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Senior Bowl pass rushers could help Chiefs

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014, at 9:56 p.m.

— Along with the rest of the NFL, the Chiefs’ primary decision-makers have descended upon the Senior Bowl this week in hopes of learning more about several prospects, including several at a few positions of need.

Wide receiver. Safety. Tight end. Cornerback. Those are the obvious ones.

But it would be wise not to sleep on the Chiefs’ need for more pass rushers. That’s right — a team that boasts one of the league’s top pass-rushing duos in outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston needs help getting after the passer, and that couldn’t have been more obvious over the last half of the season.

With Hali and Houston both dinged up over that stretch — Houston missed the last five games of the regular season with Hali fought through knee and ankle problems — reinforcements Frank Zombo, Josh Martin and Dezman Moses largely failed to generate any significant pressure.

According to Pro Football Focus, the trio logged only two sacks and 11 hurries in 586 defensive snaps, a pittance compared to Houston (11 sacks, 42 hurries in 724 snaps) and Hali (11 sacks, 58 hurries in 970 snaps).

And with Houston set to become a free agent in a year and Hali set to turn 31 next year, well, it wouldn’t be a bad time for the Chiefs to protect themselves against the worst-case scenario.

Fortunately for them, this year’s Senior Bowl offers a number of intriguing prospects who project as 3-4 outside linebackers at the next level, according to Shane Hallam of draftTV.com.

“I think it’s probably one of the stronger positions down here,” Hallam said. “If you want to go from top to bottom and count up how many guys at these positions are going to go in the top 50, I think the pass-rushing d-ends/outside linebackers will be right up there.”

Hallam can’t wait to see what Dee Ford, a 6-foot-2, 240-pound defensive end who terrorized Florida State in the BCS National Championship Game and registered 8 1/2 sacks and 17 hurries in 2013, does this week. He could be around when the Chiefs pick 23rd in the first round.

“I think he’s a second-round guy because his size is gonna scare some teams off,” Hallam said. “But stopping him is just so difficult because his pad leverage is very good and he has a variety of pass rush moves.”

Hallam is also intrigued by Stanford’s bulky Trent Murphy (6-6, 261), who doesn’t have freaky athleticism but is a hard worker with great strength, and smaller speed guys like Missouri’s Michael Sam, Virginia Tech’s James Gayle, Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu and Louisville’s Marcus Smith, who are all college 4-3 defensive ends trying to prove they can play 3-4 outside linebacker.

“It’s something (Senior Bowl executive director) Phil Savage did last year, taking these d-ends and having them come in and play outside linebacker,” Hallam said. “It’s kind of nice because if they don’t do well, (they can say) they never played the position before. But if they do well, then you know they can play the position and it opens up a lot of possibilities for them. So it will be a fun week.”

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