Ford’s growth and maturation
Perhaps the biggest factor in the success of the Chiefs’ pass rush in 2016 is the development of former first-round draft pick Dee Ford. There were times in 2015 where he appeared to have taken a major step forward in his progress as a pass rusher, but those moments were sparse overall. It’s consistency that’s lacking from Ford’s game. He had four sacks last year, but three of them were logged in the same game (in the second matchup between the Chiefs and Chargers). Despite a fantastic first step, Ford still needs to develop more play strength and a more diversified set of pass rushing moves. He’ll have an opportunity to show how much (or how little) he’s grown when the lights go up this season.
Sutton’s ability to manufacture a pass rush
Supposing that Ford isn’t quite ready to take another step forward and Hali’s approaching the proverbial NFL wall, the Chiefs’ saving grace would then lie in the hands of its defensive coordinator. If Bob Sutton can find creative ways to manufacture a pass rush without a great individual contribution from his outside linebackers, Kansas City could escape the collapse of one of the league’s best defenses. Ron Parker became the team’s best pass rushing defensive back in the history of the franchise in 2015. His blitzing ability is underrated and could be called upon a bit more often to offset a potential dropoff in productivity from the outside linebackers. Derrick Johnson also has the speed to prove effective as an inside rusher. If Sutton can leverage the other penetrating members of his defense, the Chiefs could limp along long enough to give Houston time to recover.
Next: In conclusion...