After the Kansas City Chiefs Medical staff allowed Justin Houston to play in the teams’ playoff win over the Houston Texans in January, it’s clear the injury suffered from that game has posted the betting like of his 2016 playing status between somewhere in October to never taking a single snap this year.
The Kansas City Chiefs rolled the dice to break their eight-game losing playoff streak and it cost them their defensive superstar. Now with the prospects of an aging outside linebacker in Tamba Hali, and the underachieving Dee Ford, this defense must find another pass rusher.
Kansas City, even though they knew of the seriousness of Houston’s injury before free agency, didn’t address their weak pass rush in the NFL Draft. Sure they took Dadi Nicolas in the sixth round but he’s a project much like Ford.
In my view, Ford is the focal point in which Defensive Coordinator, Bob Sutton will be evaluated in 2016. Though I’m no fan of KC’s top defensive coach, he has to prove that he can develop a player like Ford into a competent and productive starter.
To his credit, Sutton has rebuilt the Chiefs secondary and in 2016, they are the class of the AFC West. However, without a solid pass rush even the best secondary can’t withstand a punch-less and sack-less front seven.
Sutton is a conservative coach that has made him a long standing defensive coach in the NFL. Where he fails is in his ability to adjust within the game and further he’s yet to develop a premier pass rushing scheme – despite some top tier talent.
That eye sore on his career to date in Kansas City will be put to the test this season. That’s because Sutton has three plus months to turn Ford into a superstar. In my view, unless Ford becomes just that – he’s another failed first round pick.
Houston reportedly has been in Kansas City working out but he’s yet to show himself on the field. Rumors are wildly inconsistent in regards to the severity of the injury, but until he speaks and can be seen running or even jogging on the field, as each day passes - it’s less likely he’ll begin the season on the active roster.
Hali to his credit might be reaching old man status in NFL years but at least his motor never quits. But at his age, to ask him to take very snap at outside linebacker, remains a tall order by the Chiefs defensive coaches.
If you’re looking for a silver lining, Justin March might be the guy who emerges from the shadows. He was a solid performer in training camp before an injury ended his assault on making the Chiefs final 53-man roster.
Still that’s a tall order for March to become the defensive savior in 2016. However, based on the lack of progression of Ford’s NFL arc to date and Houston’s injury status, perhaps March can indeed rise to the top of the depth chart and pick up the slack.