In Dee-fense of Chiefs’ Ford


In just four quarters of football, budding outside linebacker Dee Ford has shaken the bust label. His three-sack performance in a win and series sweep of the San Diego Chargers is proof that he’s turned the corner. Well, not exactly — it was just one game, after all. Ford’s coming-out party isn’t cause for celebration yet. The best NFL players are marked by consistency. The second-year man out of Auburn needs time still to prove himself reliable.

Sunday was, however, a positive sign. Everyone in Chiefs Kingdom has been waiting, with baited breath, for signs of life with the team’s first-round pick in 2014. Coming into Week 14, Ford had just 1.5 career sacks. He doubled those career totals, in one week, against a hapless Chargers team. Take that with a grain of salt though. San Diego was missing two regular starters along the offensive line. Still, for one day, Ford was able to silence his critics; even if only briefly.

Prior to Justin Houston’s injury two weeks ago, on-field opportunities had been limited for Ford. His naysayers will cite that as evidence that he’s a wasted draft pick. Let them tell it, a former No. 1 should be demanding snaps. Unfortunately, that’s an oversimplified argument. Ford has two players ahead of him who’ve combined for eight trips to Honolulu (the site of the NFL’s annual Pro Bowl) since 2010. It’s tough to pull two of the league’s best at outside linebacker to give snaps to a developing player.

Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Up until now, playing time had been scarce for Ford, but where he’s had opportunity, he’s flashed and shown promise.  In 2014, Ford averaged fewer than six pass rush snaps per game (85 total). For comparison’s sake, Justin Houston had 193 in his rookie season. It’s curious that Ford’s drawn the ire of the Kingdom given the limitations on playing time, but I think it’s one part Chiefs’ recent first-round draft history and one part fans being unreasonable. Though in fairness, those two things may well be “cause and effect.”

Fans have also argued that while he does have a fantastic first step and potential as a pass rusher, he’s one-dimensional on the whole. If I’m being honest, this objection is tougher to dispute. There are aspects of his game that must be shored up and run support is one of them. The SAM position in the 3-4 defense demands it. If Ford can’t learn to set the edge as a run defender, he’ll be a liability offensive coordinators will target. I’m sure he’d like nothing more than to put the Frank Gore debacle, from his rookie season, behind him.

Ford may already be turning the corner in pass coverage. He blanketed Chargers running back Danny Woodhead on the game’s deciding play. It was only one play, but it’s the kind of play that helps build confidence. Woodhead’s a tough cover for any defender; he has 58 receptions on the season.

Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Breaking that pass up with just seconds left in regulation helped the Chiefs hang on to win. It’s the second time, in as many weeks, that he’s made a play at a crucial moment in a tight game. Last week, against the Oakland Raiders, he got pressure on quarterback Derek Carr that resulted in a turnover. The Raiders were into Chiefs’ territory and driving. They were threatening to extend their lead to two scores, but Ford got hand on Carr that affected his throwing motion. The ball fell into the waiting arms of Josh Mauga, who took it 66 yards the other way, down to the Raiders’ 1-yard line.

Time will tell if Ford’s arrived or if Sunday’s game with the Chargers was an aberration. Justin Houston may or may not be ready to return to the starting lineup when the Chiefs square up with the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. Ford could get his third straight start if Houston can’t go. The Ravens are down to their third-string quarterback Jimmy Clausen, but they’re also one of the least sacked teams in the NFL. It’ll be interesting to see if Ford can build upon the momentum of Week 14.

Are you sold or is the jury still out on Dee Ford? Can he become a three-dimensional outside linebacker or is he destined to be a one-trick pony in this league? Should he get another full season to prove himself or has the clock already run out on the former No. 1? Use the comment section below to weigh in. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.

Until next time, Addicts!