We’ve become accustomed to watching Justin Houston at the left outside linebacker position since the Kansas City Chiefs selected him with the No. 70 overall pick in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Over that time period from then to now, Houston has recorded 69.5 sacks, a total good for No. 4 in Chiefs franchise history.
But just because that is what we’re used to seeing doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll see it in 2018.
“I want to be able to attack the weakest link,” Houston said when I asked him about playing on the other side. “Every team is different. Everybody’s left tackle isn’t All-Pro and everybody’s right tackle isn’t All-Pro. Wherever the weakest link, whether it is the guard, center or even tackles, I want to be on the weakest link.”
That makes a lot of sense, given the fact that Houston is undoubtedly the Chiefs’ best outside linebacker.
A mixup may also be worth considering since the best stretch of Dee Ford’s career came in 2016, when he replaced Houston on the left side for the first nine games of the season.
During that stretch, Ford recorded 10.0 sacks. Once Ford switched back to the right side upon Houston’s return, he didn’t record a sack for the rest of the year.
There is an argument to be made that if Houston could prove to be just as effective wherever he is on the field, maybe it makes sense to put Ford in a position in which he has been far more successful.
The contract year for Ford adds even more incentive for him to rebound.
No matter the alignment, both players stand to benefit thanks to a small tweak to the Chiefs coaching staff this offseason.
As part of their yearly promotions, the Chiefs split the linebacker coaching positions after the departure of Gary Gibbs. Mark DeLeone was promoted to inside linebackers coach, while Mike Smith was promoted to outside linebackers coach.
“I think it is great just to have an outside linebackers coach,” Houston added. “There’s so much we get to do now just focusing on ourselves and the little things we need to work on. I think last year, we had a lot going on. You have to coach a lot of guys inside and out. It is hard to do that in the little bit of time you have. Now you have a separate coach, we can just focus on one thing, that’s us.”
All things to ponder as the Chiefs strive to finally have two effective outside linebackers on the field at the same time.