NSLU*: An Approach to Resolving Exposure and Weaknesses of the Chiefs – Part II

 

 

 

 

NSLU*: An Approach to Resolving

Exposure and Weaknesses of the

Chiefs — Part II

 “This area must be Brett Veach’s Bread and Butter

if he is going to succeed — CAP Monies are Required

to Improve and Win”

 

 

The overall redress and advantage that the Chiefs would be able to obtain is through various mechanisms. Below, is a means of gaining cap space by trades and releases of players. Note: using Over the Cap or Spotrac provides pretty accurate views of the contracts, cap space, etc. I am using rounded numbers here, and they are always rounded down to be conservative.

 

 

I am not going to talk about Andy Reid except in this paragraph. Supposedly, he is in the coaching roster side of theorganization and Brett Veach has the other side. Hopefully Veach ensures that Reid only has ‘the advise” role to th scouting and draft process. I will mention, Bob Sutton since part of the picture was his supposed departure which didn’t occur. We’ve just watched the Super Bowl and Doug Pederson, Reid’s protégé do the unexpected, remain aggressive throughout, called plays that were unexpected, out-coached Bill Belichick and helped his team win the ring, something Andy Reid has not done. Why? Because Andy Reid always does – when doing the unexpected, Reid always does what the other team’s DC expects him to do.

 

 

The trade of Alex Smith occurred, causing me to revise this item on the fly. As we bid goodbye to Alex almost everyonewho follows me knows that I supported Alex Smith all along. They know that with drafting of Patrick Mahomes, trading Smith was likely a foregone conclusion – and it was. The result? The Chiefs cap space, getting out of a negative hole to a position that Veach can proceed with his next tasks, and with the trade comes Kendall Fuller and a 3rd round pick.

 

There are other players but, at this point we are dealing with contracts under $1M so I will leave that as another subject. If someone is released and another signed, it will be a replacement cost of perhaps $500k-to-$1M. On the other hand? Given that he will be with the team from the beginning of Spring Training to the start of the season, Revis might be a good addition, allowing Fuller to take the inside role where he excelled as the top CB at that position in 2017 (PFF), and keeping Nelson to the #4 CB, with the likelihood that McQuay would end up being #5.

 

This would allow consideration for potential releases that gain back Monies.

 

Chiefs Exposures for 2018 – Mostly a Mirror

of 2017’s Weaknesses on Defense

As the season in 2016 dimmed and the Chiefs got ready for the playoffs where the finally won a playoff game v. the Texans, but the season closed with a dramatic loss in the 2nd round. In this case, the Chiefs weaknesses were exposed on both sides of the ball but mostly on defense. The defense had gone from the 5th ranked Defense in the NFL, to near the bottom of the performance measures. The 2017 season did not see improvement. In fact, it was an even poorer performance. The problem here was the draft of Patrick Mahomes cost the Chiefs picks, not only in 2017’s draft but also the 2018 draft, as the first round pick was required to move up to the 10th position to select Mahomes.

 

 

The other selections made by Dorsey also remain unproven. Ukeme Eligwe- ILB), Tanoh Kpassagnon(OLB), JehuChesson(WR) and Leon McQuay(CB). Each of these draft picks by John Dorsey remain labeled as UNPROVEN.  The players may be excellent picks but cannot be an Ace due to requiring development. Kpass, Eligwe and McQuay appear to be closing on being ready for bigger contribution. Indeed, Kpass matched Dee Ford’s sack total with a lot fewer snaps. [Note: Ace means a successful pick, a starting role for more than 5 years]

 

 

It is my hope and prayer that Kpassagnon can take over the Ford position as an OLB. I have no inside information butfrom what I hear and read, the Chiefs are feeling very positive about his progress. Having an OLB coach should be a boon to Kpass as the year progresses. The problems go on from there: The Chiefs need a TE who is a blocker and a receiver and that receiver must not hear steps coming and lose concentration – drops are not part of the deal. Too, the offensive line should always be a draft choice factor – every season. WR and RB also have needs to fulfill. In this years case, adding a RB talent to compliment Hunt. I am counting on Ware’s return by season start date, and I am leaving out players who I cannot see as a fit just for RB, such as DAT and West. That leaves an exposure but this can be filled from F/A and I hope not using a spot in the draft.

 

There are those who are in angst about WRs. I am not. I like Conley and Robinson and don’t forget what Bert Wilson accomplished in 2017. Jehu Chesson, a 2017 pick, has not yet been worked into any meaningful snaps as a WR.

 

What’s to Be Done Next?

The Chiefs have, in my view, primary needs to solve besides OLB: NT, another CB, a FS and an ILB who can replace DJ. Using some form of BPA would need to rank all picks on either side of the ball. It must then consider pick A on defense as opposed to pick A on offense for example.

 

 

A player list, evaluation system, scouting and prioritization of players value is crucial to building an effective draft board. Itcould be there are valid picks to consider based on team need and exposure in the 2016 & 2017 season, but an offensive player falls to the draft position of the team. They scouting staff may use two lists, one offense, one defense and then a weighting system to build their draft board. If a case comes down to a value A player on both lists, and that is two sequential selects on the draft board, you may have an Occam’s razor type decision.  If you are using A BPA format, then at that point, if the offense Player A is clearly tops in the process and evaluation, he is the player that should be selected. If that clarity is not there, then you have the dilemma just defined.

 

The GM at this point must trust his scouting staff, and all the measures that are employed, which includes before draft day, input from the coaching staff and their knowledge of the players involved in the problem. Keep in mind: Reid and Co do have a lot of knowledge to bring to the table. They have their own contacts out in the Nederland of Collegiate football. They do not have a scouting staff and probably no system of evaluation of players. Their input is needed and valued but it should not over-ride the GM and Scouting evaluation process.

 

 

I cannot myself put an order to the list a prioritization. I do have them as primary needs related to the defense nor offenseeither one. I do believe that two seasons of having a sieve in the secondary the past two seasons must be eradicated. The following actions can be construed to be potentials. Anything written in this article is of course without any internal ties to the Chiefs organization. Since the beginning of the Dallas Texans arriving in Kansas City and having a home town Pro Football team to be passionate about, I have been a fan.  Before this, notice had been given to pro football as a more remote view of things, such as the Giants or Packers. It was difficult internalize the game and have it mean something to me until the. The 1963 season, I was 10 as the season opened I think and the Chiefs immediately won my loyalty.

 

First off, consider Part I, and then as we move into Combine territory as well as Pro-Days, we are going to see evaluation, cross-check, film review and the construction of the Chiefs draft board for the 2018 Draft. Thus, anything proposed in part II and the timing of any releases speculative.

 

Tangential Problem One: OLB Pass Rush

To have an effective pass defense, you must have an effective pass rush. This does not necessarily mean that a sack must occur. Quarterback Pressures, touch, knock downs and sacks all count to disrupt the opposing QB and the synchronicity of the opposition’s offense. Opposite Justin Houston, there was essentially a totally ineffective pass rush by Tamba Hali’s limited snaps and starter Dee Ford, who later went out to the IR with a back injury. Backup Frank Zombo is a spot insertion for a limited number of snaps. Hali has been essentially a no show for two seasons and Dee Ford hasn’t lived up to expectations. Kpassagnon played a lot more as Ford’s injury lingered but he was totally raw to reading plays and understanding a full “picture” of the game and it’s interrelated pieces.

 

Houston was less effective because the other OLB was not effective. The pass rush was stymied because the Chiefs did not have a block-eating, NT who could take on a double team and still push the pocket back to the Quarterback. The Secondary experienced problems due to the lack of depth, ineffective play, the weakness at RCB and talent used in positions or insertion on plays out of position for their ability to be successful.

 

 

For two seasons in a row, the RCB exposure has not been solved. Not having the Poe at NT at the level of play he had in2015 and before, was another problem. All of this together and Bob Sutton was unable to put together a group of players and a scheme which was effective in countering the multi-faceted weaknesses. Consider the Part I note on Dee Ford’s Market Value: $8.7M for one year is a lot of money for the return. In 2017, KPass equaled Ford in Sacks with less snaps. Is Tanoh Kpassagnon ready for his shot in 2018 according to coaching evaluation? As team, I am sure that the staff has their own view of the status of Kpass and his ability to play at NFL Speed with quality play. I cannot see a release of Ford if we cannot sign a quality OLB or draft a player who can have immediate impact. Here you can see the dilemma: Outside observers, writers, pundits, evaluator’s cannot know what Veach knows.

 

 

Releasing Ford for CAP Recovery can occur any time before the June 1 date, where the CAP hit is “zero”.  The staff may have made the decision to trade Ford… note his market value example in Part I and cap savings: $8.7M. If that is the market for Ford, then that is likely to be about the minimum of money it would take to find a quality Free Agent – Likely a Lot More. Veach may be targeting, along with his scouting staff, 2 or 3 players in the draft who are beyond round one selection. For that matter, he might have a target OLB that is a Free Agent.  As of now, they pick 22 in the second round, and I am just not seeing the draft pick that can in the first season, turn the position manned by Ford around. Such players were taken in round 1 and certainly before the Chiefs pick in the 2nd round. [Big Maybe? Carter]. Let’s hope that Tanoh is ready, set, go!

 

The inability to consistently put pressure on the offense pass blocking, exposes the secondary no matter how strong it is with defending against the aerial game. Give a QB a consistent 3 or 4 seconds then the secondary is going to be facing an aerial Barrage.

 

Solution 1: Retain Ford; Ford will have a new OLB coach and that may really be a boon to his play. [Poof! Problem resolved]. We know he knows how to put on the edge speed rush. We have seen him use the spin move inside. We have seen him ineffectively use the bull rush and try to make a move off of that –ineffective because he does not fight with his hands very well and can’t get separation in the process. Maybe, an OLB coach can light a fire under his butt and force him to mix other rush techniques into his repertory. I wrote about it in comments, but use a cattle prod if he doesn’t use at least one technique aside from the speed rush 1 time in 3. Would that work? I find it difficult to believe that there is going to be a play-maker OLB in round two but have highlighted below a couple of potentials.

 

Solution 2: Kpassagnon is ready, Ford is released and CAP money is recovered. The Chiefs draft an OLB in round 3 to add to the mix(or possibly sign a F/A).

 

Solution 3: The Chiefs have a target OLB in the draft that would fit their position of selecting 22nd in round 2 and is a sleeper as far as their evaluation process is concerned. They intend to draft that player with the second round pick and this is what occurs in the draft. The player is indeed a steal, turns around the OLB weakness into a strength, Houston’s play improves due to this,  as does the play of the secondary. Kpass continues to get snaps and improve his play. At that point, he becomes the third OLB and is working hard to take on the role. For is released June 1 before the clock times out or before, saving $8.7 M in recovered CAP Space.

[Caveat to late releases: If a team is releasing a player this late in the game, it is not likely that a top Free Agent will be available to sign]

Tangential Problem Two:  RCB and the Slot(ICB):

For two sequential seasons, RCB has been a huge defect. One way or the other both exposures are resolved, firstly because of the acquisition of Kendall Fuller, having Steven Nelson on the existing roster. Both resolutions have one weakness – covering tall WRs and TEs. Here, I am thinking of a CB who is 6-2, as speed and arm length and strength to counter the opposing big men in single man-press type coverage. it is now solved.

 

I am confident that Fuller is a complete solution for one problem or the other but especially in the slot. His 2017 season was outstanding on the inside and I do not know how this will play out.  I am comfortable, if the decision is to use Nelson inside, in which case, both exposures are resolved. The Chiefs then, could Darrelle Revis and do not commit to a 2nd season with the former Jet’s Island CB. They do suffer the loss of monies related to his signing bonus. In the process, the Chiefs must churn the depth players. Do they now fit as a backup to step in and start if Peters, Fuller or Nelson are knocked out of the game for the season due to injury? Depth is one major problem.

 

 

At the same time, the secondary problem is solved as far as starters go: Peters, Fuller, Nelson and they might need theaddition of a 4th Safety to use in situations where speed is crucial and the nickel is added to the mix. That CB is crucial anyway for depth. The players being churned for quality are: Kenneth Acker, Leon McQuay(whom I think the Chiefs retain—I have heard late season positives about his play in 2017), Terrance Mitchell, Keith Reaser, Phillip Gaines and perhaps Steven Terrell.  I end up thinking to myself that the only player here that is probably worthy of retaining is Acker or Mitchell, but probably not both. The Chiefs need a different solution. We know what Mitchell did at the end of 2016 but over the long haul of 2017, he was unable to do the job at hand. Neither was Acker. [Caveat: with the CB starter problems solved, then it is possible that either Mitchell or Acker does indeed fit well enough to be retained]

 

Below are two solutions as the means and methods to resolve this problem.

  1. RCB is resolved by the acquisition of Kendall in the Smith trade, Nelson is assigned as a the ICB (Inside CB) and his play and effective is improved because his fellow CBs are tops in the persons of Peters and Ford, Both Peters and Ford become shutdown machines. All of this is made possible partially because Eric Berry returns more than intact and ready to play as the Strong Safety. As all of this comes together, Ron Parker at FS has playmakers for each position in play and his play improves tangentially. Dan Sorensen goes back to his jack-of-all-trades role. Murray is the 4th FS, McQuay remains the last link. All is peachy-keen in the Kansas City Secondary. This is a Shutdown secondary. A Draft choice is used to select a Safety or CB later in the draft.

This is all good as long as all the moving pieces stay on the field and no one goes out with season ending injury. Backing it all up becomes a question the largest exposure as the depth isn’t as extensive as #2 below. I think the money for Darrelle Revis and his role is too costly at $10M and doesn’t fit this view.

  1. RCB is resolved by the addition of Fuller and retention of Darrelle Revis* , and/or, the addition of a draft pick to man the outside opposite Peters, for the future. Or both. Either way the problem is solved altogether for the Cornerbacks. Revis makes it a more expensive proposition related to available CAP Monies. It should be noted he didn’t join the Chiefs until game 12 of the season, against his former team. Adding the draft pick is key to this in my view – and Revis is a bonus when folded in and retained on a re-negotiated deal. He takes over outside, Fuller, who was stellar Inside of all CBs in the NFL In 2017(PFF), indeed takes over the Slot Corner role. Peters is able to be the play-maker, Fuller adds the same dimension inside, the Draft pick is brought along slowly and takes over the outside in 2019 as the starter, but becomes part of the solution for depth in the secondary. Berry and Parker take on the back-end as you would expect. An Added draft pick for Free Safety is used to get more depth as Steven Nelson takes on the #4 CB job and the Nickel. [* see the potential draft example at the end of Part II]

 

Tangential Problem Three: Adding a Safety

The Chiefs have this position in hand as it is with the return of Berry. The problem arises should either starter be knocked out of the game for a season, as was Berry in 2017. Berry and Parker together make a great tandem and feed off of each others strengths. I can see, however, releasing Parker if the right Free Safety Draft choice is made. This could be done June 1 or before.

 

With the secondary set for starters, Daniel Sorensen is a $4M Jack of All Trades Safety. Murray can play the role for Free Safety but the position is weak, as 2017 showed, if Berry is knocked out for a season. However, with the front end of the Secondary all together, the exposure is not as great. I do think the Chiefs need to find that special Safety in this draft if possible. It is not high priority.

 

Choosing a Safety in this draft is an option and there are several who would be available at pick 22 of the second round. [*see the example draft below.]

 

Tangential Problem Four: NT

 

I have fussed with this position, and fussed with it. I conclude the player must have the profile of a 320 pound, squatting gorilla who can swipe an offensive lineman with one hand, and take on double teams and still have time for lunch. There are players in this draft who fit that profile. The Chiefs may indeed resolve the problem. Or it could be their good fortune to be able to re-sign Dontari Poe. I am presuming the Chiefs would love to have Poe back but it would be costly. Since Veach’s plan includes releasing players to gain cap space, and since Veach recovered $15M in the trade of Alex Smith, such an acquisition is totally possible… if Poe wishes to return. He may have ill feelings being released. We’ll see. [* see the draft example below.]

 

Tangential Problem Five: ILB (the WIL)

 

Certainly, the Chiefs are blessed with several linebackers and obtained Reggie Ragland in one of Veach’s early moves. But it is exceedingly apparent that the Chiefs do not have a player the stature of DJ who can both lead and take on the role of calling and setting up the defense for the front 7. At first, I thought Ramik Wilson was going to be that player but for some reason he hit a “wall” and his participation in games dropped significantly. The assets that need to be present aside from DJ’s years of experience and leadership are setting the front 7 on defense, pursuit, sideline to sideline, tackling in the hole and stopping the run plus being able to drop into coverage. If in round 2 that player is available and a pick from the Chiefs big board, then that player is the right pick to make.

 

Example Solution: I can see Veach making this particular pick in round 2 and should do so if Josey Jewell is present on the board. I think Jewel’s stock is rising and he might be beyond the reach of our position. However, choosing Josey Jewell at #22 in round  the ILB of Iowa might be the perfect replacement for DJ, who is retiring, in my view. The reason? I think the release of DJ is a portent of this selection if it arises and my understanding of what DJ could and could not do in 2017. In which case, DJ retires, and our WiL is a crucial piece to re-staff.  DJ’s captaincy of the front 7, and his talent is a good fit for Jewell.

 

There is more to come in this make-believe world in which I get to play the wooden dummy who is in control of the ventriloquist — see “Magic,” 1978 Film. Part III is coming soon.

 

David Bell – So much to do, so little time, so little space to write about it!

 

 

 

 

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