Kansas City Chiefs Must Find Ways to Include Dee Ford


The Kansas City Chiefs made a very interesting decision when they selected outside pass rusher Dee Ford with the 23rd overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Ford is a very exciting pass rusher who has major upside at the NFL level. However, with established outside rushers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali already holding down the starting positions, it was fair to wonder how he could make an impact.

The selection was a case of the Chiefs selecting the best player available regardless of need. While you can never have too many pass rushers, many question the Chiefs’ selection of Ford, and that was somewhat backed up with him seeing very little playing time as a rookie in 2014.

Regardless how you feel about the Chiefs spending a first round pick on a position of strength, Ford is a talented player who can make an impact if given an opportunity.

Houston has become one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL. His 22 sacks last season nearly broke Michael Strahan‘s single-season NFL sack record of 22.5. At 26-years-old, Houston is one of the most dynamic defensive players in the game, and he has an incredible future ahead of him. Ford can be great, but he is not supplanting Houston anytime soon.

Hali currently holds down the fort opposite of Houston. His 79.5 career sacks rank him third in Chiefs’ franchise history, and assuming health, Hali could easily move into second place, by surpassing Neil Smith‘s 85.5 sacks this season. At 31-years-old, Hali may not be the dominant force he once was, but he is still a very solid player who strikes fear in opposing offenses.

Hali still brings plenty to the table as a pass rusher, and his veteran leadership is invaluable to the Chiefs. While there is a little bit of opportunity for Ford to spell Hali, it will not be in a full-time role. Hali is still a very valuable member of the Chiefs’ defense.

With Houston and Hali holding down the outside for the Chiefs, you can see why it will be difficult for the Chiefs to get Ford consistent playing time.

Ben Almquist of Arrowhead Addict recently wrote an excellent piece suggesting the Chiefs to move Ford inside. With the inside linebacker position opposite of Derrick Johnson a huge question mark for the Chiefs’ defense, I certainly understand the appeal of having Ford fill that hole.

Almquist believes that physically Ford can make the move to inside linebacker:

"Dee Ford has all of the tools needed to make this move. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 252 pounds, Ford has good size for the interior spot. His noted quick first step would also be a plus in allowing him to get up on blockers quickly to disrupt the offense’s play. It would also give the Chiefs an excellent interior blitzing option. His athleticism should also help him in the short area passing game."

Josh Mauga was re-signed this offseason to man the inside linebacker position next to Johnson. The Chiefs also drafted Ramik Wilson and D.J. Alexander for the position in the fourth and fifth rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Wilson and Alexander certainly represent some upside going forward, but expecting them to step right in and be effective would be foolish. Mauga is a decent player, but his upside is very limited. Make no mistake about it, Ford would be the most talented option for the team at the position.

I like the idea, but I struggle to believe that Ford can make the move inside on a consistent basis. Now, Ford’s pass rushing skills would be a great addition to the inside linebacker spot, but he has yet to prove any of the other skills needed for the position.

In both pass coverage and against the run, Ford is extremely raw. When it comes to the inside linebacker position, those skills are more valuable than pass rushing. While I certainly like the idea of getting the best players on the field, I do not really think Ford’s skill-set translates to the inside linebacker position as a full-time player. That being said, in a more limited role, he could certainly have a major impact.

The key for the Chiefs with Ford is to get him on to the field in as many pass rushing situations as possible. If that means moving him inside to rush the passer while Houston and Hali rush from the outside, so be it. That trio has the potential to be absolutely dominating for the Chiefs.

Aug 28, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford (55) during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

On top of rushing the passer from the inside, the Chiefs could work Ford in more on the outside. Hali is not getting any younger, and would probably benefit from taking fewer snaps. I am not suggesting a drastic reduce in snaps for Hali, but replacing him with Ford from time-to-time would help keep Hali fresh for the long run, while getting the young talent on the field.

Between getting his snaps in certain situations on the inside, and spotting Hali on the outside, the Chiefs will have an opportunity to get Ford on the field. It will be up to Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Bob Sutton to be creative and aggressive with his weapons in the pass rush, but getting Ford more time will mean good things for the Chiefs going forward.

Remember, you can never have too many pass rushers, and the Chiefs have three very good ones. Letting them all do what they do best as much as possible gives the Chiefs their best opportunity to succeed defensively.

Next: Chiefs: Previewing the WR Position

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