Continuing my look at where the Kansas City Chiefs are headed this season, I would like to turn my attention to the defense. Despite the several blowout games the Chiefs suffered last season, the defense unit is actually much better off than the offense. Of the six Chiefs pro-bowlers last year, four were from the defense (Eric Berry – S, Derrick Johnson – MLB, Tamba Hali – OLB and alternate Justin Houston – OLB). However, the defense could have some serious issues if not addressed either through free agency or the draft.
In working this column, I took the same approach with the defense as I did with the offense in my column “What’s Next for the Chiefs’ Offense?” I researched the Chiefs’ roster through several sources, player contracts and amount due to players to determine where the team is at and potentially where they’re headed. I’ll break down the defense section by section and we’ll figure out where the holes are.
We’re all still letting the dust settle from the Alex Smith trade, but the impact of that decision will be felt across the NFL on both offense and defense. I say this because of the way teams will draft based on the fact that the Chiefs won’t be taking a QB in the first or second round of the draft this year. We all know that this year’s draft class is deep with cornerbacks, defensive linemen and offensive linemen. It’s not your typical draft class to say the least.
The first main area of concern is the defensive line. This position group has been a hot topic since Scotty Pioli first took over from His Highness Carl Peterson in 2009. His first round draft pick in two of four drafts were defensive linemen (Tyson Jackson – DE and Dontari Poe – DT), and thus far, neither one of them has delivered the way a first rounder should. Let’s not leave Glenn Dorsey out of the mix. He was the last first rounder picked by Herm Edwards and Carl Peterson. The good news is, Dorsey played his last down as a Chief last season before being placed on IR. His contract has expired and there is no indication that the Chiefs’ new front office has any interest in resigning him. The bad news is, there is not a clear cut replacement for Dorsey. I really like Ropati Pitoitua (mainly because I like saying his name, but also because I like big Samoan dudes on the line.) I thought Ropati performed pretty well last year when he was forced to step in for an injured Dorsey. He’s also a free agent this offseason, but would come much cheaper than resigning the ineffective Dorsey.
The other side of our line is a problem as well. The year after Herm and Carl drafted Dorsey, Pioli took Tyson Jackson, Dorsey’s LSU team mate, with the third overall pick. The result was about the same: An ineffective, non-pass rusher with a ridiculously inflated contract. That contract is so inflated, in fact, that he is slated to be the highest paid Chief this season…by more than $2 million. That’s right, the Chiefs are scheduled to pay Tyson Jackson $14 million for the 2013 season. The only things that John Dorsey can do in this situation is either cut Jackson, or see if the DE will restructure, which might not be such a bad idea. Keeping Jackson on the team for a considerable pay cut would probably be quite palpable to most fans.
In the middle of the line, the Chiefs are no closer to an answer either. We all remember the groans and gripes when Pioli and Crazy Crennel drafted Dontari Poe last year with the 11th overall pick. I was hoping he would go all “beast mode” last year, but sadly that never materialized. I know it had something to do with the 2 and 3 and 5 technique, carry the one…and whatever, we’ve eaten another pick. I see those three positions as a huge need for our Chiefs.
Moving into the defensive backfield, KC is a bit better off. Three of the four defensive pro-bowlers came from the linebacking corps. Players like Hali, Houston and Johnson force opposing offenses to game plan around them. One gaping hole is the fourth linebacker. With the tragedy surrounding Jovan Belcher, the Chiefs need to find a replacement.
It’s been reported that the Chiefs’ new defensive coordinator, Bob Sutton, intends on playing the 3-4 with more aggressive blitz packages. This increases the urgency of filling this void. Are there any viable free agent options or should Dorsey and Reid look to the draft to fill this hole? There’s talent in the middle rounds (3-4) of this year’s class, the Chiefs just need to seek it out.
Moving to the secondary, things get a bit better than the front end of the defense. The Chiefs have an excellent corner in Brandon Flowers and a two time pro-bowl safety in Eric Berry. Kendrick Lewis can hold his own pretty well at the free safety position, but there are some injury concerns there with his shoulder. The two biggest question in the Chiefs secondary, are who lines up opposite of Flowers and who can the Chiefs bring in to provide some depth at the positions?
Going into this off-season, nearly every Chiefs fan agreed that quarterback was the team’s biggest need. With the Alex Smith trade, that entire scenario has been thrown on its ear. The silver lining in this scenario is the draft is very deep with defensive linemen and defensive back talent, which are two positions the Chiefs need.
That’s how I see it, Addicts. What say you?