Countdown to Chiefs Camp: Outside Linebackers

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Jun 13, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston (50) answers questions from media after the mini camp at University of Kansas Health System Training Complex. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston (50) answers questions from media after the mini camp at University of Kansas Health System Training Complex. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The countdown to Chiefs camp begins now. Over the next two weeks, cover32 Chiefs will have in depth analysis at every position heading into training camp. Jake Schyvinck and Braden Holecek dive into every battle and roster spot up for grabs.

Sacking the quarterback is the name of the game for edge defenders. When healthy, Justin Houston is one of the top sack leaders in the NFL. Houston still holds the record for sacks in a single season in Chiefs franchise history, with twenty-two sacks in 2014. Houston is not alone as many of the other outside linebackers have become household names for Kansas City.

Going into training camp, the depth chart has Houston and Tamba Hali as the two starters at outside linebacker. These are two of the better veteran players for the Chiefs, but even they need rest. With Andy Reid at the helm, we have seen Tamba Hali rarely practice once the season has started, especially late in the winter months. Houston has dealt with injuries the last few seasons, as he has been limited on practice time as well.


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Role Players

Dee Ford: Other than Houston and Hali, the only player that has really shown significant signs of rushing the passer is Dee Ford. Ford could easily be a starter for the Chiefs, but he will have to wrestle the right edge spot away from Tamba Hali. What makes Ford so tough for offensive lineman, is how low he runs at them. Ford’s dip and bend is an art that offensive coordinators have had a tough time teaching to blockers and can lead to many holding penalties. Along with Marcus Peters, Ford has a chance to receive a big payday in his future, similar to the one the Chiefs gave Eric Berry last winter.

Frank Zombo: Since Frank Zombo left Green Bay, he has blossomed into a dependable player for the Chiefs. Zombo as a tackler is smart, does his job well, and rarely misses a tackle. In the passing game, Zombo can both rush and cover. He has long arms to knock down passes at the line of scrimmage.

Dadi Nicolas: Nicolas will be entering his second NFL season out of Virginia Tech. Nicolas suffered a devastating lower body injury in the final regular season game last year on special teams. His presence will likely still be needed there, but Nicolas could still see an uptick in his defensive plays. Nicolas will come into camp having a chance to play some run defense for the Chiefs. Nicolas has the build to play inside linebacker as well, but for now the Chiefs will try to keep him at the outside linebacker spot.

Looking at the game at Denver from last season, Chiefs fans know how easily Justin Houston can ruin a game for opponents. With the possibility of Houston playing more this season, the Chiefs could have one of their best seasons in terms of sacks. As a group the outside linebackers do not have as many questions as the Chiefs’ other positions. But, do not be surprised if roles were to switch throughout the season.

Braden Holecek is a writer for cover32 Chiefs. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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