Dee Ford: Chiefs should move him inside


The Kansas City Chiefs have found themselves in a unique situation when it comes to their 2014 first-round pick, Dee Ford. By all accounts, the Chiefs felt that Ford was the best player available when they drafted him last year. And most analysts agreed that he was the top pass rusher left in the draft at that time. Fans of most teams would expect Ford to be lined up on the outside right away to harass opposing quarterbacks. But that’s not really an option in Kansas City…

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The Chiefs are in a strange situation where they simply do not have the ability to get their first-round pass rusher on the field. The holdup? Well, just the little fact that Kansas City has two All-Pro caliber players already lined up at the position. Justin Houston and Tamba Hali remain one of the top-tier pass rushing duos in the NFL. Houston is coming off a record-setting year, and Hali recently took one of the more shocking pay cuts in professional sports history to stick around.

Simply put, you’re not pulling those guys off of the field in order for an unknown player, regardless of when he was drafted. That means the Chiefs have to find another way to field Dee Ford. And that move should be to the inside linebacker spot next to Derrick Johnson.

Dee Ford has yet to make an impact in the NFL. If the Chiefs want that to change, they may need to explore moving him. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Dee Ford has all of the tools needed to make this move. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 252 pounds, Ford has good size for the interior spot. His noted quick first step would also be a plus in allowing him to get up on blockers quickly to disrupt the offense’s play. It would also give the Chiefs an excellent interior blitzing option. His athleticism should also help him in the short area passing game.

On top of that, Ford isn’t lacking for strength either. The 29 bench press reps at his Pro Day would have placed him third against participating linebackers in the 2015 NFL Combine.  Truth be told, Dee Ford would have been a phenomenal prospect as an inside linebacker.

However, the naysayers will tell you that this is a bad move because it takes Ford out of his natural position at outside linebacker and wastes his talent. Of course, I contend that him sitting the bench does more of that than moving him to the inside.

A move inside doesn’t mean that Ford can’t return to a pass rushing position when Hali retires or (if) Houston moves on. In fact, getting used to the NFL speed of the game is a valuable tool that could help him prepare for that. Plus, being able to play Ford on the inside would also allow the Chiefs to feel good about taking a pass rusher in the 2016 NFL Draft, which features some intriguing prospects.

And if we don’t move Ford to the inside, then how is he going to get on the field? Many contend that he will come on in obvious passing situations as an additional rusher. Some say that he will start subbing in for Tamba Hali more. To the former proposition, I say…why couldn’t he do that AND play inside linebacker? In fact, having an additional pass rush specialist already on the field would be a plus.

The fewer personnel changes a team has to make, the better.  And in those situations, it is normally the second inside linebacker that comes off the field. Having Ford in that spot eliminates that altogether. As for subbing in more for Hali? I think you might want to run that past Tamba first. Something tells me that he has no intentions of coming off the field.

You also have to consider the other options at that inside position. We know what Josh Mauga is all about, and it’s not something we should be looking forward to seeing again. The Chiefs seem to agree to a certain degree as they spent two picks on the inside linebacker spot in the draft. While rookies Ramik Wilson and DJ Alexander do offer some potential down the road, neither should be considered an immediate option to start in their first year.

Moving a talented pass rusher to the inside is not an unheard of proposition. The Packers did it just this past season with Clay Matthews. And it appears they may keep him there for certain packages this season as well. That isn’t altogether surprising when you see the difference in the performance. The Packers gave up an average of 3.5 yards per carry and 86.4 yards per game after putting Matthews in at inside linebacker, a dramatic improvement from the 4.8 yards per carry and 153.5 yards per game prior to putting him in there. That doesn’t guarantee the Chiefs would get the same kind of results with Dee Ford at inside linebacker, but it does show that the idea isn’t preposterous.

At the end of the day, we need to get value from our draft picks. Right now, Ford isn’t providing that value, and the situation appears to limit his ability to do so on the outside. The Chiefs need to get creative and find a solution. Being able to consistently put Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, and Dee Ford on the field sounds like a pretty good solution to me.