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Big Matt's Chiefs Chat- Grading the Chiefs Defense

I think we were all pretty surprised at how well our defense played this year.  This was a unit that had been very, very bad in 2009 and didn’t add much talent other than some rookies in the secondary.  I expected Romeo “pants” Crennel to help the unit take a tiny step forward, but I also assumed it would remain one of the worst defenses in the league.  I was wrong. 

There are going to be some pretty generous grades handed out in this one.  Maybe too generous.  But this unit exceeded all expectations and was able to carry an inconsistent offense through some tough times.  Less was expected of them, yet they delivered more.  I grew to really love this group over the course of the season.  And the arrow is clearly pointing up for them, as opposed to the numerous question marks surrounding the future of the offense. 

Basically what I’m saying is that despite statistically comparable performances over the course of the season, I feel justified giving the defense much higher marks on average. 

Grades after the jump:

A+

Tamba Hali- Hali was a revelation this year.  He looked just as good as Jared Allen in his prime.  Hali’s strange personality will prevent him from ever attaining Allen’s star power, but it turns out Herm and Gunther were right when they said he was just as good.  Of course, he needed them to leave before he could reach his potential.  But reached it he has.  He’s easily the most important player on our defense.  Without him, the whole thing would collapse. 

A

Brandon Flowers- I wore my Dwayne Bowe jersey instead of Flowers during the playoff game.  Was that the wrong move?  Style over substance?  Do I owe Brandon Flowers an apology?

Flowers is my favorite Chief.  He’s the new James Hasty, who was my favorite in his day.  Aggressive, fearless, physical, consistently dependable in coverage despite lack of blazing speed.  when watching our defense you get the feeling Flowers is the leader.  He didn’t put up gaudy stats this year, but don’t let that fool you.  Quarterbacks shun Flowers like Mormons shun archaeology. 

A-

Eric Berry- Some of you remember Berry getting beat deep and probably think this grade is too high.  I can understand your position.  Berry did make several rookie mistakes.  I still think his first year went about as good as it could have.

What do we hope for from rookies?  Enough potential shown to offset mistakes made.  Did we get that from Berry?  Absolutely.  There were big plays all over the place.  Too many to count.  He took his lumps, but I’d say he was well worth that draft pick.  The kid is a future star.  He did everything we could reasonably have expected of him.  Thus, this grade is deserved.

I’m going to start calling Eric Berry “Batman.”  More on this later.

B+

Perv Smith- I realize The Perv is not a B+ talent.  On a really good team he probably wouldn’t even start.  He’s a journeyman, and for the most part, he plays like it.

But to grade Smith based only on that would be shortsighted.   He brought a lot to this defense.  Size, for one thing.  If you don’t have legitimately good linemen for the 3-4, the next best thing is to get a big ol’ pervert in there to mix it up.  Inspire your team, piss the other team off.  I think Smith did both of those things.  He was fired up in the playoff game.  The few guys who came to play that day have forever earned my respect.  Smith is one of them.

He’s also a guy I think has value to this defense moving forward.  He plays the run well.  Gilberry plays the pass well.  That’s a good DE platoon right there.  Or we could move him to the NT rotation, which is what we all assumed would happen when Smith was signed.  A Perv/Sweet Ron platoon would be something I could get behind.

The Perv gives us options.  And he’s hilarious.  Bottom line: We need to bring back Shaun Smith.

Brandon Carr- Carr has done the same thing every year he’s been here: performed better than opposing teams have thought he would.  Everyone tries to pick on Carr.  A natural consequence of playing opposite Brandon Flowers.  But the guy holds up admirably, and occasionally he shines.  Carr is an ideal second corner.  I’d like to call him the Bob Odenkirk of our secondary, but I question the mass appeal of that one. 

Wallace Gilberry- On a per-snap basis, Wally Gills is one of the most productive players on our defense.  I think our coaches value him, but haven’t gotten the most out of him for a variety of reasons, the two biggest being his tweener size and Tin Man’s draft status.  This can’t be held against Gilberry in his grade.  I think a goal for next season should be to get him more involved in the base defense.  The ability to rush the passer is a truly rare skill.

B

Derrick Johnson- DJ started the season on fire, and we all wanted to think that mythical Derrick Johnson breakout season had finally arrived.  That was foolish of us.  Johnson is no longer a young star in the making.  He’s a good player who can be inconsistent.  He’s worthy of a starting spot, and usually plays pretty well.

Todd Haley didn’t somehow motivate Johnson into a good season.  DJ did what he always has done.  Played well, but not quite as well as we had daydreamed.  He made a lot of tackles.  If only he’d caught a few more of those picks…..

Andy Studebaker- The Student Baker shows much promise.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see nearly enough of him this season.  We kept on thinking he’d eventually be unleashed, and it never happened.  Our team’s obsession with Mike Vrabel ensured that.  Now we head into next season unsure just how good Studebaker can be.  My guess is pretty good.  A net gain over Vrabel in any case.

B-

Kendrick Lewis- I have to confess that I didn’t spend as much time or energy on Louis Lewis this year as I meant to.  He looked like a potentially dynamic player.  I definitely preferred him to Jon McGraw.  He’s a lot like Brandon Carr: a fifth round pick who made the most of an available opportunity.  A good player destined to be outshone by the stud drafted before him and playing opposite him.

We should start calling Berry and Lewis Batman and Robin.  I think we could have a lot of fun with that.  Plus then Rivers could be the Riddler.  Or maybe……The Rivler? 

Glenngary Glenn Dorsey- I still think Chiefs fans overrate Dorsey.  We always have, if only to keep our sanity.  We were promised much from him, by some very desperate men.  Too much.  When he couldn’t deliver, the spin attempt became a sickening charade.

But thats all in the past.  Dorsey wasn’t what those desperate men thought he was.  He’s something else.  But that something else has value too.  Dorsey has progressed into a decent player.  He’s more active now than in the past.  Makes his presence felt.  Throw in those 2 sacks (!) and you’ve got yourself a B- player.

C+ 

Javier Arenas- I’m not gonna lie Addicts, I still don’t love this pick.  The ceiling doesn’t seem high enough for a second rounder. 

Personal misgivings aside, a good nickelback does have value.  I think Arenas can be a good nickelback.  But I’m not sure yet.  I couldn’t help but notice a lot of McGraw in that nickel package as the season progressed.  For whatever reason, Arenas’ role was lessened towards the end of the year.  Both in the return game and on the defensive end. 

This might sound overly critical.  I don’t mean it to be.  Some people whose opinions I respect really like Arenas.  I can’t say I’m in that camp, but he should be a decent piece.  I like to ask people which rookie they prefer, Lewis or Arenas.  Most people have a definitive opinion one way or the other.  I prefer Lewis.

Sweet Ron Edwards- Sweet Ron just keeps pluggin’ along.  This year he was the starting nose tackle for a division champion and playoff team.  Some day, if he hangs around long enough, he may find himself mayor of Kansas City. 

In all honesty, Sweet Ron isn’t great.  He made a couple nice sacks and then got tired.  But anyone who stays on the team for a while is likely to become a legend of sorts.  William Bartee being a notable exception.

Demorrio Speedwagon- Demorrio had an extremely costly penalty in the playoff game, but I’m not going to let that overshadow a surprisingly good season played mostly in obscurity.  When he was out there, he played well.   Be it special teams or defense.  I actually think our defense may have been better this year with Speedwagon in the starting lineup over Jovan Belcher.

C

Jovan Belcher- I’m not that high on Belcher, and I never really have been.  A middle linebacker should be a presence, and I don’t feel like he is. 

However, he is still young and he showed some flash in the playoff game.  If nothing else, he’s a definite upgrade from Corey Mays, Pat Thomas, and Nap Harris.  We’ve had some serious stiffs at middle linebacker these last few years.  Belcher is a stiff with some upside. 

C-

Jon McGraw- Mcgraw is a decent guy for depth, and I’ve even liked him at times.  But he isn’t a guy you should have covering people on third down in a playoff game.  When asked to play a major role this year, McGraw was shown to be inadequate.  Or maybe just barely adequate.  Either way, not a solution.  And also getting a little long in the tooth perhaps?

D-

Tin Man- The only thing that Kept Tyson Jackson from another F was the slight improvement toward season’s end.  So very slight.  But he got his first sack, he worked his way back into the rotation, and I want to believe he can become a decent player.  I’ll try to forget the shocking weight gain and less shocking poor play. 

What I don’t want to see is Tin Man handed a starting spot because of where he was picked.  It’s time for everyone, including the Chiefs, to stop thinking of him as a #3 overall pick and start thinking of him as a dude competing for a job. 

F

Mike Vrabel- Bad professional sports teams bring in guys like Vrabel and talk about their leadership and intangibles.  Across the parking lot, the Royals have provided countless examples of this.  They do it literally every year.  Even as we speak, Dayton Moore is telling someone what a great leader Jeff Franceour is. 

Last season Vrabel was a decent stopgap for a bad team.  This season he was a year slower, blocking an obviously better player, and we were a playoff team.  The Chiefs’ refusal to so much as consider benching him, or even lessening his PT, was embarrassing.  And it cost us.  Vrabel couldn’t rush the passer, stop the run, or cover anyone.  He was a complete black hole in our lineup.  This is what happens when your coaches get too attached to attributes that aren’t real. 

Next week, we get to the coaching staff and front office.  And after that, the infamous I Was Wrong Awards!  Who says the pre-free agency offseason isn’t fun?

note: I was in a pretty good mood when doing my initial defensive grading and I think I was overly generous in a few cases.  Some small adjustments have been made. 

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