It was announced early on Tuesday at the press conference for the NFL meetings in Florida, that Justin Houston will be out for 6-12 months due to ACL reconstructive surgery.
According to Chiefs’ trainer Rick Burkholder confirmed that Houston had surgery back in February and explained that his ACL was intact after sustaining a hyper-extension against Buffalo in late November. However, the ACL was found to not be functioning properly during a scope procedure after the season ended. Thus, Houston had to have his knee repaired and could miss the entire 2016 season.
There is some optimism that Houston could be back just before the season begins but all caution must be taken to secure the future of the Chiefs’ best player. Therefore, the Chiefs had better be preparing to move on from Houston for the 2016 season. The first step has already been taken with securing the services of Tamba Hali for the rest of his career. Many fans were wondering why Hali received such a favorable contract despite being injured himself and possibly losing a step due to age. With Houston out, Hali becomes invaluable not only as a pass rusher, but as a leader in the locker room.
The Chiefs will use Hali as their main pass-rusher but look for guys like Frank Zombo and Dezman Moses to get more playing time. Zombo has shown his quality as a run stopper and a pass rusher but he does struggle in coverage, something Houston does extremely well. Should either Zombo or Moses get solid opportunities against the likes of Charles and West in training camp then it will be sink or swim for potential Houston replacements.
There is also the matter of Dee Ford. To say the least, Ford has been a disappointment thus far as a first-round draft pick, especially in his inability to read and react quickly. Ford has the physical tools to be a solid coverage linebacker as well as a dominant pass rusher but he struggles recognizing plays and allows running backs to blow past him due to taking himself out of the play.
The Chiefs will put a lot of weight on Ford’s shoulders this offseason which will hopefully get him to dissect offenses better and try to fill the hole that will be left by Houston.
The only bright side that the fans can look at here is that the Chiefs managed to go undefeated without Houston late last season. That might not be saying much considering the competition the Chiefs faced but it is still the NFL. The Chiefs have and will continue to bolster their offense and it could push them through at least the first half of the schedule with a winning record. But the team and fans will both be hoping for a Houston return before competition really heats up in a playoff run.