No Stone Left Unturned: The How and Why of the K.C. Defense- Good in 2016, Superior in 2017

 

 

 

 

Please help me welcome new writer David Bell to ArrowheadOne. David comes to us through the ranks for fans who blog and blog faithfully for years about the Chiefs. So, here is David’s initial offering. Great job David and thank you for contributing!

-Laddie Morse, Editor

 

 

 

 

The Kansas City defense is not in sad shape now. You have a lot of whining about the defense in 2016 and although Kansas City suffered greatly with injuries to key defenders, they still ended the season holding Ben Roethlisberger out of the End Zone. Yes, Pitt ran the football effectively, still, the Chiefs D held them to 18 points… and it was the offense that only scored 16. For me, it was the offense who failed miserably.

 

The defense? Wasn’t great but they did what they did. In 2016, K.C. had problems that caused that type of play and Sutton’s exploration of alternatives. Key players were knocked out of the season with injury. Others under-performed for a complete season.

 

Those problems are solved. Really. If you check the solutions which are itemized, you know the parties that were lost for the season below as well as the resolution. I am not presenting you with Pro Bowlers up and down the board. I am presenting you how the players as a group are good players. They fit well in 2016 as we countered disaster after disaster. It is a superior group of additions to the mix in 2017 and consequently, the Chiefs Defense will be very effective.

 

 

 

Here is the Why

  1. The Chiefs replaced the presence of Dontari Poe (too much money for too little gain, about 55% of himself in 2016), with Bennie Logan. Logan is tough against the run. I don’t want anyone to think I am opposed to Dontari Poe. I am not. In 2016 he did not play like he had in previous seasons. In 2017 he wanted to get paid and John Dorsey let it ride. I am positive about this solution: Logan is very good v. the run and he has feet and maneuverability at the same time. It won’t work the same way as it had with Poe but when you pair Logan with the next two players, you have a good front three.

 

 

Keep in mind that the Chiefs had effectively lost all three of the starting front line. Poe was playing off his game all season and the Chiefs lost both Jaye Howard and Allen Bailey.

 

  1. Chris Jones became a pro at defensive end in 2016. Jaye Howard, who I liked as a player was released. Chris stepped up his game and beyond expectations of a player drafted as he was and he became a force in each game that he played. His consistency needs to improve and I believe it will as a 2nd year player who got the starting role because of injury.
  2. Bennie Logan as the addition to the defensive front brings run stopping to the front 3. He won’t be the plug that eats up space as Poe had done before. What he will do is effectively stop the run, which is not Dontari Poe’s great asset. Added to Bailey and Jones, you have a solid front three that can stop the run. When they run at these men, I believe that they will be disruptive and make stops on their own before the runner gets through the hole and to a point where a cut can be made, and having disrupted the offensive linemen, their ability to get to the second-level and block linebackers is inhibited.
  3. R-N-R (Rakeem Nunez-Roches) had a significant improvement in play in 2016. It wouldn’t normally be expected of such a low pick but you could see him grow in his play as the season progressed. I think he will provide solid depth in 2017.
  4. There is depth in camp and other players who will make a contribution. Two of them are newcomers, see below.
  5. Allen Bailey returns after getting knocked out of 2016 with injury.
  6. The Chiefs have one of the best LB groups in the NFL. Period. It isn’t great but has the opportunity to grow and expand in 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is an observation (quote) by Willie McGinest below. The one thing he doesn’t comment on is that the K.C. linebacking corp has speed and then some. It appears that GM John Dorsey was looking to create a hybrid LB corp in the way he drafted but you can bet that these guys have speed. John Dorsey observed in 2013 or 2014, that he looked for speed as a major clue to performance in the NFL. Here, Item 7, above, breaks down into several players who are component contributors:

 

 

A. Dee Ford expanded his snaps to a starting level for the first time he had 10 sacks. Before this, he had a chance to start and get snaps in 4 games in 2015 at the end of the year. Dorsey/Reid must have been confident that Ford would improve significantly in 2017.

B. Ramik Wilson made huge strides in playing inside in 2016 and took on a leadership role with the absence of D.J. much of the time, and Mauga out of the gate. Keep in mind how far he came — released… brought back to the Practice Squad… then the 53 man roster… to become the starter. Ramik Wilson will be a solid starter opposite D.J.

C. Tamba Hali is still around. He may not start but gives KC a top sub and a lot of snaps at OLB. I think Hali’s surgery will give him an uplift and we will see more effective play in 2017. Still, Hali has to live up to it.

D. DJ is back. If he is not, the middle is in trouble. It appears Dorsey and Reid were confident that DJ would be starting the season on the field. No draftee that we so much know about yet. It may be true that Dorsey was looking to continue hybridizing the LB group (Think Eligwe on this).  

E. The Chiefs drafted Ukeme Eligwe. The more I see, the more I see a fit moving up into the work of how a hybrid role for Sutton. He has length and speed to fit the LB view that Sutton inherited from Dorsey, and Sutton knows how to use it, mix and match. Here I want to note how Sutton used Daniel Sorensen in 2016. He had a very meaningful hybrid role for Sutton with some big play contributions. He has the NFL family background and so does Eligwe. I suspect that Eligwe will surprise us all.

F. The Chiefs also drafted a monster in Tanoh Kpassgnon. At first, I knew nothing. Then I looked at Kpass deeply I think I see attributes that make him the type of player who is taken late in the draft — that gem in the rough. If Kpass can use his strength and size effectively up front, you are going to see a player with speed who can dominate his opponents. I am extremely interested in seeing him play.

 

 

 

Items E and F are going to be a big factor in the Chiefs defense by the end of 2017. It will take time to develop. The more I looked into the players, the more I think I understand what Dorsey’s draft was about… which is why I feel that Hunt was wrong in firing Dorsey whose vision of the team and the players he supplied to Reid and company was masterful. The current Chiefs… are Dorsey’s vision of how to build a championship team, not Andy Reid’s. Dorsey had a highly oriented view of fitting speed to each position, and finding players in the draft who would fit that role: always thinking speed.

 

 

When I think of the Chiefs other linebackers, you add to DJ Alexander and Justin March-Lillard (JML) to the list above, and you’re going to see more young LBs. However, JML had problems getting stops in the hole and was easy to block out with simple techniques. He needs to bulk up with muscle and I am not sure his frame can handle it. Still, he should be part of the team if possible. The man who should move his contribution to the Chiefs forward will be Terrance Smith inside. The Chiefs have not given up on Dadi Nicolas either (outside). He may overtake things all the way up and be the 4th ILB quickly.

 

 

The one piece that we don’t have up the middle, is the monster, a lineman chewing, RB tossing old school tough guy. I mean more like Mike Ditka as an example. Oh, we don’t need that so much, but some addition more than Josh Mauga and Josh is no longer with the Chiefs. He was our guy up the middle for that type of play.  It is easy to view all this through the lens of media but few see things in the same manner that I do. Bert liked Kendrick and thought that was worth a trade and I back him up on that. Ladner proposed Zach Orr two days ago and he would fit well with our speed linebackers and hybrid action. Laddie’s point is that Orr is out there and available. We probably have scouts who know his play but we don’t have a GM to make a deal. opportunity is slipping by because Hunt somehow got sideways with his GM and the CEO is not the visionary for the Chiefs. They fired the visionary. Yes, Reid implements it. But Dorsey fed the engine.

 

 

In truth, that becomes another complete article. I have my own judgements about Dorsey’s departure. Hunt was FUBAR to do this at this time the way he did it. Enough. Let me get to a view of the Chiefs that was referenced in Matt Connors article at Fansided. He included Willie McGinest view of the Chiefs LB crew:

 

 

“The Chiefs might not be as athletic as some of the other teams on this list, but they play the run and get after the quarterback collectively better than any other group in the league when healthy. Yes, the Chiefs have some studs in the secondary, but this defense is successful because of its linebackers. They cover well, and as far as the run game and rushing the passer go, they’re as good as anybody. The Chiefs control the line of scrimmage and have strong, physical players in this unit. There isn’t just one player who stands out in this group. They are all solid.”

 

 

 

What he doesn’t mention is team speed and with this factor, I think the Chiefs excel at almost all positions on Defense. With our players back and performing, it is my view that the Chiefs defense, that was patched up constantly in 2016 will be a very tough customer in 2017.

 

 

In his article, Connor then adds: “McGinest mentions the secondary and the elite players there while highlighting the linebacking corps, but Chris Jones is a future Pro Bowler along the defensive line who is also surrounded by solid veterans like Allen Bailey and Bennie Logan, in addition to the raw manbeast known as Tanoh Kpassagnon. In short, there’s something to love at every position on the Chiefs defense.

 

 

 

 

The Chiefs Secondary

No matter how you look at it, the Chiefs have one of the top corners in the NFL with greatness written all over his play: Marcus Peters is that disruptive force at corner back. Similarly, we have Eric Berry in the safety role. We have Ron Parker to play opposite and we fit Daniel Sorensen (noted above).

 

 

We have experienced guys in the depth areas as well with Phillip Gaines whose play fits the slot and Steve Nelson, DJ White as well as Terrance Mitchell, Eric Murray and now Leon McQuay with all of these talents in the mix competing for a job. Competition will be fierce and there are others on the 90 man roster who are going to be very hungry in camp. If you look at the secondary behind the front seven, it is solid and it is deep. It needs to have a couple of players step up opposite Peters and in the slot. I think we have players showing up already and those questions will be answered in camp or after.

 

The Chiefs defense should be a dominate force in the NFL.

 

 

 

David Bell — late of Joplin, MO — back to Idaho come the season opener.

 

 

 

 

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  • Merlin

    David, first of all, welcome to A1! It’s nice to have you and I liked your article, especially your point about how the linebackers are changing. I suspect that’s more Sutton than anyone else, though. I do have one question for you. When you say this:

    F. The
    Chiefs also drafted a monster in Tanoh Kpassgnon. At first, I knew
    nothing. Then I looked at Kpass deeply I think I see attributes that
    make him the type of player who is taken late in the draft — that gem in
    the rough

    How do you feel about that pick, considering it came in Round Two?

    • PaulfromnorthMO

      That’s interesting isn’t it. If Kpassagnon does turn into a Too Tall Jones type player, he could be one of the steals of the 2017 draft. If he bombs, he’ll be a huge bust after being picked in round 2.

      • Laurels and limitations

        The entire draft is a gamble…just look at how many FIRST round draft picks fail and nobody bats an eye…why would the second round be any more concerning? is my point. The TK pick reminds me of the Dontari Poe pick back in the day; Poe was a physical beast that could dominate if he was coached in the correct manner, hence TK= the skies the limit but Newton’s law still applies.

        • PaulfromnorthMO

          All true, let’s hope Dorsey hits on this 2nd round pick the way he did on his other two. If Kpassagnon turns out to be as good as Morse and Jones he’ll be a definite plus.

        • every slot in the draft, every year for every team is a gamble. Think on it. How many players were supposed to be the salvation for this team or that in any given draft. QBs are the most obvious btw.

    • This was not my choice at all–my point was he surprises me the more I learn. He has something few other players offer — Dorsey and his crew had a vision for him is my point. ‘Meat has my point as well. Dorsey had the vision and was drafting to his plan. Now we lost the visionary. I am nonplussed by this move by Clark Hunt. I know it was internal(Internecine?). I think Andy had something to do with the problem. But I have no “proof” only my read. I think they fired the wrong man.

  • freshmeat62

    I also can see greatness in this defense, IF DJ and Houston can come back to their former selves of 3 years ago…big IF! Houston especially can pretty much dominate the left side of the defense, whether rushing the QB or playing the run. And they need DJ in the middle to stop the run thru the middle. I think Sutton found a gem in Sorensen playing that hybrid S/LB position. Hopefully Logan can improve the d-line some there, and take some pressure off Wilson if DJ isn’t his old self.

    Kpass is intriguing. Looking forward to seeing him possibly develop into a Too Tall Jones type player.

    I agree also that Dorsey had a plan for this team, and now Hunt has screwed that plan up. One reason I hope they hire Brett Veach as the new GM is to keep as much continuity as possible w/ that plan. Someone mentioned yesterday that it seemed Dorsey was going more w/ gut feeling than data. If you ask me Dorsey’s ‘gut’ was doing a pretty good job of finding players. I don’t think it will be very long before we see Dorsey as GM again, and very successful after learning from his mistakes here.

  • tm1946

    Always interesting how fans/writers view the same picture. Just a couple of my thoughts. First – the second round pick is interesting but the writer said a he liked him for what he brings to the team for a late round pick…. the second round pick is NOT a late round pick, should be a starter fairly quickly. Cannot spell his name on this laptop but I like him. Second – If, IF, DJ and Houston can play at 2015 levels great, absolutely great but if not the defense changes character. Third, Ford, due for a big contract if he stays here. Also his 10 sacks came replacing Houston (really want Ford to replace Houston in 2017?). On the side over the LT, he did nothing the rest of the year. Before those 10 sacks, he has been less than average his entire career. Lastly, look at the 4 LBs the writers says are the guys….. last year 2 injured, one old, and one less than a #1 draft pick…. what is so good about them unless they come back two years younger, healthier, and more skilled (Ford) than the last time they played.

    • freshmeat62

      Also I believe Ford doesn’t play the run well at all. He seems timid to me.

      • tm1946

        He reminds me of the Budde family. Senior Budde was a monster on on the OL. He played wider than his shoulder pads, took control of a larger space. Brad his son, physically larger played smaller. Hard to explain but Brad did not compare to his dad, Ed.

        Back to Ford, should have developed into a force by now. If you give him Houston’s spot, a decent OLB but move him and you get a lot less.

        • freshmeat62

          Probably the reason Daddy seemed to play ‘wider’ was because he was one of the best pulling guards of his era.

          • tm1946

            Was that because he player wider and was the best pulling guard or the best pulling guard because he played wider….. Chicken or the Egg problem…. either way it did not pass onto his son…(my point – Ford is a good OLB over the RT and not hardly average over the LT).

    • sorry, that was a faux pas on my part. Every season though, there are “Ifs”. I commented on Ford above twice and will leave it there. I do not want Ford to take over Houston’s side in 2017. I want Houston to be Houston so that Ford can be the player he will become.

  • PaulfromnorthMO

    Nice article David and welcome to A1. I hope you’re correct about our D being better, especially the run D. I can see where the D front was a problem last year, and I think that put more pressure on the LB’s. If Logan is an improvement on Poe, plus with Bailey returning and Jones coming into his second year, we should be better on the line.
    If Houston and DJ return to form, especially Houston, that will help our LB’s. R Wilson should be improved after all the playing time last year and maybe he won’t get cut this time with Dorsey not here to cut him. I’m not a believer in Ford. He just disappears too often and spends too many plays watching his teammates make tackles. I’ve seen too many plays where he locks onto a tackle or even a TE and gets stood up and taken out of plays.
    In any case, we’re going to find out in just over two months.

    • Thank You Paul. I watched games last season specifically looking at Ford. I am not in agreement that he disappeared. i am in agreement that his skill set needs the move that Smith teaches, rubbing elbows with Miller will certainly be a big help and then, see my comments above. When I was watch Ford in replays, he had pressures on the QB that only he could have done because of his speed. If he added the spin and the dip moves, he will be getting there — but even then that is dependent on Houston opposite and have a front 3 able to apply pressure at the same time. Jones was the only bright side of last seasons front 3.

  • drwillez37

    I just read over at AP about Von Miller holding a pass rush summit, for pro players wanting to hone their craft. Now I try to hate all rival players but I have a hard time hating Miller he really is a good professional. But the point is Dee Ford was in attendance which I love to see cause I remember last year Hali and Houston staying late to practice together but Ford wasn’t present. Hopefully his change of play last year in courage him to strive for greatness. Let’s hope in transitions to the field GO CHIEFS!!!!

    • berttheclock

      Von MIller is passing on the skills he learned last year at the academy held in Atlanta by a pass rush guru. In fact, last summer, Dee Ford went through the same academy and his pass rush skills improved drastically. I don’t have the name of the founder and teacher of that academy at hand at the moment, but, he focuses on the footwork of the pass rusher and teaches OLBs how to drop their shoulder so they can dip under the blocker’s arms. It is that dip which allows the rusher to swoop past the blocker instead of trying to hand fight them.

      • berttheclock

        He is Chuck Smith of GATA Training Facility in Atlanta. He has worked with Miller, Aaron Donald, Mathis when he was with the Colts, Derrick Morgan of the Titans and Bud Dupree of the Steelers.

        • drwillez37

          That’s one hell of a list..Let’s hope it helps again

      • drwillez37

        This one was at Stanford

      • Dee Ford is putting a lot of effort over the last two off-seasons to improve his repetoire of pass rush skills – and yes, the two articles I read both covered the dip. Ford has a lot of talent. As I noted, 2016 was the first time he had several games of starter snaps. I believe many are so intent that each player achieve immediate success and if they don’t, the write them off and become hiper-critical. Ford, in the last 5 or 6 games of 2015, had time to start 4 or 5 of them and in his time with the Chiefs, that was the only game time experience on the field that he had — not enough hardly to even get his feet wet. Why? Because Houston and Hali were in front of him. Give the man a chance. He is a good player and with 2016 under his belt, I firmly am in the camp that says he will play NFL Football in 2017(and I am not in the camp that say his 2016 was awful–it was not).

    • Andy

      Professionals don’t give cheap shots

  • Laurels and limitations

    This defense does not concern me in the least, I think the pieces are there for the D to continue to do the same thing they have done for 4 years: create turnovers and deny TDs. The addition of Logan is big if, IF, Logan is all he is reported to be. The LBs? I like them even though I am far less keen on JML than the rest of the Nation for whatever reason.

    Now the offense? I am scared to death that we are about to see a bunch of players with a cavalier-esque type of attitude because they all know that change is not over the horizon, it is at the doorstep. We need the offense to score more, what we don’t need is a bunch of trying to make something out of nothing.

  • Laurels and limitations

    Great article with some valid points but one I have to disagree on is the ‘who’s team is it?’ statement. Sure Dorsey had his fingerprints all over the current roster but to think that Reid and his coaches had zero effect as to what type of player was drafted/chosen/picked up is not a solid idea. Dorsey, and even some of is scouts, have been on record stating how their close relationship with the coaches has allowed them to go after and get the right type of players that the coaches wanted.

  • thanks for the comments. this was based on comments I wrote, not an intended Article. It just became one at the request of Laddie, our fearless leader. He may one day rue that invitation.