KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford’s defining moment from the past season came against the San Diego Chargers in Week 14.
Ford broke out with seven solo tackles (three for a loss), three sacks, three quarterback hits and a pass defensed in the 10-3 win. But he couldn’t duplicate that production the rest of the season, recording just one sack.
Still, the breakout game against the Chargers left a lasting memory of what Ford brings to the table and he has a goal in mind entering his third professional season.
“Consistency,” Ford said. “I think anybody can have a great game, but what separates the great players from the good players is doing it every week.”
The 25-year-old Ford appeared in all 16 games in 2015, including five starts in place of Justin Houston, who suffered a hyperextended knee injury in Week 12.
Ford, who measures 6-2, 255 pounds, possesses the physical tools, but he wants to combine the mental aspect to his game.
“It’s all correlated,” he said. “It starts with the mind, then, with the right mindset, you will focus on the technique. Then it becomes second nature, so it’ll just be habit.”
Talk is one thing, of course, but can the Chiefs’ first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft come through with his desired goal of consistency?
Linebackers coach Gary Gibbs believes so and points out how Ford has progressed from the past season to where the third-year pro is now through five days of organized team activities (OTAs).
“He’s come back stronger and I think he’s got better stamina, he’s got better strength,” Gibbs said. “It’s just a matter of continuing to mature, develop his skill set and as he indicated, more consistent.”
Ford had the benefit of learning from Pro Bowl outside linebackers Houston and Tamba Hali the past two years.
Now, Ford seeks to incorporate those lessons along with refining his technique as he prepares for the regular season.
“Do what you do well,” Ford said. “I’m not Tamba, I’m not Justin, but I’m learning with them to what I’m incorporating to what they do that I don’t do is the consistent wasted motions.
“With that, the first two steps, that’s going to define your rush every down. That’s the little thing that separates good from great is those first two steps, closing, hand movement. It sounds easy, but it’s kind of like ballet.”
Ford should have an opportunity to put everything to the test with extended practice repetitions.
The Chiefs will rely on him throughout the summer months and potentially into the regular season with Houston recovering from an offseason anterior cruciate ligament procedure.
And Ford’s pass-rushing abilities are needed opposite Hali with no set timetable for Houston’s return.
“He’s a guy that can affect the quarterback and needs to affect the quarterback,” Gibbs said of Ford. “He needs to continue to improve on all facets of the game. He knows that, but he’s got a good attitude, he’s working hard, time will tell.”