The Kansas City Chiefs might have to spend the majority — if not all — of the 2016 season without top pass rusher Justin Houston. That only came to light when it was revealed on Tuesday that the 27-year-old four-time Pro Bowler underwent ACL surgery in February, but Chiefs fans shouldn’t panic because it appears the team thought about Houston’s potential absence while navigating the early stages of free agency.
The Chiefs had a slew of key defensive players with expiring contracts earlier this month, but they re-signed veteran pass rusher Tamba Hali, they slapped Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry with the franchise tag and they brought back starters Jaye Howard and Derrick Johnson, as well as important backup Frank Zombo.
The veteran Zombo stepped in when Houston missed the final five games of the 2015 regular season, recording three sacks during that stretch.
With Houston last season, the Chiefs averaged 2.7 sacks per game. Without him during those final five weeks, they averaged 3.4 and went 5-0.
That’s not to say that Houston, who led the NFL with 22 sacks in 2014, isn’t extremely valuable. But the reality is the Chiefs have a well-balanced defense that has given him plenty of support. It’ll be harder to dominate sans Houston, but this team should still compete without its best defensive player.