Chiefs Defensive Backfield: A Greatest Hits Club

The Chiefs are forming a club. A greatest hits club. And it’s made up of all DBs.

Brandon Flowers has always been known for his coverage skills but many people don’t know he is usually stout against the run, with perhaps 2012 being an exception. Dunta Robinson is probably more known for his ability to hit than to cover. Eric Berry, in his two out of three years of participation in the league has established a solid a rep: bad-ass (pardon em moi). Both Sean Smith and Kendrick Lewis have been known to make big hits. Rookie newcomer Sanders Commings comes from one of the hardest hitting college defenses last season: the Georgia Bulldogs.

In decades gone by the Chiefs have had quite a club of some of the hardest hitting defensive backs in the game: Emmitt Thomas, Gary Barbaro, Deron Cherry, Kevin Ross, Albert Lewis, Dale Carter, Gary Green, Martin Bayless, Jim Kearney, Reggie Tongue, Jerome Woods and James Hasty. Now, the 2013 Chiefs will be again be returning several defensive backs to the greatest hits club.

  • You can argue that Eric Berry had a challenge covering tight ends in 2012 but, he got better as the year went along and no one will argue he returned from his injury in 2011 with any less pop in the hitting department.
  • You can argue Dunta Robinson was at times a liability in coverage for the Falcons in 2012 but no one can deny that he still plays “lights out’ when it comes to tackling and… making contact.
  • You can say Brandon Flowers had a down year in 2012 but he was still 6th on the team in tackles with 48… a team that produced 4 Pro Bowl players in front of him. Not only can Brandon lay a hit but, as Pro Football Focus said, “There are very few cornerbacks who allow only half the passes thrown their way to be caught, and Flowers was one of those players… In over half of his games, he allowed less than 25 receiving yards, and never allowed 100 yards in a game… he could play on my team any day.”
  • You can argue that Kendrick Lewis lost something in 2012 because of his shoulder injury which led to him missing 7 games but, you’d likely be over looking the fact that he stepped in for Eric Berry admirably in 2011 and with another off season to heal he should return to pre-injury form: excellent hitter. Plus. Lewis is in a contract year and many players have the tendency to hit the gas… or the ball carrier… when it comes time to talk money.
  • You can argue that something must be wrong with Sean Smith if the Dolphins let him get away. Then again you could also argue there’s something wrong with Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland for allowing it to happen. Smith has averaged 52 tackles per season in his 4 year career. PFF says, “Smith brings size (6-foot-4) and the ability to be physical and aggressive….” His 6-4, 215 lb. frame and position flexibility should be a perfect fit for Bob Sutton’s “jack-of-all-trades” defense as described by Kalo Phoenix of Arrowhead Pride.
  • You can argue that off the field issues makes Sanders Commings more of a person to watch out for than a player to watch. However, legal issues aside, Commings is known for his position flexibility and his excellent body positioning while engaging a ball carrier at the point of attack. This kid can hit!

You can take away several conclusions when evaluating the Chiefs defensive backs as a collection that has been hand crafted by GM John Dorsey and HC Andy Reid:

1) Hitting- they can all play… smash mouth, ring your bell, lay a lick, deliver a wallop (had to go old school on you because afterall… I am old school) and rip em a new one… style defense. You get the idea. These Chiefs DBs can pack a punch. It appears that Andy Reid intends to punish any receiver who catches a ball in the Chiefs defensive backfield. When Chiefs DBs make a hit we should see a lot of unique mid-air Circ de Soleil style poses by unsuspecting receivers this year. Bring your opera glasses and a fan for this season promises the opportunity for you to catch up on your ballet, though it may involve a few opposing broken bodies.

2) Adaptability- this group of DBs gives coaches the opportunity to mix and match personnel from week to week like never before. It also allows the Chiefs to avoid having a QB target a specific DB because so many will be interchangeable. Don’t you wish you could have a car that transformed into a 40 foot tall piece of  military machinery with the push of a button. Yes, I played with Transformers too. That’s exactly what the Kansas City Chiefs coaches have the ability to do this season. It’s not only going to make predicting defensive alignments by opposing QB’s very difficult but, completing a pass is going to be a much tougher job simply because the Chiefs whole defense will be tougher to figure out and  tougher (see #1).

3) Speed Attack- big hitters with speed equals the ability to attack the QB with blitzes like never before.

The Chiefs defensive backfield 40 times coming out of college:

4.42- Brandon Flowers

4.39- Sean Smith

4.26- Dunta Robinson

4.57- Kendrick Lewis

4.35- Eric Berry

4.34- Sanders Commings

4.42- Jalil Brown

4.35- Quintin Demps, FA

4.55- Husain Abdullah, FA

4.50- Brad McDougald, UDFA

4.38- Otha Foster, UDFA

4.34- Neiko Thorpe, UDFA

When 9 out of 12 players in the Chiefs current defensive backfield runs a 4.42 or better in the 40… then they should be able to get wherever they want to go anytime they want to go there. Consequently, Bob Sutton’s attacking style defense should be a perfect fit for this personnel grouping.

I’ve listed this before but, it’s worth viewing if you haven’t already… and that is Otha Foster’s big hitting game-by-game highlights. Take a peak. It’s all very Eric Berry-esk.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Foster makes the 53 man roster and starts some games by year’s end. He looks that good to me. Then again, he could get cut next week.

I would also not be surprised if Kendrick Lewis is the odd man out moving forward. If he does get cut or released it probably won’t happen until training camp but, this group of players is that good. Lewis $1,374,725 cap number may be more than the team wants to invest in a DB with his production so far.

No, the coverage skills of this defensive backfield was not the point of this post. However, their coverage skills are far above average as a group compared to other teams in the league and it is their hitting ability that should be noted here. That’s what will help to shape the overall defining elements of this team… staunchness, fearlessness and tenacity.

There will be many times this season when the defensive backfield is setting the tone for the whole team. By doing so… look for linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali to be improved too. Now that’s a scary proposition… for the opposition.

And that… is exactly what Andy Reid had in mind when he took this job on January 4th.

Okay Addicts, what do you think of the Chiefs new greatest hits club?

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  • htmn74

    As long is this backfield generates turnovers I’m all for it

  • berttheclock

    Ah, when smasharoo meets tours en l’air and major adjustments are made to changement and entrechat-quatre, or when a Diva’s “Swan Lake” moment is turned into a swan song for the day. Thanks, Ladner for combining ballet with “Are you ready for some football?”
    Some on that list above will be kept due to being able to play on Special Teams, as well. Just heard Bill Polian talking about the importance of this time for GMs in that they have to start to really look at the salary cap for the 53 and combine that with training camp filling out the lower part of the roster. In addition, Gruden spoke, last year, of how some guys who can only bring one skill to the roster end up getting cut because of the need to be within the cap and you have other players who can play their position and special teams, as well.

    • ladner morse

      I think there’s a good possibility teat Moeaki will get cut for this reason because he can’t be playing special teams if he can’t play his intended position either.

  • kmon

    only thing wrong here is Kendrick Lewis being known to make big hits. against who? midgets? lol he’s soft we should cut him and sign another fullback lol

    • ladner morse

      When Eric Berry was out for the year, Kendrick Lewis made a lot of hard hits. He did much better filling in for Berry than any one would have suspected. However, I am also of the opinion that Lewis should probably be cut… and that has as much to do with his salary as his play.

      • cd3382

        Agreed…Lewis did fill in nicely when Berry went down, but as we all know the NFL can also stand for NOT FOR LONG and Kendrick is showing signs that he is going to be injury prone his whole career. I personally like the Husain Abdullah acquisition, along with the Sanders Cummings pick as well. I think eventually one of those two guys will step up and take the spot next to Berry.

      • Darkwolf1414

        Lewis definitely played very well when Berry got injured. I was excited for he and Berry to be a beast safety tandem when Berry came back last year. Kendrick actually hurt his shoulder in 2011, while Berry was out. He didn’t want to let his team down so he played through it. I know how much it hurts to hit people with a messed up shoulder and I feel for the kid. I think he’s had another year of healing up he’ll be able to play very well again this year.

    • elly violette

      I have seen Kendrick Lewis make big hits like everyone has said, especially in 2011. I thought he would be much better together with Eric Berry when he came back but, he got hurt. So, let’s give him a chance before we let him go.

  • Travis Forsyth

    the DBs are really the only thing that makes me nervous this year, the DBs were supposed to be good last year what with Berry coming back from injury and signing Routt yet the DBs were one of the worst last year….. I just hope the defensive backfield will be better..

    • ladner morse

      It’s natural to be nervous when you are a fan of a 2-14 team in the midst of major changes. However, I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t feel optimism about the many additions to the Chiefs defensive backfield. Unless there is a rash of injuries… knock on wood… the Chiefs should be much improved on the back end.

      • Clarence Powell

        I truly believe that injuries, or lack of them, will be the deciding factor in the Chief’s record this season. Right now, I have great faith in the Coaches and players.

        • elly violette

          Don’t you think that’s the reason the Chiefs had success in 2010… no injuries?

          • Clarence Powell

            I definitely believe that lack of injuries played a role in the Chief’s 2010 success. Can you imagine the results if we also had a good QB back then?

  • KCPauly

    Nice read Laddy, I sure hope our whole defense with playing aggressive will bring fear to the hearts of our opponents, not this bend don’t break BS, and I hope it makes Arrowhead the most feared place to play once again(also so Seattle will shut up about being the worst place to play nonsense) thanks for the offseason charge up, I need all I can get…c’mon already season! lol ….Go Chiefs!!!!!!!!!

    • ladner morse

      Yea… you can really tell that more attention has been given to the secondary than any other position group and that’s exciting. They may not be the best cover group in the league but the collisions will be fun to replay.

      • KCPauly

        Hopefully so….Chiefs collisions fill up my DVR…at least now again I have some hope of something from my beloved team :~)) lol… Go Chiefs!!!!!!

  • ArrowFan

    The problem is the League has a problem with big hits all of the sudden especially on WR’s. If only penalties where review-able? Personally any play that results in 15 yards or more should be automatically reviewed in the both or at the least subjected to the coach’s read flag..

    • ladner morse

      With new passing defense rules… every team will need more DB help… and I’m very happy with what the Chiefs are bringing to the table.

      • ArrowFan

        I’m also happy, I also love the idea of a big hitting Defense. I just think the league doesn’t want to have any big hitting Defenses right now:(

        • elly violette

          I don’t think there’s any getting away from “Big Hitting Defenses” as you put it. Isn’t that what every team wants to create?

          • ladner morse

            Well said. In fact I think that’s exactly what R&D have in mind for the 2013 Chiefs D. Goooo Chiefs!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • elly violette

            Go Chiefs!!!!!!!!

    • elly violette

      Don’t most fans enjoy the hitting that is naturally a part football? I just think people object to the injuries and the players who intent to injure.

      • ArrowFan

        Most fans love the big hits I love the big hits. Above all big hits are the reason I loved to play and watch the game. However Roger doesn’t like big hits nor does the NFL legal team, therefore the game has started gravitating away from them for several seasons now and I don’t see the gravitation stopping any time soon.

  • Gene Wisdom

    If our offense can give the defense some rest, it could be a top five defense.

    • ladner morse

      Gene… I think there’s a good chance that the defense could be so good that the offense will get more chances to show how good they are.

      • elly violette

        So, Morse, are you saying that if the Chiefs defense is better… then their Offense will “automatically” be better?

        • ladner morse

          I think both will be better… and that each of them makes the other one better. Not just from practicing against better competition but from — the offense staying on the field longer and scoring more and getting more leads — and the defense being on the field less and being more effective at what their doing — then all become about synergism and increased effectiveness.

  • Calchiefsfan

    I’m trying to maintain my optimism about this team. You’re messing it all up Laddy! One thing though, when mentioning the great, hard hitting D backs in the history of the Chiefs, don’t forget Freddy “the Hammer” Williamson. I know I’m dating myself but he got his name for a reason. There were times when he would literally knock the receiver out cold with a solid forearm to the chin. Receivers didn’t even want to catch a ball in his area. Then of course there was the great Johnny Robinson. Both of these guys were from the Super Bowl days of Lenny, Buck, Bobby etc.

    • Calchiefsfan

      I should have said “control” my optimism. As in I’m trying to not to get my hopes up until they actually start the season and hopefully play well. It’s hard not to get caught up with the way the off season has been going.

      • ladner morse

        Go ahead… get out of control. What’s it going to cost you later? A few moments of disappointment when it could have also ended up being a summer long of … “I told you soooo” … to every one you know.

        • Calchiefsfan

          You have great wisdom my friend :)

      • elly violette

        Why “control” your optimisim? Isn’t the off season a time to re-new our hopes and can you name another team in the NFL who has made more changes than the Chiefs so far this off season? And, aren’t the changes they’ve been making cause for optimisim alone? Live a little… get excited… Gooo Chiefs!!!!!!

    • berttheclock

      However, his mouth was a major reason Max McGee was so open for his TD. Johnny Robinson said that “The Hammer” had run his mouth to the point the other defensive backs were afraid GB was going to key on him, so, they shifted to his side to protect him.

      • Calchiefsfan

        I remeber that all too well. Besides a big hit he had a big mouth. Still he was fun to watch. Green Bay dominated us so badly that game that I don’t think McGee was our only issue.

        • ladner morse

          I wish the Chiefs could have played the Packers in another SB after the Chiefs won their first one because all they needed was some confidence. I really don’t think the Chiefs were lacking in talent or skill in Super Bowl I. That all changed when they made it back their a second time… right? The Vikings played the Packers twice in 1969 beating them by a combined total of 28-14. Bart Starr was still pitching but, Lombardi had moved on. Still, it would have been a great game… won by the Chiefs of course.

          • Clarence Powell

            I totally agree, Mr. Morse. Even tho the Chiefs won against the Vikings, I was hoping for a rematch against GB.

      • Clarence Powell

        That TD didn’t cost us the game. Being unprepared, on several fronts, including the coaches, cost us the game. I talked to several of the guys when they returned to KC and they agreed. Even tho it was against a different team, Stram had the guys ready to play in 70.

    • ladner morse

      Cal… I do remember those guys too…. I wish I had included them… my list was obviously not exhaustive and I’m thrilled you brought them up. They should never be forgotten. Nice! Really nice!

    • Clarence Powell

      Totally agree with you, Calchiefsfan. The omitted guys definitely belong in the group. I remember when Fred broke his forearm. He was never quite the same after that. Still, he is was one of my favorite Chief buddies of the past. I can thank him for my intro to Jim Brown one night in LA. What Bert said below is true. Fred’s outspokenness was a problem, at times.

      • Calchiefsfan

        Remember those great movies he did with Rosie Grier’s sister Pam? Awesome stuff!

        • Clarence Powell

          Yep, I was looking at one today. To me, that was a classic, with my buddy Tony King too.

  • Calchiefsfan

    Andy Reid appears to be building this defense to take on Denver’s big receivers. I think he’s smart to focus on the AFC West opponents first, especially Denver.

    • ladner morse

      I feel a lot better now about our DBs matching up with Denver’s WRs but, at this point their WR corp is probably one of, if not the, best in the league. The answer –> ATTACK THE QB!.

      • elly violette

        It sounds like the Chiefs will be using many players on defense to “attack” but, the question is how fast they can get to the QB.

        • ladner morse

          The DB’s listed above and their 40 times show that DC Bob Sutton has a plan to bring heat with speed from all over the defense and not jsut from Hali and Houston … who… btw.. .should be better than ever and faster than ever this season.

  • berttheclock

    One major problem, last season, was the inability to hit TEs near the line of scrimmage and they ate up our secondary down field. They even were able to drag DBs after the catch. But, to be fair, Berry was still recovering from his ACL and lost time of conditioning.

    • Calchiefsfan

      I’m looking forward to Berry getting 2 years in a row to develop. I really think that this year he will silence anyone who had doubts about his greatness.

      • elly violette

        Eric Berry is one of my favorite players and I can’t wait to see him this season.

    • ladner morse

      Moving 6-4 Sean Smith to cover TEs… moving Flowers into the slot to cover receivers like Welker… moving Dunta Robinson to play man on the outside so he can knock smaller WRs off their routes early… moving 6-0, 216 Commings to safety to help knock the crap out of RBs… moving Berry to cover TEs only to get him closer to the line of scrimmage for a blitz…….

      This group has so many ways to come at you…. teams are going to be hard pressed to predict anything the Chiefs DBs will do from play to play and week to week.

  • mnelson52

    The success of our D backs, corners, LBs or whatever, will depend on whether or not our D line can get pressure on the QB this year. The only change is Devito for Dorsey and he also is good against the run but no pass rush ability.

    • ladner morse

      Well, I hope DC Sutton sticks to his word… and I see no reason he wouldn’t… he says the pressure will come from all over the defense. I have always preferred this approach because it’s so unpredictable. So, the QB pressure shouldn’t just be coming from the DL alone… as far as we know right now. I don’t think this DL is really built for that so it’s a wise choice to spread the joy of plastering around.

      • elly violette

        Don’t you think the Chiefs Defensive line has the potential to pressure the QB?

  • Clarence Powell

    By the way, Ladner, this was a very nice post.

    • ladner morse

      I appreciate the kind words. Thanks Clarence.

  • elly violette

    I enjoyed this article too. I am hoping you are right that the Defensive Backfield does become the leaders of this team because that will mean they are taking over games… especially the passing game from other teams.

    • ladner morse

      Thanks EV. That’s exactly what I think will happen. With Reid and Dorsey creating such true competition for DB positions it will get better and better over the next two seasons. I can’t just wait to see how good it’s going to look this year but after a season together under their belts… I can’t wait to see how good they can become together next year too.

      • elly violette

        Yes, they do have a reputation for developing personnel. I wonder why GM Scott Pioli was not able to develop the personnel he brought to the team. Matt Cassel was the biggest of disappoinments.

        • Clarence Powell

          Player development is strictly the jobs of the coaches. The GM’s job is to provide the players (with the HCs input). With the exception of Cassel, Pioli did bring in some good to great players. Granted, he missed on a few, as all GMs do, but I believe that this year and beyond will show us even more great play from players he hired. I can remember too often that mediocre players were released by the Chiefs and went elsewhere to become pro-bowlers.

          • ladner morse

            Clarence, it is the GM’s responsibility to make sure he’s bringing in players who CAN be developed. Bringing in Sabby Piscitelli or Tyler Palko just can’t be excused easily. Pioli talked a good talk but was more of a “miss” than a “hit” when it comes to making GM decisions.

  • elly violette

    An Open Question for anyone: does anyone know if there is a way to get live coverage of the off season workouts? If not, why isn’t there coverage like that offered? I’d be willing to pay for coverage even if it was just an Internet channel.

    • ladner morse

      I think there’s only the Chiefs web site personnel and a few local news reporters that are allowed into their sessions but… I have wondered why they don’t allow more access too. It’s not like they have to make all sessions open… just a few… and more importantly, enough to keep the off season fanatic’s whistle whetted. :)

      • elly violette

        Thank you for responding. I live in Europe and it would be nice to get TV style news coverage but, I find KCCHIEFS.COM is not enough.