Kansas City Chiefs: Dee Ford Losing Ground At OLB?

KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 03: Linebacker Dee Ford
KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 03: Linebacker Dee Ford /

The Kansas City Chiefs need third year outside linebacker Dee Ford to step up big this year.  Unfortunately, there hasn’t been very much to suggest that he will be able to do that.

The Kansas City Chiefs have been one of the best pass rushing teams in the NFL for the past few years.  That trend was expected to continue when the Chiefs selected pass rusher Dee Ford from Auburn in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.  Ford was expected to come in and eventually take over for veteran star Tamba Hali.  That has yet to happen.

In fact, the opposite took place.  The Chiefs re-signed Hali to a new deal to keep the veteran on the roster.  Dee Ford, on the other hand, has played sparingly during the past couple of seasons, and has not been overly impressive when he got onto the field.

There had been some reason for hope this year.  Dee Ford had flashed some talent when he came in to start in place of an injured Justin Houston in 2015.  Ford hadn’t been great, but he had shown some promise.  Unfortunately, that has not come through so far this offseason as he has been mostly quiet in Training Camp and was actually a liability in the Chiefs preseason opener against the Seahawks.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Kansas City Chiefs got excellent performances from backups Dezman Moses and Dadi Nicolas.  That is good news for the Chiefs and bad news for Dee Ford.  If the team can find better options at the position for less money, they will not hesitate to move on from a failed first round pick.  This team is looking to win.

A lot of fans have downplayed Dezman Moses as he has been a backup for most of his career.  However, the Chiefs clearly know that he has some talent as they quickly snatched him up after he tested Free Agency.  Moses brings a good bit of athleticism to the position, though he isn’t the physically dominant player that teams usually want as a starter.  He’s been around the block enough though that he understands positioning and play recognition.  Two areas that Ford struggles badly at.

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Dezman Moses
Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Dezman Moses. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports /

Dadi Nicolas might be the real threat to Dee Ford though.  The rookie sixth rounder was known for his pass rushing ability in college.   That’s what the Chiefs are going to need out of whoever is on the field in place of Justin Houston to start the season.  Nicolas still has some work to do, but there is definite potential there.

Frank Zombo also factors into this equation.  The veteran stalwart knows the Chiefs defense and is a reliable defender against the run.  He is also a top tier Special Teams player, which means the Chiefs are probably keeping him around regardless of the OLB competition.  As of now, he is getting the starting reps opposite of Dee Ford in practice.  The question is who gets those starting reps when Tamba Hali comes back on the field.  My money might be on Zombo right now.

Next: Kansas City Chiefs: Good, Bad, & Ugly Vs Seahawks

If the Kansas City Chiefs had a healthy Justin Houston and Tamba Hali on the roster right now, this could be even more serious for Dee Ford.  As it is, he will likely keep his job simply due to the fact the team needs as many options there as possible with nobody being the clear cut favorite.  Sometimes it’s the weakness of a position that lets a player keep their job.  However, Dee Ford will have to step up and show that he can contribute or else the Chiefs may move on from him anyways.