Colin E Braley/Associated Press
Drafting Dee Ford was without a doubt the best move the Chiefs made to upgrade their roster this offseason. Specifically, adding him strengthens an already formidable pass rush.
Houston and Tamba Hali are terrors on the outside. However, this defense struggles mightily without them. That was evident when Houston missed five games last term, while Hali missed one game.
Without their relentless pressure off the edges, Sutton's man coverage schemes were shredded. NFL.com writer Chris Wesseling has described how much Houston's absence negatively impacted this defense:
The Chiefs' defense allowed a scant 16 points per game with Houston in the lineup last season versus 25 when he was sidelined with an elbow injury for five games. He has piled up 21 sacks in his last 27 games.
That won't happen again with Ford around. He has drawn high praise from teammates and coaches this offseason.
AL.com writer Mark Inabinett reported how one teammate in particular was left wowed by Ford during OTAs:
Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Joe Mays called Dee Ford 'a freak,' and he meant it as a compliment.
First, his new NFL teammates were comparing the first step of the former Auburn defensive end to that of Derrick Thomas, an ex-Alabama and Kansas City linebacker who's in the Pro and College Football Halls of Fame. Now, Mays, who joined the Chiefs from Denver, has compared Ford to Broncos linebacker Von Miller, who has recorded 30 sacks in his two full NFL seasons.
The former Auburn ace not only gives Sutton an obvious marquee reserve but also expands what the coordinator can do with his sub-package schemes. Sutton will relish crafting pressure fronts featuring all three of his dynamic outside linebackers.
Drafting Ford has allowed the Chiefs to protect two of their best assets. Houston's long-term future is still unresolved, while Hali's looks dubious, as Wesseling also noted: "This season might be Hali's swan song in Kansas City. He will carry a $12 million salary-cap figure in 2015, and the Chiefs will have impressive rookie Dee Ford primed for a bigger role."
But drafting to a strength also made sense for the present. Reid and Dorsey clearly made a decision. Rather than retool the secondary with marquee newcomers, they opted for an even stronger pass rush to combat the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers.
That's a gamble worth taking to stay relevant in the competitive and offense-led AFC West.
The Chiefs are entering this season stronger in their best area, namely the defensive front seven. They also added much-needed speed to a plodding and predictable secondary that was burned by the deep ball too often last season.
It will be the defense that carries this team—so it only makes sense that the best upgrades have come on that side of the ball.