As we get ever closer to the NFl Draft, lists of team needs are thrown around like candy at a parade. Look up any list of team needs for the Kansas City Chiefs and you are almost guaranteed to see something similar to this:
OLB (pass rusher)
One thing I always try to look out for while writing for AA is that I don’t allow myself to slip too far into the communities “group think.”
What does that mean?
When you get any group of people together to talk about a subject for any long period of time, I feel that group think tends to start to take over. What I mean by that is factions start to form where part of the group believes one thing. We certainly disagree about a lot around here but we also talk Chiefs so much that I think sometimes we, as a group, determine something to be absolutely true. Once everyone pretty much agrees, the idea tends to become fact among most of the group. At that point, I think we begin to lose a little bit of perspective.
Some commonly held beliefs around AA that I can think of off the top of my head are:
Mike Vrabel stinks
Shaun Smith is awesome
Barry Richardson could stand to be replaced
Thomas Jones was rubbish last year
Jamaal Charles is the second coming of whatever spiritual being you believe in
While some of the above may indeed be pretty much true, there is obviously a lot more nuance that could be explored in each of those statements. In fact, that nuance probably has been explored but we’ve talked about it so much that we’ve watered our thoughts down to short talking points.
For instance, Vrabel wasn’t great last year by any stretch but it is obvious that he brought some value to the team. We certainly saw his experience and leadership on the field make a difference at certain points of the year and there is probably little doubt that Andy Studebaker will progress faster for having learned from Vrabel.
Shaun Smith is awesome. No nuance needed here.
Barry Richardson could probably be upgraded but he is also still extremely young. He was a late round pick and he has stuck around. When the Chiefs needed him he stepped up and stole the starting RT position from Ryan O’Callaghan and blocked for the most potent rushing attack in the NFL. While he was far from perfect, Matt Cassel still had a lot more time in 2010 than he did in 2009 and was able to improve because of it. It is entirely possible that the improvement we would like to see over Barry Richardson could very well come from, well, Barry Richardson. Just as the 2010 DJ was better than the 2009 DJ and the 2010 Tamba Hali was better than the 2009, 2008 and 2007 Tamba Hali, it might be logical to believe that the 2011 Barry Richardson might be quite a bit better than the 2010 version.
Thomas Jones did put up an abysmal yards per carry average last year but he was much more productive the first half of the year. Sure, the Chiefs could probably get a younger running back who could do what Jones did the first half of 2010 for the entire season but if they handle Jones and Charles better in 2011, learning what they learned in 2010, they could get some serious value out of the hardworking veteran. Jones would also enable the Chiefs to hold off bringing in another back for a year while they fill other, more pressing needs.
As for Charles being the second coming, see Smith, Shaun.
You get my point, right?
That all brings us to the actual point of this article (it only took me 630 words) which is that I think the entirety of Chiefs Nation is suffering from the “group think” syndrome when it comes to the position of OLB (pass rusher).
Since the moment Jared Allen and his mullet left town, Chiefs draft talk has centered on the team’s desperate need for a pass rusher. Even as Tamba Hali finished second in the NFL in sacks in 2010, the need for a pass rushing OLB still seems to be at or near the top of most Chiefs priority lists.
I disagree. In fact, I would rank the Chiefs needs, in order, like this:
That’s right. I have OLB as 6th on the team’s priority list.
A fact that is often overlooked as that the Chiefs, as a team, finished 12th in the NFL last season with 38 sacks. That is better than the Patriots, Saints, Colts Bucs and ever the team that knocked the Chiefs out of the playoffs with their stifling defense; the Baltimore Ravens.
Baltimore was tied for 27th in the league with 27 sacks.
Now I’m not saying that sacks aren’t important but I am saying that a team can still play excellent defense without recording a million sacks. Pressures are equally, if not more important than sacks. Pressures cause the QB to fall out of his comfort zone, often forcing him to get rid of the ball before he is ready. This can lead to interceptions and it can also break the QB out of his rhythm. The NFL doesn’t record statistics for pressures.
But Pro Football Focus does!
According to PFF, the Chiefs as a team generated 196 QB pressures in 2010. They also hit opposing QB’s 53 times.
The team that lead the league in sacks with 48, the Pittsburgh Steelers, recorded 223 pressures, a difference of 27.
Interestingly, the Steelers were credited for hitting the QB 53 times, the same as the Chiefs.
The reality is that the Chiefs are just a little bit above average in the pass rush department right now and yea, a lot of that is because of Tamba Hali. That being said, the cupboard isn’t bare here. Wallace Gilberry, Glenn Dorsey, Derrick Johnson and Jovan Belcher all did a nice job of helping to create pressure in 2010.
The big reason people seem to think the Chiefs need to get an OLB is because Mike Vrabel can no longer run past casino security with an 8-pack of beer, let along an NFL offensive lineman. While that may be true, it doesn’t necessarily mean the Chiefs need to spend a very high draft pick on an OLB when they have other, more pressing needs at other positions.
The Chiefs have been grooming Andy Studebaker for two years and they drafted Cameron Sheffield last year in the 5th round. Studebaker is a bit of an unknown and Sheffield is a total unknown but if the Chiefs believe in these two players then they might be able to slide OLB down a bit on the priority list.
This team is so desperate for a NT and WR’s that I could live with them taking an OLB in the middle to late rounds. Maybe they only pick up a project guy or a guy who can only rush the QB but whatever they do, they aren’t likely to get a worse pass rush in 2011 than they did with Mike Vrabel on 2010.
Getting a NT that can clog more of the middle could open up more opportunities for Derricj Johnson and Jovan Belcher to create pressure up the middle. No one ever said all pressure in the 3-4 defense HAS to come from the OLB. The quickest way to the QB is a straight line and if a giant in the middle of the defense can spring open a big hole for Derrick Johnson, I imagine DJ can get through it pretty quickly.
There are many ways to skin a cat and to improve KC’s pass rush. Improving KC’s offensive production through the air with receivers and push up front with a NT might just do the trick.
What do you think Addicts? Do you think OLB is as big a need as some are saying or do you think it has been inflated by the group think of Chiefs Nation? What are some Chiefs Nation or AA group thinks that you think are overblown?