Chiefs coach Andy Reid gave no update on outside linebacker and pass rush specialist Dee Ford’s status on Monday. Ford left the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 38-27 win against the San Francisco 49ers with a groin strain.
Those who’ve monitored snap counts this season know that if Ford can’t play in next week’s game against the Denver Broncos, or must play limited snaps, rookie Breeland Speaks and second-year outside linebacker Tanoh Kpassagnon figure to fill the void.
Here are some observations/thoughts on what we might glean from the snap counts from Sunday’s game. These figures are tracked by the NFL.
Next men up
When Ford came out of Sunday’s game — he limped to the sideline and motioned to for a substitute one play before 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo got injured — Speaks took over at the outside linebacker spot on the defensive right side, working against the left tackle.
Speaks played six snaps against the 49ers, even with Ford’s injury, while Kpassagnon played four. In the previous two games, Speaks played 39 snaps compared to Kpassagnon’s 21. The numbers would seem to indicate Speaks, the team’s second-round draft pick, would get the first crack at filling Ford’s shoes.
Reid seemed to put Speaks and Kpassagnon on equal footing, and he said any difference in playing time was the result of guys ahead of them on the depth chart needing rest.
“They’ve both been kind of rotating as they go,” Reid said. “They just (have) been depending on who needs a blow there, you know. I think they’re both playing good enough to be in there equal amount. That has nothing to do if one is — I don’t even know the number of reps, who is higher than the other — but they normally come in as a tandem unless something happens like an injury. Then you get one over the other. We’ve been trying to sub both of them in at the same time.”
Hunting for Hunt
All three of the Chiefs’ top wide receivers — Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Chris Conley — played more snaps than starting running back Kareem Hunt. The Chiefs lined up several times on Sunday without a true running back in the backfield, instead giving the defense a different look with Hill and/or De’Anthony Thomas lined up beside quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Hunt continues to see the majority of his carries and rushing yards in the second half as he becomes the team’s version of a “closer,” designated to take the ball late and preserve a win. Hunt spoke after the game on Sunday about always having had a goal of running his best late in games. Thus far, that’s also when he has run most.
Spencer Ware played 18 snaps, or 24 percent, and Darrel Williams played seven snaps, or 9 percent. The 18 snaps for Ware, who was listed as questionable to play after Friday’s practice, marked the most he’s played in any of the first three games this season. Ware rushed once for 1 yard, and he hauled in two catches for 29 yards.
Welcome to Houston
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton went out of his way last week to praise outside linebacker Justin Houston’s effort in rushing the passer against Pittsburgh. This week, Houston produced his best game of this season. He played 64 of 68 defensive snaps (94 percent), his highest percentage of snaps played in the Chiefs’ first three games, and he recorded four tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles.
Houston’s percentage of snaps played has increased in each of the Chiefs’ first three games, from from 77 percent against the Chargers to 85 percent against the Steelers to 94 percent against the 49ers.
Keeping it 100
Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz played every offensive snap against the 49ers and has continued his streak of having played every snap of his career dating back to his rookie season with the Cleveland Browns. Last week, the initial game book showed Schwartz’s streak coming to an end, with him having missed a pair of offensive plays. However, that error was later corrected.
Nickel and dimed
Linebacker Terrance Smith played 24 percent of the defensive snaps against the 49ers, and Reid acknowledged that Smith’s playing time is primarily tied to the amount of time the team puts a coverage unit on the field or goes to its nickel package with Smith playing in place of Reggie Ragland, who they want on the field in more base defensive packages.
Ragland played 72 percent of the defensive snaps on Sunday, his highest percentage this season. The 49ers used a fullback on offense 78 percent of the time — unlike the Steelers and Chargers, who used a lead blocker less than 10 percent apiece in those first two games.