Grading The Defense


It occurred to me the other day that amidst all the HC/OC/DC/IWWA excitement around here these last few weeks, nobody at AA had yet continued our boy Whitlock’s tradition with a Chiefs report card.

I used to really look forward to Whitlock’s annual grades.  Not because they were accurate (although they were, for the most part).  It was just so much fun to read.  The entire roster, a smart little paragraph about each player.  Guaranteed to make you laugh a few times.  That article was a Chiefs gold mine every year.

I’ve been referred to as a poor man’s Whitlock (actually I believe the exact wording was “dumbsh*t Whitlock wannabe”).  So in true poor man fashion, I’ll be breaking this up into separate posts.  This week is the defense.  Because Lord knows we all love that defense.  Offense will be next week, and coaches, front office and ownership the week after.  Really licking my chops for that one, obviously.

Note: Expectations and contract do play into these grades.  Performance is obviously the most important aspect, but it has to be framed.  Amon Gordon has a higher grade than Glenn Dorsey, for instance.  That isn’t because I think Amon Gordon is better.  It’s because he was picked up off the street to be a backup, whereas Dorsey was drafted 5th overall to be the cornerstone of our defense.  I guess you could say we’re grading on a slight curve. 

Report card for the defense after the jump:

Valedictorian

Derrick Johnson- Finally, in his seventh season, Johnson became the player we always hoped he’d be.  It was worth the wait.  He deserves the team MVP award (although……Jones snub?), he deserves the AP first team nod, he deserves his Pro Bowl recognition, and he deserves a complimentary AA t-shirt to commemorate his accomplishments.  Unfortunately, we’re out of shirts.  Derrick, if you’re reading this, go ahead and shoot me your address and I’ll bring you my shirt.  Not to keep, understand.  We’ll pass it back and forth.  Say, every two days?  Final Grade: A+

Students deserving of respect

Tamba Hali- Another year, another 12 sacks for this Liberian pass-rushing machine.  You know I wanted to name Hali valedictorian, what with us busting that sweet hang at the airport a few months back (he posed for a pic and then quickly left).  He’s been our best defender ever since Jared Allen was traded away.  Hali should be a hero in Kansas City.  Instead he’s an amazing player who has toiled mostly in obscurity.  An oasis for thirsty Chiefs fans in the desert wasteland of the Clark Hunt era.  For the love of god can we please get this guy a playoff win? Final Grade: A

Justin Houston- Unanimous selection for most likely to succeed.  Houston progressed at a ridiculous rate this season.  He was like that alien in that movie.  You know, the one where the alien, like grows and learns really fast?  Starman, let’s say.  Houston is like Starman.

We’re all gonna love this guy for a really long time.  I’m confident he’ll be an excellent player next season.  And by his third season, I think he’ll be the best player on this defense.  Still wish that whole marijuana thing hadn’t happened though.  So troubling.  Character concerns, is what we call that.  Hey, Justin, next time you want to let off a little steam, might I suggest you keep it legal?  You know, fifth of whiskey, maybe a dozen beers?  C’mon man, use your head!  If something can advertise on TV, it isn’t dangerous.  If the gov’t deems it illegal, it is dangerous.  END OF STORY.  Final grade: A-

 Brandon Flowers- To my eyes, it looked like Flowers regressed a bit this year.  He seemed to be getting beat more than ever before.  It was, and still is, a bit troubling.  Thankfully, profootballfocus.com didn’t see it that way, ranking Flowers as the fifth-best corner in the league.  Respect.

It’s easy to be disappointed by the lack of national attention he gets, but people in the NFL didn’t know how good James Hasty was either.  Flowers is very much our James Hasty.  It’s why I love him so much, and why I wear his jersey.  But physical corners whom QBs throw away from don’t make the highlight reel.  Personally, I don’t care if the average fan doesn’t know who he is.  I’ll return that favor by not giving a shit about their players.  Final Grade: B+

Kendrick “Louis” Lewis- There were several bright spots on this defense.  Lewis might not have been the brightest, but his emergence was an important part of our defense’s success.  Where one safety position was a veritable clown car, the other was a paragon of stability and solidity.  We’re all waiting to see what this secondary is like when Lewis and Eric Berry stand side-by-side in the defensive backfield.  Like Aragorn and Boromir, those two.  And the opposing offenses are just so many orcs. Final Grade: B

Brandon Carr- Future ex-Chief Brandon Carr put in another good year at the office.  Pretty great success story for the fifth round pick.  But he probably wants to be paid well, and the Chiefs are way too smart for that.  They’ll just insert someone cheaper and worse.  Any questions?  Final Grade: B

Allen Bailey- Bailey, like Justin Houston, improved noticeably as the season progressed.  He was used primarily as a pass-rusher, but I think he’ll be able to play the run as well.  Bailey is the one lineman on our team with the potential to become a complete player.  If the Chiefs planned to make him a starter as soon as next year, I could get behind that.  He’s already better than Dorsey on a per-snap basis, according to PFF.

The 3rd round of the 2011 draft is Pioli’s most impressive to date.  It’s the anti-2010 2nd round. One brought solid building blocks for the defense, the other……team speed.  Final Grade: B

Wallace “The Wheel” Gilberry- Another future ex-Chief.  2011 was seen as a down year for Gilberry, but the reality is that, for whatever reason, he played 158 fewer snaps this season than last.  And his job, i.e. what the Chiefs “ask him to do” he still did pretty well.  He’s exactly the same as Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey, pretty much, except their skill sets are reversed, and his is the more useful.  If we’re going to start The LSU Boys, we need someone like Gilberry on this team.

Is it possible they played him less to increase contract leverage?  I don’t think they ever seriously planned to re-sign him, but I also don’t think they’d shrink from a tactic like that if they wanted to.  Whatever.  My boy Wally Gilby is going to make some other team very happy.  Final Grade: C+

Students we can work with

Javier Arenas- I may have called Arenas a “stinker” on AA Radio last night, but he is an interesting player. A questionable cornerback who can blitz and return kicks pretty well, basically. A fine guy to have on a team. I don’t know that Arenas will ever be a starting caliber corner though, and that’s what he needs to be to justify that pick. Final Grade: C+

Kelly Gregg- Can play the run. Cannot play the pass. Also locker room, veteran leadership, etc.

Am I the only one who’d like to see Gregg explore a career in pornography after he retires? Final Grade: C

Amon Gordon- I never really got into Amon-mania.  I mean, I’ve got nothing against the guy, I basically just saw him as a poor man’s Shaun Smith.  He isn’t young, doesn’t really have a position.  Hard to see him fitting into any future plans.  But hey, he picked up a sack in consecutive weeks, and sacks are all I care about, right?  Final Grade: C

Travis Daniels- Didn’t distinguish himself, didn’t shame himself.  I got no beef.  Final Grade: C

The Tin Man- Good against the run, bad against the pass.  A useless player?  No.  He has one use.  Were I the Chiefs defensive coordinator, I’d probably dial back the snaps a bit for Tin Man, and do my damnedest to make sure he was never in the game on a passing down.  If he played 150 fewer snaps next season, and 100 of those were against the pass, I’d call that a massive win for our defense.  This guy is just a fish out of water when that QB drops back.

I am not a fan of this player, but I’m not about to give him a failing grade.  I won’t even call him a bust.  I’ll just call him a player who was picked about two rounds too early.  Final Grade: C-

Jovan Belcher- You made this list by the skin of your teeth, Belcher.  Not good…….but good enough.

Belcher is another one of those “run defense only” players Pioli loves so well.  Our team’s biggest strength, without question, is stopping the run.  It’s 2012, so yeah, we aren’t very good.  Final Grade: C-

The Student Baker- Ended up being kinda bad.  Rats.  He would’ve been a much better option than Vrabel in 2010, that much is obvious.  But his brief chance at claiming a starting role is gone with the wind.

Remember when Haley said Studebaker “likes having his shirt off”?  Is that still true, do you think?  And if so, what effect does it have on the locker room? AA is switching to exclusively covering the locker room next year.  No more of this “on the field” nonsense. We know where the games are really won.  Final grade: C-

Students who should pursue their academic endeavors elsewhere

Jon McGraw- McGraw has won a place in our hearts (I’ll not call it a special place) just by hanging around and being better than some truly terrible players.  But make no mistake, this is not a high quality NFL player.  I don’t think he can legitimately be a 3rd safety anymore, and a 33-year-old 4th safety is an anomoly.  I’m afraid this might be the end of the line for McGraw.  He had a good run. Or a run, anyway.  Final Grade: D+

Glenngarry Glenn Dorsey- For years we’ve talked of trading Dorsey, and I’ve always been in favor of that idea.  Now, unfortunately, I think the market for him is probably nonexistent.  Like it or not, a defensive lineman with four sacks in 46 starts is not going to draw a lot of interest.  It’s like the rest of the league doesn’t even care about imaginary double-teams!

Dorsey can play the run, but his pass-rush deficiencies have become so pronounced that I no longer believe he is a viable starter for this defense.  PFF ranks him 14th overall among 3-4 ends, but if he’d played 100 more snaps against the pass (to put him at a standard level of pass-defense snaps for a good 3-4 DE) at his same level of production, he’d have been ranked around 20th.

I don’t know what the solution is here.  Nobody else wants Dorsey, and we can’t just cut a player who actually can play the run  very well.  I’d be in favor of using him in obvious run situations only.  In fact, he could be pretty valuable if used in that way.  I just don’t see the Chiefs doing that.  Final Grade: D

Aforementioned safety clown car- Donnie Wash, Shabby Piss, and Re-Shlang are all terrible.  Final grade: F

Final Thoughts

No starter received an F this year, which is a step in the right direction.  Lotta Cs, but plenty of As and Bs as well.  About where it should be for a defense knocking on the door, but not quite there yet.  A few years ago those Cs would’ve been Ds and Fs.

We’re going to have excellent linebackers and a very good secondary next year, so our defense should easily be top 10.  My concern, obviously, is the line.  And more specifically, what that line tells us about what the Chiefs are trying to accomplish.

Our base defense contains four players in the front seven who are major liabilities every time that QB drops back.  A couple specialists up front is fine, but we were content to trot Belcher, Gregg, Dorsey and Tin Man out there on hundreds of passing downs this season.  Is it any wonder we weren’t that good against the pass?  If we want to take that next step, the mindset needs to change.  Run defense isn’t the be-all-end-all any more.  The Chiefs need to get with the times if they want to be elite.

Or maybe you can sell yourself on the idea that these run-defense-only linemen are actually the reason our linebackers and secondary did so well.  I mean, the #s certainly don’t support that.  But, as we all know, numbers have an anti-Chiefs bias.

What do you think, Addicts, is your boy Big Matt on the money, or a total idiot who probably didn’t even play high school football?

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