Scout's Notebook  

Hyundai (2017 Draft)  

How good can the Chiefs be with Ford and Houston both healthy?

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Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks knows the ins and outs of this league, providing keen insight in his weekly notebook. The topics of this edition include:

» A pass-rushing duo that could spark a surprise Super Bowl run.

» Earl Thomas on the profound evolution of the safety position in recent years.

But first, a look at an exciting pass rushing duo from the Kansas City Chiefs ...

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K.C. PASS RUSH: Justin Houston and Dee Ford could make Chiefs Super.

The Kansas City Chiefs are rarely viewed as Super Bowl contenders, but that perception could change quickly if this group gets healthy. Last Sunday, K.C. finally saw Pro Bowl OLB Justin Houston make his season debut. The return of the 6-foot-3, 258-pound pass-rush specialist, who had been rehabbing an ACL injury, gives the league's most opportunistic defense (see: an NFL-high 23 takeaways) the top pass rush in the AFC.

While I know that statement will take fans of the Broncos, Dolphins and Titans by surprise, the pairing of Houston and Dee Ford gives the Chiefs the most explosive set of edge rushers in the conference. Sure, those other tandems (Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware in Denver, Cameron Wake and Mario Williams in Miami, Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan in Tennessee) are dynamic and productive, but the Chiefs' duo presents a different challenge. We're talking about two athletic edge rushers in their prime with electric first-step quickness, hand skills and closing burst.

Houston, a sixth-year pro with 56 career sacks, is a Tasmanian Devil off the edge. He blows past offensive tackles with his cat-like quickness and uses a crafty dip-and-rip maneuver to turn the corner on speed rushes. Houston complements his finesse game with a nasty butt-and-jerk move that allows him to attack blockers down the middle. In addition, he has mastered the tomahawk chop to rack up strip-sack numbers (eight career forced fumbles) as a disruptive playmaker off the edge. Looking at the All-22 Coaches Film, Houston's superb snap-count anticipation and burst separates him from others at the position. In the following video clip from the Week 1 of the 2015 season, Houston flashes his trademark quickness and burst off the edge:

As you can see, Houston beats offensive tackle Derek Newton with a two-hand swipe maneuver that leaves Newton grasping at air. And he punctuates the sack by knocking the ball away for another strip-sack on his résumé.

Houston is clearly one of top pass rushers in the league. As he continues to shake off the rust down the stretch, the veteran defender will enhance a pass rush that has been carried this season by a third-year man really coming into his own.

Ford, a first-round pick in 2014, is enjoying a breakout season. Despite entering 2016 with 5.5 sacks in his first 24 career games, he's currently tied for the league lead with 10. The 6-foot-2, 252-pounder has added a few complementary rushes to go with his go-to move, a speed rush with a dip-and-rip maneuver. Although Ford's combination of speed, quickness and burst makes it easy for him to win with finesse moves, he has added a powerful two-hand swipe maneuver and a crafty inside swim move. With blockers unable to anticipate speed or power from the emerging star, Ford is able to dictate the terms in obvious pass-rush situations.

Considering Ford's growth as a pass rusher and the presence of veteran rusher Tamba Hali, the Chiefs have the potential to attack opponents with a three-headed monster off the edges from a variety of formations. Houston is clearly established as the team's LOLB based on his success against right tackles, but Ford has been one of the NFL's biggest disruptors from that alignment. Against Tampa Bay last Sunday, the duo lined up on opposite sides (Houston at LOLB, Ford at ROLB) in base and nickel formations. With defensive coordinator Bob Sutton also pondering the possibility of aligning Hali and Houston on the same side to execute an assortment of stunts and games from exotic personnel groupings that also include Dontari Poe and Chris Jones on the inside, Kansas City has the ability to exploit a weak link along the line with a multi-faceted attack on the edges.

At a time when teams increasingly rely on "closers" (productive fourth-quarter pass rushers) to salt away games down the stretch, the return of one of the NFL's top sack producers could help the Chiefs forge a playoff run that ends with a surprising Super Bowl berth.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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