I should preface this post by saying that I do not reside within the cerebral cortex of Romeo Crennel and Brian Daboll. I do not know that they will do any or all of these things, but I do think that if they don’t at least try some of them, we will have missed some opportunities this coming season.
1.) DeQuan Menzie as MLB.
One of the many sets that Crennel likes to run in pass-defense sub packages is loading up on D-backs and replacing one ILB – Belcher, obviously – with a safety to cover any RBs coming out of the flat or TEs on crossing patterns. Throughout the 2011 season this was almost always McGraw – a veteran with good instincts who is a good tackler and will be read his man well. This is one of the many packages that was great at confusing and disrupting opposing offenses, and led to brilliant defensive victories like the one over the undefeated Packers.
However, it was also exploited at times with teams audibling to a dive play and running a power back straight up at McGraw. While he is normally a good open-field tackler, he got trucked on a couple of those because he just doesn’t have the body mass to make a thud against a big back bursting through the hole. Enter DeQuan Menzie.
Menzie comes from the hard-nosed Alabama defense where he often played close to the line. While he’s not huge, he is on the heavy side for a safety, and showed on tape that he could power through wide receiver blocks and would likely do well as both a mean guy following RBs and TEs in the short passing game, and also standing tall against backs plowing through the hole. The case has been made that Eric Berry would be good in that role, but I think he is greatest as an asset to us on passing downs with his ability to take over center field and play the deep ball.
2.) Three-headed RB Monster: Jamaal Charles-Peyton Hillis-Dexter McCluster
With the Chiefs’ top three RBs, they have three very different and complementary ball-carriers. Charles has the speed and vision to break big ones anytime. Hillis is a pounder who can get away from you if he gets a bit of space, and McCluster has the spark to hit the hole fast and can make things happen in the open field. Having all three of these guys on the field simply presents too many plays to contemplate.
If Daboll fields Charles, Hillis, McCluster, Moeaki and Boss, what package will the defense put out there? The fact is that there is no right answer because with those guys, you could do some power running with Hillis as a lead blocker for Charles/McCluster or you could do also sorts of sophisticated pitches, reverses and screens. Or, you could motion a TE out wide and throw from it. It’s hard to imagine a better goal-line set; the Chiefs will inevitably find favorable matchups. Daboll has made a name for himself being a mad scientist in drawing up plays. I have a feeling he is going to have fun with these guys.
3.) Splitting Hillis out wide
As I mentioned in my feature on Hillis a few weeks back, I noted he is really much more than the plodding pounder he is reputed to be. In fact, he is a great pass-catcher:
His one drop among 61 catches in 2010 made him the third most consistent receiving RB in the league. Most importantly for QB Matt “Panic Toss” Cassel, Hillis hauled in 90 percent of all passes thrown at him in 2010 – on target or not. Then, he had 453 yards after the catch.
Granted, Daboll was often using Hillis as a wideout primarily because Cleveland had/has quite possibly the worst wide-receiving corps in the league. Still, this guy has hands, great body control, good ups and holds on to the ball. Watch 2:10 of these highlights for this amazing catch from 2010 against the Falcons – it’s reminiscent of Moeaki’s stunning grab against the 49ers that year (he’s got another great one at 2:55). Heck, it might even be interesting to see him lined up at TE, despite the fact we already have two good ends.
4.) Poe at DE, in coverage
While we still don’t totally know what we are going to get out of Poe at this point, we do know that Crennel is going to move him around. Initially billed as a run-stuffer, Crennel has been trying to coach him up as a pass rusher. If he develops as both, I think the Chiefs will want to move him to whatever part of the opposing offensive line is the weakest. If that team has a Barry Richardson on their starting roster, we will find him and put a monster of a man right on top of him. Also, given Poe’s ability to crash down and take out blockers, he could be a great lead-man for an unbalanced blitz. Let him cut down his double team on one of the edges as Houston, Hali and DJ rush through to get at the QB.
Another thing that Crennel was successful with in New England was getting Vince Wilfork to step back in to zone coverage every now and then. It sounds crazy – and it is – but opposing offenses never see it coming. Heck, Wilfork even had two interceptions last year. While I don’t expect Poe to be a ball hawk or to be able to cover Gronkowski man-to-man or any silliness like that, using him this way would still have some major benefits. 1.) Having him step off suddenly puts the opposing offensive line in disarray up the middle in a way that can be exploited as they figure out whom to shift to and block. 2.) If you’re worried about a speedy TE being able to pick up too much speed off the line and want to slow him down has he crosses through the middle, Poe putting his 349-pound shoulder into him will sure accomplish that.