A Nose For Double-Teams


The Kansas City Chiefs do not have a great nose tackle.  We all know this.  Sweet Ron is a good guy (I think?) and we all like him, but he’s clearly not a world-beater.  It might even be a stretch to call him average at this point.  He’s definitely below average for a starter. 

As most of you are no doubt aware, Phil Taylor, the top nose tackle in the draft, has worked out for the Chiefs.  Like many of you, I’m excited about the possibility of drafting him.  It just seems to make so much sense.  We have a young, resurgent defense with only one glaring weakness.  And it just so happens that one weakness is at the purported most important position in a 3-4.  We obviously aren’t going to sign or trade for a big name, so the draft is likely our only chance at an upgrade.   Nose tackle is the final puzzle piece for this D.  If the Chiefs think Taylor is likely to be even a pretty good player, this pick is a no-brainer, right?

I’m not so sure.  And it has nothing to do with Taylor himself.  I just don’t think I’m buying the “nose tackle is the key!” narrative anymore.  Of course the position is important.  To me, every position is important.  They’re all interdependent.  Obviously its best not to have holes anywhere, but there are going to be some positions where you don’t have great players.  If nose tackle happens to be one of those positions, I don’t see that as a deal-breaker for our defense.

If Pioli thinks Taylor can be his Vince Wilfork, then absolutely he should pick him.  It would be an easy pick to get excited about.  But I don’t think its absolutely necessary.  And if he isn’t 100% on Taylor, I’d say move on down the line.  I could get just as excited about another linebacker, and I think our defense would probably benefit just as much from it.  Thats to say nothing of offensive players.  Even at 21, we have a lot of options here.  No one position is paramount, not even the mythical Ultimate Block Eater.  And anyway, more often than not, Sasquatch isn’t real.

More on the timeless art of block eating after the jump: 

“The nose tackle’s job is to draw the double team and push the pocket”

-Anonymous

We’ve all heard that 1,000 times.  It’s been shouted from the Chiefs blogosphere rooftops ever since we switched to the 3-4 Patriot Way special.  And before that, we sang the same song about 4-3 DTs.  Everyone in Chiefs Nation has been sagely assuring everyone else for years that block eaters are all-important.  But at the same time, the ones we’ve drafted have been anything but. 

Sims, Freeman, Downing, Siavii, Tank, Turk, The Man of Tin.  Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.  We’ve been watching our team draft bad d-tackles for most of the last decade.  Dorsey is the only thing close to a successful pick, and even that depends on who you ask.  This is all ancient history, and I don’t think it should affect our current draft strategy.  Nor will it.  But its definitely affected our fan base.  And not in the way you’d think.

Kansas City fans are trusting.  We want to believe what we’re told by our coaches and front office.  Aside from Whitlock and a few talk radio guys , our media has always been pretty willing to play ball, too (excluding these recent bouts of rampant speculation, of course).  So when the men upstairs say something, it tends to get repeated.  And re-repeated.  And re-re-repeated.  And then before long its an accepted part of the Chiefs fan public consciousness. 

As far as I can tell, there is no fan base that praises block eating and drawing the double-team more than ours.  Odd, considering we haven’t had anyone particularly adept at either since Dan Saleamua left town.  Yet here we are, banging the drum for more block eaters, insisting they’re the key to everything.  How did this happen?

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: NFL GMs work as hard at self-preservation as they do at talent evaluation.  It’s a sad commentary on the type of men that get these jobs.  If a top pick busts, or looks like he might bust, the forecast immediately calls for 100% chance of spin. 

Carl Peterson made a lot of bad picks, but defensive tackle was his true Achilles heel.  And what does a slimy GM do when a defensive tackle pick struggles?  Talk about how many double-teams he’s drawing, of course!  Or maybe how long it takes tackles to develop.  That certainly buys some time*.  Both excuses have been used repeatedly by our front office for the past ten years, and the fan base has been all too willing to echo them.  It’s become part of who we are and how we think.  Dorsey draws the double.  Tin Man draws the double.  This new nose tackle will draw the double.  Everyone draws the double, everything is awesome, everything is going according to plan.  This is the Beast Nation battle cry. 

*People won’t want to hear this, but it was Carl Peterson who first started saying defensive tackles take years to develop.  He started using it in defense of the Sims pick during year three of Sims’ tenure.   Now every Chiefs fan accepts it as an unquestionable truth, and repeats it often.  It keeps us from having to admit mistakes by our front office.  Meanwhile Ndamukong Suh picked up ten sacks and made the Pro Bowl this year. 

The spin zone certainly didn’t end with King Carl, either.  Remember the hilarious interview Pioli gave about Tyson Jackson a few months ago? 

“We knew he could be the left defensive end of the future….” -And thats exactly what he is.  In the future, all left defensive ends will be in charge of getting pancaked and sitting the bench on passing downs.   

“We knew…..that he was not going to have a lot of sacks.” -Spot on!  Of course, we all knew that too.

“So far he’s fit in really well and done the things we want to do.” – See gang, they actually wanted him to get fat and lose his starting job.  It’s called player development, look into it. 

“He’s starting to make his mark.” – Case closed.  Another great pick in the books. 

This is what GMs do, and what ours in particular have been doing for years.  They make excuses, buy time, spout nonsense, and just generally try to brainwash the fan base into thinking every decision they make, regardless of outcome, is the correct one.  And a lot of the time, it works.  I read a breakdown of Tin Man on another blog a few months ago where the conclusion was that he was “very productive” this season.  Seriously. 

We Chiefs fans have been victims of the block eater media blitz for a long time.  Bad picks + bad team equals heavy, heavy spin by desperate men looking to keep their jobs.  I don’t blame anyone for being taken in.  The “all is well” propaganda has been relentless.  And after all, like I said, we Chiefs fans are trusting.  But its high time we become a little more aware of what really goes on in the front office.  We’ve been manipulated, we’re being manipulated, and its affected the way we view football.  We’ve been taught to think any defensive lineman we pick is drawing double-teams. 

Lets bring it back home to the nose tackle position.  Make no mistake, I’m definitely in favor of finding a good one.  And like I said, if Pioli thinks Taylor is his guy he should by all means pull the trigger.  But these constant double-teams some of you are expecting, they just aren’t going to happen.  Even the best nose tackles don’t draw true double-teams more than once every few downs. 

Of course, when they do, it changes the game.  I’m not denying it would be nice to have a guy inside who could do that.  And maybe if we’d had an interior lineman who really could command multiple blockers our defense wouldn’t have been so dreadful these past ten years.  But I can’t help but notice our biggest defensive improvement since Marty left came in a year where Sweet Ron Edwards was the only nose on our roster. 

We’ve all been assuming ever since Pioli got here that NT would be his top priority.  So far, it hasn’t been.  If a third offseason goes by without a significant upgrade, the only logical conclusion is that Pioli agrees with me: NT is important, but not all-important.  The key to a good defense is good players, regardless of where they line up. 

In the past, it was common knowledge that a good nose was key to the 3-4 defense.  It was also common knowledge that running back by committee didn’t work, and you needed one full-time back to carry the load.  Truth changes quickly in the NFL.  Good GMs adjust to the times.  Maybe, just maybe, Pioli has figured out that you can get away with a Ron Edwards at nose if you have good players around him. 

Or maybe he picks Phil Taylor and I’m dead wrong.  Wouldn’t be the first time.

Tags: Glenn Dorsey Phil Taylor Ron Edwards Tyson Jackson