NFL Nation: Dee Ford

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If you're one of the 10 or so fans of the Kansas City Chiefs who missed the highlight of rookie linebacker Dee Ford retreating from ball-carrying San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore, do yourself a favor and take a look.

Ford, understandably, is more than a little embarrassed and responded on Twitter.

Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton's explanation: Ford just lost track of the ball.

"He didn't read the play right," Sutton said. "It was kind of a fake run-looking play to him. Then he went to his pass [coverage] responsibility. Obviously, it was a bad read on his part. He needed to come up and be part of the force there."

That's an understandable explanation. Still, the play makes it look as if Ford, the Chiefs' first-round draft pick, is afraid of contact. The Chiefs say that's not true and that, too, is believable. It's difficult to think Ford could survive a college career in the SEC at Auburn and become a first-round NFL draft pick if he lived in fear of opposing blockers and ball carriers.

But for now, at least, that's the image people will have of Ford. He won't get much of a chance to change that image any time soon, either. The Chiefs are on their bye and won't play again until Oct. 19, when they meet the Chargers in San Diego.

Even then, Ford doesn't figure to play a lot. He hasn't been on the field much during the Chiefs' first five games and it has been mostly on passing downs.

"His strength is rushing the quarterback and he's done a good job for us through the first five games as a pass-rusher," linebackers coach Gary Gibbs said. "He's still developing his skill set as far as being a first- and second-down run-stopper and playing play-action passes and that kind of stuff. It's a process.

"Anytime you take someone that's been a defensive end his entire career and try to stand him up to play a different position, there's a learning process he has to go through. He works hard and he wants to be a good player. As a pass-rusher, he's been a good player for us."

Pro Football Focus has given Ford through five games negative grades for his run defense and pass coverage and a positive grade for his pass rushing.

"I think he'll be fine," Sutton said. "We need him to keep going right now. We've got a lot of football left. We don't want to wait for next year for him to develop."

Camp preview: Kansas City Chiefs

July, 17, 2014
7/17/14
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NFL Nation reporter Adam Teicher examines the three biggest issues facing the Kansas City Chiefs heading into training camp.

Where is Houston? Having outperformed the contract he signed with the Chiefs as a third-round draft pick in 2011, outside linebacker Justin Houston was absent for all the offseason practices, including the mandatory minicamp. Since Houston’s only leverage for getting a contract extension this year is to stay away from camp until he gets it, it's unlikely he will show without a new deal. That would be a tough blow for the Chiefs. Houston is their top proven pass-rusher and arguably their best all-around defensive player. The pass rush, which was on a record pace for sacks over the first half of last season, sagged measurably after a dislocated elbow caused him to miss the final five regular-season games. The Chiefs would not be left without quality edge pass-rushers. Veteran Tamba Hali, another Pro Bowler, is on the other side, and the Chiefs drafted Auburn’s Dee Ford in the first round. Ford looked promising as a pass-rusher during offseason practice, but it’s a bit much to expect him to immediately be as versatile as Houston. Ford was a defensive end in college and has much to learn before he is on Houston’s level.

Who is at corner? The Chiefs released Brandon Flowers last month, leaving them perilously thin at cornerback. With the exception of 5-foot-9 nickelback Chris Owens, all their remaining cornerbacks are big and capable of getting physical with opposing receivers, as the Chiefs prefer. But the quality is a concern. Veteran Sean Smith steps in as the top cornerback, and he held his own as a starter last season. Marcus Cooper will at least begin camp as the other starter. As a rookie, he played well for the first half of last season as the third cornerback, but his play tailed off badly in the second half, to the point that the Chiefs benched him. Cooper has the physical tools to be a decent starter, but he showed over the final few games of last season that he has a lot to learn. The Chiefs drafted Phillip Gaines of Rice in the third round this year, but during offseason practice it didn’t look like he was ready to contribute. Journeyman Ron Parker played well in his one start last season. But he got a lot of playing time during the offseason and was often exposed.

A rebound for Bowe? In September, Dwayne Bowe turns 30, an ominous age for a wide receiver because that is when many begin to lose their skills. That process might already have started for Bowe, who had the worst full statistical season of his career in 2013. Still, Bowe represents the Chiefs’ most realistic hope for improvement at what was largely an unproductive position last season. The Chiefs added former Canadian League star Weston Dressler and drafted speedy De'Anthony Thomas in the fourth round, but they are slot receivers and are merely trying to replace the production lost with the free-agent departure of Dexter McCluster. Otherwise, the Chiefs will go with the same uninspiring cast of receivers as last season, meaning Bowe needs to get back to what he was earlier in his career. That is not an unreasonable expectation. Bowe was never particularly fast, so he doesn’t have a lot of speed to lose. The Chiefs need to do a better job of playing to his strengths, the main one being his ability to find yards after the catch. The Chiefs should get back to the bubble screens that were so productive for Bowe earlier in his career.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Until the first minicamp practice on Tuesday, the Kansas City Chiefs had only tantalized with rookie outside linebacker Dee Ford. They had used their first-round draft pick as a pass-rusher, but mixed him into their base defense only on occasion.

That changed on Tuesday, when Ford was on the field with the starters in all situations for the first time. Justin Houston continued his holdout and Ford was in his place, with veteran Frank Zombo moving to a backup role.

[+] EnlargeDee Ford
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillThe Chiefs hope pass-rusher Dee Ford, who had 10.5 sacks for Auburn last season, can get to the QB in the NFL as well as he did in college.
The move could be a sign the Chiefs aren't expecting to see Houston any time soon. It could mean the Chiefs just believe it's time to give Ford more to see how he handled things. They could easily go back to Zombo in today's practice, however unlikely that might be.

In any case, the lineup change was no small moment for the Chiefs or for Ford.

"It's a step," Ford said. "I can't lie. It means a lot to me working with the first group in all of the situations."

The Chiefs have Pro Bowlers in Houston and Tamba Hali at Ford's position, so they might like the luxury of using him mostly as a situational pass-rusher this early in his career. He's learning a new position, having played defensive end in college at Auburn, so the best thing for Ford and the Chiefs at this point might be to limit him to pass-rushing, what he knows best.

Houston's holdout doesn't allow them to bring him along slowly. It's one thing for Zombo to play as Houston holds out during regular offseason practice. Those workouts were technically voluntary.

Minicamp is a mandatory event for all players under contract, so Houston is subject to a fine for his absence. His holdout is suddenly more urgent, as is the Chiefs need to prepare Ford to take Houston's place.

Ford appeared to handle his assignments well.

"I was mistake-free today and I'm happy about that," he said. "That's the goal. I have a few smaller things to clean up, but it's not like I was out there and I didn't know what I was supposed to do on a play. I feel like I'm doing some good things. Once I do earn it. I want to sustain it."

The Chiefs drafted Ford because of his pass-rush ability. His success or failure will ultimately be based on his ability (or lack of it) to get to the opposing quarterback. But there is more to his job than just chasing the quarterback.

"That's very important to me to be known as more than just a pass-rusher," Ford said. "I want to be a guy that my teammates can count on on every play."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The tributes to Kansas City Chiefs rookie outside linebacker Dee Ford are already rolling in. Tamba Hali compared Ford's first step as a pass-rusher to that of Derrick Thomas, a Pro Football Hall of Famer. Mike DeVito said he's jealous of Ford's rush skills. Joe Mays said Ford's ability reminds him of his former teammate in Denver, Von Miller.

Ford
Leave it to Ford, the Chiefs' first-round draft pick, to put things in perspective.

“I’m honored, flattered,'' Ford said. "Hopefully I can prove it in games. It’s one thing to say it in [offseason practice] but I’ve got to prove it in games.’’

A better test for Ford will come in training camp, when the Chiefs put on the pads for the first time. But they have to be happy with what they've seen from Ford so far, in an environment that's mostly non-contact.

Ford has indeed shown a first step off the ball that is most impressive. He also has shown the ability to turn the corner and keep progressing toward the quarterback while fighting off a block with his upper body.

The Chiefs believed when they selected Ford they were getting the draft's second-best pass-rusher. Jadeveon Clowney, drafted first overall by the Houston Texans, would be the best.

So far, at a very early stage, there's nothing to suggest the Chiefs didn't get in Ford exactly what they expected, and perhaps even more. Despite the absence of Justin Houston, a Pro Bowl outside linebacker who is absent from offseason practice, Ford isn't in the starting lineup yet.

“I don’t feel like my head is spinning but I still have a lot to learn,’’ Ford said.

The Chiefs are going with veteran Frank Zombo in Houston's place. But Ford is already a prominent part of the pass-rush package and it will be a major disappointment if Ford doesn't remain there even if Houston shows up for training camp.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It happened only by minutes, but the Kansas City Chiefs were whole by the time they held their first organized practice of the offseason on Saturday. Just before the Chiefs began a three-day rookie camp, they signed their first-round draft pick, outside linebacker Dee Ford of Auburn, to a four-year contract.

Ford
Two months before starting training camp, the Chiefs have all of their draft picks under contract. Unlike in recent seasons, there's no threat of any of their draft picks missing a part of training camp. There are no looming showdowns with unhappy franchise players.

It may or may not be accurate to call the Chiefs a big, happy family. But there won't be any public discord this summer, either.

"I love that part of it,'' coach Andy Reid said. "From a coaching standpoint, that's a good thing.''

Storm clouds could form later. The Chiefs would like to sign quarterback Alex Smith and linebacker Justin Houston to long-term contract extensions, but those issues aren't imminent. Neither player would be an unrestricted free agent until March.

Draft picks around the league are signing at a rapid pace due to recent changes in the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, but it's still a comfort for the Chiefs to have their business done. It's also a relief for Ford, who would have participated in the rookie camp and upcoming offseason practices without having signed a contract.

But having it done was a load off his mind.

"A lot of relief,'' Ford said. "I hate [the] business. I just want to play football. Now I'm officially a Chief.''

Almost as if to celebrate, Ford made a play on the first snap of full-team practice. Quarterback Aaron Murray threw a pass that was deflected and Ford, who was drafted by the Chiefs because of his pass-rush ability, caught the interception.

"The biggest question [about Ford] is, 'Can I drop in coverage?'" Ford said. "I think I answered that question.''
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Some quick observations from the opening practice of the Kansas City Chiefs' three-day rookie camp on Saturday:
    Murray
  • Quarterback Aaron Murray, a fifth-round pick from Georgia, was a full participant. Murray wore a brace on his left knee but moved around well. He is only six months removed from surgery after tearing knee ligaments last fall. Murray's first pass was deflected and intercepted by linebacker Dee Ford, the first-round draft pick. Murray made some nice throws, none better than a fade pass that was caught down the left sideline by former Missouri receiver Jerrell Jackson. But heMurray also threw a number of interceptions.
  • Ford, of Auburn, signed his contract moments before the start of practice. All six draft picks are now signed and the Chiefs still have two months before the start of training camp.
  • Fourth-round pick De'Anthony Thomas of Oregon lined up in a variety of spots, mostly as a running back. These three days of practices will be all Thomas can participate in until the mandatory minicamp in the middle of June. School is still in session at Oregon.
  • Sixth-round offensive lineman Zach Fulton of Tennessee and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif were on the first-team offensive line -- Fulton at right guard and Duvernay-Tardif at right tackle. Duvernay-Tardif jumped the snap count twice.
  • A handful of veterans are participating in rookie camp. That list includes wide receivers Weston Dressler and Frankie Hammond Jr. and tight end Demetrius Harris.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs signed first-round draft pick Dee Ford to a contract shortly before today's start of a three-day rookie camp.

The Chiefs have all six of their draft picks under contract with two months to spare before the start of training camp.

The Chiefs drafted Ford, an outside linebacker from Auburn, to help fortify a pass rush that produced little over the last half of last season. The Chiefs have Pro Bowlers in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston starting at outside linebacker, so the Chiefs won't look to Ford to start. But look for Ford to play in passing situations.

More to come on the Ford signing later.
Dee Ford acquainted himself with more than just the casual football fan in February at the NFL's scouting combine in Indianapolis. There, in a national radio interview, Ford famously (or infamously, as the case might be) said he was a better player than Jadeveon Clowney.

[+] EnlargeDee Ford
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillChiefs first-round pick Dee Ford has a knack for sacks with the game on the line.
It may or may not come to be true. Clowney was picked first overall in the recent draft by the Houston Texans while Ford went later in the first round at No. 23 to the Kansas City Chiefs.

But his confidence is one of the things that attracted the Chiefs to Ford, an outside linebacker from Auburn. Given the chance recently after he was selected by the Chiefs, Ford didn't back down from his statement.

"Obviously, I thought I was better," Ford said. "It was nothing personal toward him. We have a great relationship. But I do think I am the best in this draft, the best pass rusher in this draft. That just comes aalong with the game itself. I like to play confident. That's where it starts. Every athlete has a right to think that about himself, especially when you put in a lot of work with what you do."

Ford may measure himself against Clowney as their careers progress. In 2014, Ford may not get as many pass-rush chances as Clowney. He may not be a regular in their base defense in 2014. The Chiefs already have Pro Bowlers and productive pass rushers ahead of him at outside linebacker in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.

The Chiefs plan to find a way to get Ford involved, along with Hali and Houston, on obvious passing downs. That's where Ford needs to come through.

Of course, he's already planning on that.

"It's one thing to have a lot of sacks," Ford said. "It's [another] thing to have efficient sacks. Anybody can go out and have 10, 12 sacks. But when your team really needs you to end the game or end the drive and you have those sacks, those are very vital to your team. I want to always have productive, efficient sacks. That's my mindset going into a game when it's close."

Ford does seem to have the knack in big situations. He brought down Johnny Manziel twice on Texas A&M's final possession in a game last season and his 22-yard sack on a fourth-down play sealed Auburn's 45-41 victory.

"We needed to end the game and I was able to get to him twice," Ford said. "There's something about my mindset. I just get very intense and I get very focused naturally. I love the moment. I love the adrenaline. That's what you work for, those big moments."

If Ford can deliver in those situations alone for the Chiefs next season, his rookie season will be a success. That's regardless of what Clowney does or doesn't do.
The Kansas City Chiefs signed one of their six draft picks, offensive lineman Zach Fulton of Tennessee. The Chiefs selected Fulton with the first of their two sixth-round choices.

Exact contract terms are yet unavailable. But Fulton was the 193rd pick of the draft and he could expect a contract similar to that of the 193rd pick last year, Green Bay Packers linebacker Nate Palmer. The Packers gave him a four-year deal worth $2,258,896. Included was a signing bonus of $98,896. That was the only guaranteed money in the contract.

Based on the contracts signed by players selected in the same draft spots last year, here’s what the other Chiefs’ picks should receive when they agree to their new deals:

OLB Dee Ford, Auburn, first round, No. 23 overall. Last year’s 23rd pick was Minnesota defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. He received a four-year contract worth $8,076,200. Included were guaranteed money of $6,569,900 and a signing bonus of $4,253,600.

CB Phillip Gaines, Rice, third round, No. 87 overall. Last year’s 87th pick was Seattle linebacker Jordan Hill. He received a four-year contract worth $2,764,140. His signing bonus was $544,140 was the only guaranteed money he received.

WR/KR De’Anthony Thomas, fourth round, No. 124 overall. Last year’s 124th pick was Houston defensive lineman Trevardo Williams. He received a four-year contract worth $2,492,612. His signing bonus of $407,612 was the only guaranteed money he received.

QB Aaron Murray, fifth round, No. 163 overall. Last year’s 163rd pick was Chicago offensive lineman Jordan Mills. He received a four-year contract worth $2,324,800. His signing bonus of $164,800 was the only guaranteed money he received.

OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, sixth round, No. 200 overall. Last year’s 200th pick was Baltimore defensive lineman Kapron Lewis-Moore. He received a four-year contract worth $2,248,232. His signing bonus of $88,232 was the only guaranteed money he received.
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A wrap-up of the Kansas City Chiefs' draft. Click here for a full list of Chiefs draftees.

[+] EnlargeDe'Anthony Thomas
AP Photo/Rick ScuteriThe addition of De'Anthony Thomas should help out the Chiefs offense, as well as special teams.
Best move: Though they had only six picks, the Chiefs covered a lot of ground. They selected a pass-rusher, a cornerback, a combination slot receiver/running back/kick returner, a quarterback and two developmental offensive linemen. Not all were immediate needs, but the potential is there for the Chiefs to get a lot from this class. Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas, a fourth-round pick, might represent the best value. The Chiefs will plug him into the spots on offense and special teams vacated by the free-agent departure of Dexter McCluster. Thomas has world-class speed and will be given opportunities to play as a slot receiver and kick-return specialist.

Riskiest move: Despite having one of the least productive groups of wide receivers in the NFL last season, the Chiefs added nobody at the position, Thomas excepted. The Chiefs will search for help in free agency before they get to training camp in late July, but they might not be able to find a receiver who gives them more than what they already have on the roster. The Chiefs might come to regret passing on the chance to get USC receiver Marqise Lee in the first round or Mississippi's Donte Moncrief in the third. Thomas could help as a slot receiver, but on the outside, the Chiefs need improvement from a group that includes Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery and A.J. Jenkins.

Most surprising move: The selection of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray in the fifth round qualifies, given the Chiefs already gave up their second-round choice for a quarterback, starter Alex Smith, in last year's trade with the San Francisco 49ers. The Chiefs also appeared set at quarterback with Smith, veteran backup Chase Daniel and developmental prospect Tyler Bray. But the Chiefs couldn't resist Murray, whose senior season was ended early by a torn ACL. At about 6-foot and 200 pounds, Murray doesn't have classic size for an NFL quarterback or a huge arm, but the Chiefs think he has the necessary skills to thrive in coach Andy Reid's offense. Murray does a nice job of finding available passing lanes despite his size. He has also been an accurate passer. Murray says he has been cleared to practice when the Chiefs get on the field later this month. That sets up an interesting battle for available roster spots at quarterback. Bray is the most likely candidate to be crowded off the roster, but if the Chiefs believe he or Murray is advanced enough to be their backup, a trade market could develop for Daniel.

File it away: First-round outside linebacker Dee Ford of Auburn will become the second-best pass-rusher to emerge from this year's draft behind only Jadeveon Clowney, the top overall pick. The Chiefs have Pro Bowlers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston to start at Ford's position, so he has time to develop his skills in pass coverage and against the run. He can focus immediately on his pass-rush skills, and the Chiefs need to find ways to get all three players on the field at the same time. Kansas City's pass rush was on pace at midseason to set an NFL record for sacks. It tailed off badly the second half of the season, but Ford's presence should help revive their pass rush.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs' first pick in the draft was a pass-rusher, their second a pass defender. That's not a coincidence since they play in a division along with the passing games of the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers.

The Chiefs added Rice cornerback Philip Gaines in the third round Friday night, one day after selecting Auburn outside linebacker Dee Ford in the first. Both moves were made to bolster a defense that collapsed over the second half of last season and blew a 28-point third-quarter lead in a playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

While the selection of Ford was meant to complement incumbent pass-rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, the addition of Gaines serves notice to starter Brandon Flowers and third cornerback Marcus Cooper. Each had his share of struggles last season and while the Chiefs don't appear prepared to move Gaines immediately into one of those spots, they believe he is ready to compete for playing time.

Gaines, 23, played five seasons at Rice, including a year for a medical redshirt in 2011.

"He's very advanced," general manager John Dorsey said. "He's very competitive. He's very prideful."

It's not a coincidence that Gaines comes from a defensive system that asks its cornerbacks to play a lot of press coverage, just as the Chiefs ask their corners to do.

"We pretty much played press man all the time, so I'm really confident in it," Gaines said. "I've watched the Chiefs for plenty of years. My family is from Philadelphia, so they're huge Andy Reid fans. I've seen their whole scheme and everything, so I'm just ready to go."

The Chiefs prefer bigger cornerbacks who are better matchups against bigger receivers. One starter, Sean Smith, is 6 feet 3 and Cooper is 6-2. But Flowers is 5-9 and has trouble staying with bigger receivers. He had particular problems last year against 6-2 Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant.

Gaines is listed at 6-0, 193 pounds.

"He has all the physical dimensions of what we ask for in our corners," Dorsey said. "He's long, he's fast, he has long arms. He has 36 [passes broken up] over his career, which is a school record. He plays and tracks the deep ball well. There's still a lot of upside with him.

"I think you had to go in this direction. As we all know, you can't have enough good corners in this league. He sure adds [more] quality depth for us at that position."

Gaines missed last year's season opener against Texas A&M after what he said was a second positive test for marijuana.

"I'll never shy away from it because I did it," he said. "It's nothing to hide from. I did it and I'll own up to it for the rest of my life. Sometimes you make those mistakes and you man up and you move on. The Chiefs have believed in me and understood that I did that and they have nothing to worry about. I'm moving forward with my life. That's in the past."
Auburn's Dee Ford, the first-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, appears a little undersized for an outside linebacker in the 3-4 system. Ford is slightly over 6-foot-2 and weighed in at the scouting combine in February at 252 pounds. That's smaller than either of Kansas City's two starting outside linebackers, Tamba Hali (6-3, 275) and Justin Houston (6-3, 258).

That obviously didn't bother the Chiefs.

“I’m not sure how much weight he really needs to add,'' coach Andy Reid said. "I think he’s pretty good just the way he is. Normally you see these guys, especially in those positions, over the first two or three years, put on about 10 pounds. I’m not necessarily saying he needs to do that . . . 252 pounds, that’s a pretty healthy outside linebacker. He’s good against the run and the pass.

"The thing that I think is one of his strengths is the way he uses his arms and his hands. He sets those nice and tight. He’s got a great stab move, which is important for a pass rusher. He needs to transfer it over to this level, as all the rookies do. He’s got work ahead of him to do that.''

Ford missed much of the 2011 season at Auburn after having back surgery. He missed two games early last season with a sprained knee but the Chiefs were also confident in his medicals.

“We checked with [trainer Rick Burkholder] and our docs and they felt good about it,'' Reid said. "He had a pretty good season this past year, so we feel pretty good about that.”
Joining a team with two Pro Bowlers at his position, outside linebacker Dee Ford showed the proper deference to the Kansas City Chiefs and his new teammates. That includes linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, even if he couldn't remember Houston's name.

Ford
"I love edge rushers,'' Ford said after he was picked by the Chiefs in the first round. "I'm a big fan of Tamba Hali. I'm definitely a big fan of his and the one on the other side.''

Otherwise, Ford, who had 10.5 sacks last season at Auburn, said all the right things. He's making the transition from a college defensive end, so he won't be an immediate starter.

But the situation has the potential to get messy. He could be the eventual replacement for Hali, who turns 31 in November and has a contract the Chiefs may later decide is too expensive, or Houston, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next year.

"My No. 1 goal is to be a sponge and be a great teammate,'' Ford said. "I’m not concerned with the hype. I’m concerned with things that I can control, which is coming into this organization and being a great teammate. I really hope I don’t sound generic or sound like I’m just trying to say the right things. I really mean that. I’m going to humble myself, learn from these vets and man, we’re going to do some things.

"I can’t measure what I’m going to do from what [Hali] did. He’s a dynamic pass-rusher, he’s so beyond me. I need to learn. That’s my No. 1 goal, be a teammate and learn.”

While Ford is learning to play linebacker, the Chiefs will experiment with pass-rush combinations that include all three of their edge pass-rushers. Ford, though, said he is prepared to play on more than just passing downs. He is slightly taller than 6-foot-2 and weighed 252 pounds at the combine in February. That's smaller than either Hali or Houston, so Ford will need to prove he can hold up against the run.

"I’m not perfect in my pass rush or my run game,'' he said. "But let’s be honest, I played in the SEC and I was a starter for two years [and] you have to stop the run. You have to stop the run. And I was a starter. I was not a liability to my defense. I think sometimes when your specialty is pass rush, the natural thing to do is question their ability to stop the run because we’re getting off the ball. And my height, the height issue and all of that, I can stop the run.''
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs sent outside linebackers and pass-rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston to the Pro Bowl last season, but one sentence from coach Andy Reid explained why they drafted Auburn’s Dee Ford in the first round Thursday night.

“You can’t have enough good pass-rushers,’’ Reid said, “and Dee falls into that category.’’

If Ford, who had 10½ sacks as a hand-on-the-ground defensive end at Auburn last season, can eventually become the equal of Hali or Houston, the pick is a great one even if linebacker wasn’t an immediate need for the Chiefs.

He will have to learn to play outside linebacker. But with Hali and Houston, the Chiefs can afford to let Ford develop.

In fact, the selection of Ford may be aimed more at the future than 2014. Hali will turn 31 in November and his big contract could become too much of a burden for the Chiefs by 2015. Houston is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next year.

In the meantime, the Chiefs now have another pass-rusher they intend to use along with Hali and Houston on passing downs.

“You need as many of those guys as you can possibly get out there,’’ Reid said. “It just gives you a ton of flexibility to do some different things. He’s rushed from the inside, he’s rushed from the outside. He’s very quick and very fast. If he wasn’t the quickest defensive lineman off the ball in this draft, he surely was close to it. He’s got great explosion off the football. At the same time, he’s strong and he does a pretty good job against the run.

“He can edge [rush] like crazy. He’s going to present [opposing] tackles an aggressive target.’’

The Chiefs had more urgent needs at wide receiver, where they could have had USC’s Marqise Lee. They could have used another capable body at cornerback, where they passed on Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard.

That they passed on other key needs is indicative of what the Chiefs thought of Ford.

“We clearly thought he was the second best pass-rusher in this draft,’’ general manager John Dorsey said.

The best, South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, was far out of the Chiefs’ range. He went to the Houston Texans with the first overall pick.

Ford will have to learn his new position. But time is a luxury the Chiefs have with him because they have Hali and Houston. They combined for 22 sacks last season, even though they combined to miss six games because of injuries.

“We’re going to teach him to play outside linebacker,’’ Reid said. “He doesn’t have the snaps at outside linebacker. He’s a little bit like Tamba when Tamba came out. That’s not where he’s had the majority of his snaps. He’s been a rush defensive end. But he’s somebody that you can work in there immediately in third-down, nickel situations.

“I think he can make that conversion.’’

Chiefs pick Dee Ford in 1st

May, 8, 2014
5/08/14
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The pick: Dee Ford, linebacker, Auburn.

My take: Ford brings another edge pass-rusher to a team that sent two of them, in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, to the Pro Bowl last year. The Chiefs will find a way to get Ford on the field as a rookie but this move could as much be aimed at the future as 2014. Hali will turn 31 in November ,and Houston is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next year.

Passing on a wide receiver, cornerback: The Chiefs could have had USC wide receiver Marqise Lee or Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard but passed on both players. Lee could have helped the Chiefs as a kick returner, as well, but they evidently believed he wouldn’t develop into a No. 1 receiver. If so, they were wise to pass on him. That the Chiefs passed on Dennard would indicate they intend to keep cornerback Brandon Flowers and not trade him.

What’s next: The Chiefs don’t have a second-round pick, having traded it to the San Francisco 49ers last year as part of the deal that brought quarterback Alex Smith. They have the 87th overall pick in the third round. That would be a good spot for them to find a receiver in a draft deep with them. Offensive line or defensive back also makes sense.

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