Everybody is worried about the pass rush without Justin Houston. What are the Kansas City Chiefs to do without the All-Pro who racked up 22 sacks in 2014?
The question is fair, but I believe misguided. We all know that barring injury, Dee Ford will be replacing Houston until he recovers from his ACL injury. Ford, entering his third season after being a first-round selection in 2014, has yet to prove he can do much.
Last year, Ford had a great game against the San Diego Chargers in which he racked up three sacks and the game-winning pass breakup against Philip Rivers and Danny Woodhead. It was a magnificent effort, but the only one of its kind.
Yet, for those who have the time and capability of watching film, I implore you to. After doing so, it’s obvious Ford can rush the passer. He certainly would be helped by developing a power move and could use more flexibility in his hips, but Ford can generate pressure. He’s going to get sacks.
The real question is whether Ford is a massive liability against the run.
Ford showed progress last season, but considering how he played the run his rookie campaign, that isn’t saying much. He clearly knows he should set the edge, but far too often Ford races upfield only to have the back scoot right past him. Teams are going to realize this trend and if it continues, the Chiefs are going to be gashed off the right side.
When you consider the defense as a whole, coordinator Bob Sutton will have ample ways of creating pressure. The line is one of the best in football with three and perhaps four pass-rushers from Dontari Poe and Jaye Howard to Allen Bailey and rookie Chris Jones. Factor in a fresh Tamba Hali and the blitzing specialty of Ron Parker, and Kansas City will hit the quarterback.
Ford’s main job will be to create havoc on the signal-caller, but it is also to hold the edge on run players, funneling the ball carrier toward Josh Mauga and Derrick Johnson. If he fails to do that on a consistent basis, the Chiefs would be better off playing Frank Zombo. Zombo won’t give much against the pass, but he’s a hell of a run defender.
Maybe in the end, Ford sees all the pass-rush situations while Zombo plays on first and second down. The Chiefs need to stop the run first and foremost, and if Ford can’t do that, he’s not worth the time.