Dee Ford suddenly looms large for Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With Tamba Hali on the sideline nursing a sore knee and not practicing for the second straight day, rookie Dee Ford was in the starting lineup for the Kansas City Chiefs at outside linebacker on Thursday.

Even if Hali rallies later in the week and is available to play on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium, Ford could have a role. He replaced the injured Allen Bailey as a situational pass rusher last week against the Arizona Cardinals and Bailey is unlikely to be available again this week.

So after some weeks of getting almost no work on defense, Ford, their first-round draft pick, might loom large for the Chiefs down the stretch.

“With Allen being out, that created a spot where we said, OK, who’s our next best [pass] rusher for these third downs?" defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “Obviously it was Dee, and we tried to create some things to get him on the field in those situations."

The Chiefs are more comfortable for now using Ford as a situational pass rusher than as a full-time player. He struggled with run defense and pass coverage in limited playing time earlier in the season.

They were comfortable with him filling in for Bailey against Arizona.

“We think he’s got a real upside as far as rushing the passer,’’ Sutton said. “This was giving him an opportunity to kind of do that and get comfortable with those other things.

“I thought he did a really good job. He had no sacks, but there are other things going on. The key thing for us is to affect the quarterback. Get him off his spot. Make him throw when he’s not ready to throw. There were some real positives I thought he did in there."

If Hali doesn’t play on Sunday and Ford plays a full game, things could get interesting for the Chiefs. The Raiders have no doubt made note of Ford’s struggles during the season and will attack him with the run or when he’s in coverage.