Continuing our evaluation of of the Chiefs, we shift focus to the defensive front seven. Along with the offensive line, the D7 is the foundation of a football team. The defensive line, Tyson Jackson especially has been maligned. While Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali have been dubbed sure Pro Bowl players. Hard core Chiefs fans are sure that the defensive line can’t generate much of a pass rush. How do these opinions stack up against the statistics compiled by the fine folks at Pro Football Focus?
Defensive End: There are only seventeen ends in a 3-4 that play 50% of the snaps or more. Tyson Jackson checks in at #8 out of those seventeen. That is pretty much dead average. He is the 3rd rated end when it comes to defending the run. However, rushing the passer is not his forte. He is 14th in that category. That folks, leads the Chiefs. This year, Glenn Dorsey has been disappointing. He ranks 14th overall, with a nice 5th against the run and a poor 15th rushing the passer. The hard core Chiefs fans are dead on here. These guys can not rush the passer.
Nose Tackle: This is a harder one to parse, since PFF lumps 4-3 defensive tackles with 3-4 nose tackles. However, Kelly Gregg rates in the middle of the pack, 21st out of 41. Like his linemates, he does well against the run, ranking 8th overall, above Vince Wilfork and Haloti Ngata. However, when it comes to rushing the passer, he mirrors Jackson and Dorsey’s plummets, ranking only 35th. That is still good enough to outrank Vince Wilfork, who is 37th in pass rush.
Outside Linebacker: Yes, Addicts, Tamba Hali is a beast, ranking 2nd out of 19 outside linebackers. He is the 3rd best rushing linebacker (behind Cameron Wake and DeMarcus Ware). His run defense is a very good 2nd. It’s in pass coverage where Hali’s weakness is noted. He is only 12th out of 19. His running buddy, Justin Houston‘s overall rankings are poor (15th out of 19). However, the game-by-game ranking show some massive improvement. His play in the first four games was poor. However, the last six games have almost all been very good games. Given his arc of improvement, Chiefs fans should rest easy. Like Hali, Houston’s weakness is in pass coverage, however he has the skills to improve there.
Inside Linebacker: When looking at Derrick Johnson, Addicts are not looking at things through Chiefs red glasses. DJ ranks 2nd overall out of 37 inside linebackers, with a fine 2nd in run defense. His pass rush ability is good, tied for 7th overall. Even is coverage ability is solid, ranking 13th. Jovan Belcher is another story. As much as I am rooting for a Maine player, he is tied for 30th overall. Jovan is decent against the run, ranking 15th there. He really isn’t asked to rush the passer, but 28th is not a good ranking. He has been much maligned in pass coverage, and the rankings reflect that. He is 35th overall out of only 37 players.
What does this tell us about the Chiefs and their needs going forward? The Chiefs appear decent on the defensive line, strong against the run with very little pass rush ability. Improvement can be made there. Are Allen Bailey and/or Jerrell Powe answers? The Chiefs look very good at three of the four linebacker spots. However, an upgrade over Jovan Belcher should be found. That’s my take, Addicts. Fire away!