Dee Ford may not have seen Christine Michael’s ferocious chip-block coming on Friday. Not literally, anyway.
But nearly two weeks before the Seattle running back’s de-cleating block, which the Chiefs fear gave Ford a fractured rib, Ford said he knew opponents were going to try various means of wearing him down, as they do with all edge rushers.
“Teams are gonna try (to disrupt) a pass rusher — you have to,” Ford said. “You can’t give him energy to rush the quarterback.”
Consider that hit, which briefly knocked Ford out of the game, a 14-13 preseason win over the Seattle Seahawks, a reinforcement of a tough lesson for a young player still making the adjustment from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker.
“If you get a running back offset there in the pass rush, you don’t want to expose those ribs, so he took quite a shot there,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “But that’s a good lesson to learn on how to pass-rush in this league. Those backs can put a wallop on you if you expose yourself.”
That’s the kind of lesson only experience can teach you, which is one of the reasons the Chiefs opted to start Ford against the Seahawks in place of veteran Tamba Hali. And aside from that hit, Reid said there were some positives about Ford’s play.
The 2014 first-round pick recorded three tackles and two quarterback hurries and was enough of a nuisance as a pass-rusher — thanks in large part to his trademark first step — that he caused Seattle left tackle Russell Okung to commit a false start.
But Ford also will be judged by his ability to set the edge against the run.
“I really thought overall he did a good job — he made plays,” Reid said. “In the run game, I thought he held his own … we’ve seen spurts of it, but again, we rotate him in, so you don’t get that extended amount of plays back to back to back to back that you were able to see (Friday) night, which again, I thought was important.”
Ford, who finished his rookie season with eight tackles and 1 1/2 sacks while playing roughly 9 percent of the Chiefs’ total defensive snaps, says he’s made growth in this area.
“I’ve been setting the edge on the run,” said Ford, who says he weighs 250 pounds — up 7 from last year. “That’s the most important part of playing outside ’backer. We don’t want to taper off. I kind of tapered off at the end of last year. It was like, up and down.”
Ford wasn’t satisfied with his rookie year, which he basically spent as an apprentice behind Hali and Justin Houston, two Pro Bowlers.
“It was OK,” Ford said. “You hear a lot of people (go), ‘Well, you did well for a rookie.’ That phrase for a rookie is not in my mind. I wanted to do great either way. I felt like physically I was able to match up with any of those guys. But I wasn’t satisfied.”
“I can do what they do,” Ford said of Houston and Hali. “But I’m not consistent, though. I have to be more consistent.”
It’s unclear how much time Ford could miss with the rib injury. On Saturday, he tweeted that he was fine, and former NFL team physician David Chao said that while fractured ribs can be very painful, it’s the kind of injury from which one could return by week one, assuming there are no lung issues involved.
For a player who has high expectations of himself this season, that would certainly be a nice outcome.
“I expect consistent and great plays,” Ford said. “And all those aren’t going to be making the tackle. Some of it’s just going to be … knowing the situation and being where you’re supposed to be.
“That’s not easy to do all the time, especially when there’s so many motions and shifts that are made to get defenses out of place.”