We all know that this team’s desperate need for a decent quarterback is second to none, but what else do the Chiefs lack?
A quick look at the Chiefs’ 2-14 record and -214 point differential would suggest that we need a lot and one of the positions that I notice commenters griping the most about is cornerback.
Indeed, only five other teams allowed more passing touchdowns than the 2012 Chiefs defense and opposing quarterbacks had a league-high 99.9 passer rating against the team this year. To put that in perspective, Chiefs passers themselves have only twice hit that mark since Week 5 of the 2011 season (Orton once, Brady once, not counting the two passes he threw against the Ravens this year).
And yet, I am here to tell you that our defensive backfield is not that bad.
Opponents attempted just 464 passes against the Chiefs all year – a league low. There were two reasons for this – 1.) Opposing teams were nearly always playing with the lead and were content to run out the clock and 2.) Gashing the Chiefs with the run was simply more effective. Only five teams allowed higher average yardage per carry (4.5) than the Chiefs.
When you factor in the fact that the Chiefs offense was 28th in the league with just 17.9 first downs per game and had the second worst ratio of punts to offensive score, it’s pretty clear that the Chiefs pass defense was basically always in a bad spot. The run defense was at best inconsistent and the totally ineffective offense kept them on the field all game.
Also, the depressing aggregate stats belie the fact that the Chiefs do have some real talent back there. We all know that CB Brandon Flowers is a champ and the closest thing to a shutdown corner that the Chiefs have had for more than a decade. He finished the year with just three interceptions largely because opposing teams never throw his direction.
Despite an incredibly bad start recovering from an ACL tear, SS Eric Berry regained his form and, in my opinion, earned his controversial pro bowl selection this year. During a stretch from the bye to Week 15, Berry amassed a +8.8 grade from Pro Football Focus and PFF gave him the game ball against Oakland that week, despite the fact he played for the losing team.
CB Javier Arenas remains an up-and-down player, but I still think he is a strong #3 CB. He was ranked 12th in PFF’s tackling efficiency this season and knocks down lots of passes, but is mismatched against big receivers due to his size. The few times that CB Jallil Brown has had to step in, I think he has also shown a lot of ability as a developing player.
All and all, the building blocks are there and I don’t view this group as a weakness. I’ve seen a lot of people who aren’t crazy about this year’s QB class clamoring for the team to go cornerback high in the draft instead. They said the same thing last year, and I just don’t see it.
The fact is that the Chiefs are going nowhere without a credible starter at QB next year no matter how brilliant or horrible their defensive secondary is. Also, when the offense is clicking, even mediocre DB’s can hold down the fort. The proof? Look no further than the Indianapolis Colts.
When they moved on from QB Peyton Manning they figured it was going to be a long road back to greatness so they went ahead and blew up most of the team, keeping just three players among all their D-backs going into this year. With most of the spots in their defensive backfield manned by low-level free agents, they have held together a middle-of-the-pack defense, which was good enough to get them into the playoffs for the right to be destroyed by the Baltimore Ravens.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, signed CB Brandon Carr to big money and drafted CB Morris Claiborne with their first round pick. They also ended up with a middle-of-the-pack pass defense.
In short, I’m on the Geno bandwagon. The Chiefs need to get a pass offense before they think about improving the pass defense. I’m all for bringing in some new bodies to the secondary and the team has no need to keep any of their current CB’s not named Flowers, Arenas or Brown, but I don’t think we need to commit a high draft pick or major free agent signing to the cause.
We could clone Brandon Flowers twice, have him play three positions in the defensive backfield and still win only two games in 2013.
Only a QB can save us.