Kansas City Chiefs have plenty of pass rushing potential
By Jalon Dodson
The Kansas City Chiefs could quite possibly have the deepest pass rush we’ve seen in years, and that’s what the Chiefs need right now.
If you are a Kansas City Chiefs fan and you’re not pumped up about the potential this team has this year, I do not know what to tell you. The Chiefs’ pass rush has admittedly struggled over the years, not being able to provide the type of production and opportunities for the secondary as it should. That is all about to change in the 2018 season.
When I first started outlining what I wanted to do for this article, I had taken the time to really take a deep dive into the Chiefs’ pass rushing corps for 2018. Let me start off by saying that we, as Chiefs fans, are going to be spoiled.
Let us take an in-depth look at the Chiefs’ pass rush, player-by-player.
LOLB Justin Houston
Justin Houston has been one of the Chiefs’ top pass rushers since being drafted by the team in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft. His best season came in 2014, where he had a total of 22.0 sacks—something that has only been done four times since the sack became recognized as a stat in 1982. Houston suffered an injury in Week 12 of the 2014 season, which ended up being an ACL injury. Since the season-ending injury, Houston had not been able to return to that dominant 2014-esque form.
Without their top pass rusher lighting up opposing offensive backfields, the Chiefs’ defense hasn’t looked quite as fierce getting after the passer. That could all change, though. Houston said during this offseason that he’s felt better than he has in years, adding that he feels as good as he did in 2014. I hope this is true, for the sake of the Chiefs’ defense.
If Houston can return to that dominant form, I have no doubt in my mind that he can help lead the Chiefs to victory on a weekly basis come the 2018 season.
ROLB Dee Ford
Dee Ford is another one of the Chiefs’ pass rushers that had been plagued by injury after a stellar 2016 season. Although Ford has not really been a recent threat in terms of production, the former first round pick hopes to take a leap in 2018. Reid had spoken to the local Kansas City media the day after the week 3 preseason loss against the Chicago Bears, “I know what the other two (Houston and Ford) can do, and they’re in pretty good shape right now,” Reid explained. “So, that’s a plus. They’re coming out of this thing healthy, which is important and has been an issue with both of them.”
If what Reid said is any indication, the Chiefs’ starting outside linebackers are healthy and ready to dominate on the field. Ford had been rather quiet in the 2017 season, as a nagging back injury led to him only being able to play 6 games. In combination with the hard-hitting Houston, the speed-rushing Dee Ford should be able to help bring the Chiefs’ pass rush back to its elite status we all know it can be.
Ideally, you could think of the duo as a one-two punch. It doesn’t stop there, though, with two young and hungry players gearing for a big season.
LOLB Tanoh Kpassagnon
Tanoh Kpassagnon is a beast in the making, and I think his time has finally come. Last year, Kpassagnon played just 159 defensive snaps in his rookie campaign, accounting for 14 combined tackles. He also added two sacks, both of which came against the Chiefs’ final regular season game in Week 17 against the Denver Broncos.
Notwithstanding his limited rookie season, Kpassagnon has a chance to burst onto the scene in his sophomore season as a dominant pass rusher, causing chaos in offensive backfields. His huge frame and quick legs led to him switching from defensive end to outside linebacker, only further allowing Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Bob Sutton to expand his defensive playbook.
Kpassagnon is a dangerous weapon in Bob Sutton’s arsenal, that I feel is going to get used quite a bit. On the Chiefs’ first unofficial depth chart of the regular season, Kpassagnon is listed as the #2 left outside linebacker behind the aforementioned Justin Houston. His massive frame, however, allows him to be used in some packages as a defensive end, giving Sutton a plethora of opportunities. I fully expect Kpassagnon to be a huge factor of the Chiefs’ blossoming pass rushers.
ROLB Breeland Speaks
The Kansas City Chiefs drafted rookie Breeland Speaks in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, which was their first pick. In college, Speaks generated the most production of his collegiate career in his 2017 season, in which he accounted for 7 sacks, 8 tackles and 67 tackles. The Chiefs have worked with Speaks consistently throughout the offseason and preseason. Speaks had played 122 total snaps through all 4 weeks of the preseason for the Chiefs, albeit only tallying six total tackles over the 4 games.
Speaks is listed on the Chiefs’ first unofficial depth chart of the regular season as the #2 ROLB behind Dee Ford. Speaks, like Kpassagnon, has the ability to play as a defensive end in some packages, which can only further help the Chiefs’ defense propel itself to success. Although he’s listed as the backup behind Ford, I fully expect him to be a consistent, governing force in his rookie campaign.
All in all, the Chiefs’ pass rush has to be one of the most interesting pieces of the defense that we’ve seen in quite a while. With big names like third-year defensive end Chris Jones adding to the punishing pass rush that the Chiefs should have in 2018, opposing offenses beware. With the depth and amount of talent in the pass rushing corps, the consistency overall can help the team in ways we haven’t seen in a while. Disrupting the offensive backfield helps the team’s secondary in many ways as the quarterback is forced into unexpected situations.
Throughout the course of the season, I expect each of the outside linebackers to tally multiple sacks as they do what they can to lead their team to victory. The defense will need to be firing on all cylinders to be potentially elite. On paper, though, the defense looks scary good. Now it is up to Bob Sutton and his defense to put all of that potential to work.
Defensive success is a long time coming for the Chiefs. With the offensive powerhouse the Chiefs boast, having a top-10 defense would help the team in astronomical ways. The first step to a dominant defense for the Chiefs is the pass rush. Can they dominate the field like we believe they can? Will the surfeit of talent in the Chiefs’ defensive front help direct the defense as a whole? I believe so, though only time will tell.