This is no time to panic.
Yes, there was some bad new coming out of One Arrowhead Drive this week. There are two major scenarios that can play out surrounding the ACL injury to Justin Houston and what it means for the 2016 NFL Draft.
To get some background, I interviewed Dr. David Chao this week and dug into the topic more than the mainstream Kansas City media were able to. You can listen to the full interview in the podcast below. Here are the takeaways.
The ACL holds the knee joint together and give it stability. With a loose or torn ACL, the bones of the upper and lower leg can damage each other and the soft tissues; like a boat loosely tied to a dock in a storm. Therefore, the injury needs to be corrected whether the ligament was frayed, partially torn or just stretched.
At the end of the day, every ACL reconstruction is done to prevent the knee from coming apart. In Houston’s case, it needed to be corrected now or risk blowing it out completely on the field in 2016.
"“the ACL was intact, it just wasn’t functioning” – Chiefs’ Head Athletic Trainer Rick Burkholder"
There is some good news in Houston’s injury. The injury was caused on a play where he hyperextended his knee. While the ACL was damaged, that is actually a bit of luck.
When a ACL ruptures, the bones and tissues around it are injured as well. Dr. Chao stated “the biggest determiner of return from ACL is actually associated injury. If there is associated bone bruise, cartilage damage, meniscus tears,etc…”.
Here is the podcast where you can hear the complete interview with Dr Chao.
Houston was able to play in Kansas City’s playoff game against New England nearly seven weeks later, although he was severely limited. That implies that the initial injury didn’t do any damage that was enough keep him from the field. That leaves hope that the associated injury was slight. It would also backup reports that Houston is ahead of schedule on his rehab.
Draft pass rusher at #28 or Day 2?
The team needs a pass-rushing rotation and John Dorsey knows it. Re-signing Tamba Hali does not cover it. In reality, Hali and Dee Ford should be splitting duties at the right OLB position. Having to start them opposite each means the roster is frighteningly thin on pass rushers. Either could miss time in 2016 and Hali needs to play less snaps to be effective.
Chiefs need backups that can be productive in getting pressure and occasionally drop in coverage. There is little cap space for free agents at this point and the current backups are a liability. Frank Zombo is back and was scary efficient when rushing in 2015; but he is not a 35 snap per game guy.
Newly-signed Jonathan Massaquoi was a rotational 4-3-DE in Atlanta. In 2013, he played just over 50 percent of the Falcons defensive snaps. His playing time fell to 31 percent in 2014 and Massaquoi was out of football in 2015.
The team must draft a pass rusher, and you can never have enough to them. Kansas City already needs two defensive backs and an interior offensive lineman. Add edge rusher to the top of the list. One of these three positions will likely be the Chiefs first-round selection. Unfortunately, the edge rusher draft class is small.
Next: What are the options?