Camp notebook: Dee Ford says Justin Houston return to “22-sack guy”

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The Chiefs have question marks at outside linebacker with injuries and untested commodities, but Dee Ford has high expectations for this year’s group, largely due to his perception of Justin Houston regaining his status as one of the league’s elite pass rushers.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes throws a pass under the watchful eye of head coach Andy Reid during the opening of the team’s minicamp in St. Joseph, Mo., on July 23, 2018. (Photo by Matt Derrick, ChiefsDigest.com)

“Justin, he’s starting to really go back to that 22-sack guy,” Ford said. “We really have the opportunity to be one of the best in the league but we have to take that day-by-day.”

Following Houston’s 22-sack season in 2014, the pass rusher battled a knee injury in 2015 before undergoing ACL surgery following the season. He played just 16 games over those two seasons collecting 11 1/2 sacks. He picked up nine and a half sacks last season in 15 games.

Ford doesn’t believe everyone outside the team fully understood the severity of the injuries Houston faced.

“He also tried to play and he tried to come back too fast,” Ford said. “And he’s not an excuse guy, you really got to respect that.”

Now Ford says he sees Houston returning to the level he displayed before injuries took their toll.

“He might not be back to an elite level until like two or three years after the surgery,” Ford said. “I could just see that. I could just see he was really starting. And that’s importing man because knees are a hard deal.”

Bieniemy: Reid’s right hand man

Fans coming out when training camp opens on Thursday may not hear the booming voice of assistant coach Eric Bieniemy punctuating the work out, but head coach Andy Reid said that doesn’t mean he’s quiet in his new role as offensive coordinator.

“Listen closer,” Reid said. “He’s just not in one spot, he kind of goes around. He’s teaching and that’s the important part. He’s not afraid to voice it and he does it with everybody. It doesn’t matter who you are, he’s going to let you know.”

Bieniemy captured attention as the team’s running backs coach in recent seasons. He could often be heard imploring his running backs to finish their runs and take the ball to the end zone on every carry. Much of that owes to the fact that Bieniemy works with the entire offense now and not just a single group.

“I just joked to him out here because he’s having to walk around now, he’s not coaching one position and grinding, he gets to grind on everybody,” Reid said. “But that takes a little bit of getting used to just moving around. But he did a nice job of figuring all that out during the minicamps and that and he’s rolling here, doing a heck of a job.”

Former passers Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy often spent more time with the quarterback group during their stints as offensive coordinator. Bieniemy expects to hand more of those duties to quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka. That frees Bieniemy to handle other duties for his head coach.

“He’s my right hand man,” Reid said. “He and I work together. I have full confidence he can take the offense and roll with it. If I can’t make it to something he can take it and go.”

Mahomes big arm impresses Henne

Chad Henne is still getting to know new teammate Patrick Mahomes but he’s already impressed with the young passer’s arm strength.

“Pat’s one of the strong arms I’ve been around,” Henne said. “He can make every throw.”

Henne compared Mahomes to other quarterbacks he’s played with, namely Joe Flacco in Baltimore and Ryan Mallett in college at Michigan. But Mahomes measures in at 6-foot-2, while both those quarterbacks stand 6-foot-6.

“For Pat’s size, I haven’t seen anything like it,” Henne said. “It’s a lot of fun to be around but at the same it’s take what they give you. Not always pumping that thing. It’s obviously a threat to have but make smart decisions with it as well.

Chiefs remember Tony Sparano

The NFL was stunned on Sunday upon learning of the passing of Minnesota offensive line coach Tony Sparano. He was 56 years old.

Sparano drafted Henne in 2008 as part of his first draft class as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. He learned of his former coach’s passing as he arrived in camp on Sunday.

“He was a great mentor to me,” Henne said. “I owe a lot to him for drafting me, we built a great relationship.”

Reid also counted Sparano as a friend.

“Tony was a friend, heck of a coach and great man,” Reid said. “I am very sorry to hear what went on. My prayers are with his family, that’s a tough deal.”

Paging Dr. Duvernay-Tardif to HBO

Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay Tardif will be featured on Tuesday night’s episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. The newly minted medical doctor will discuss his football career and his future off the field with reporter Andrea Kremer.

The show airs Tuesday night at 9 p.m. central time on HBO. Here’s a preview of the interview.

———-

Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.

———-