham came in, we sat down and talked, and he taught me a lot of things that made it an easier transition."

Houston said the biggest challenge, as it usually is, was learning pass coverages.

"I was used to rushing the whole game, but I had to learn to drop and be in the right place," he said.

Houston feels like he's well prepared to play in a 3-4 scheme because of Grantham, who joined Georgia last season after coaching in the NFL since 1999.

"He coaches like we were in the NFL, so everything was fast paced, just like the NFL," he said, adding that Grantham had him watching film of Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware.

Houston measured 6-foot-2, 270 pounds, which is about five pounds heavier than what he played at last season. The height might not fit the prototype for an outside linebacker in the 3-4, but he certainly looked sturdy enough. And the Patriots figure to like his pass-rush burst, as he totaled 17.5 sacks and 23.5 tackles for a loss over the last two seasons.

"My pass-rush approach is that you have to have 'want-to' to get to the ball. That's the main thing. The second thing is that you have to have get-off," he said. "With that, you can be a great pass rusher. I can be better with my hands, which I'm working on."

Houston left Georgia after his junior season and said the reason was to help his family financially.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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