“Coach Sutton has a great system that is very attack style.” – Derrick Johnson
“As a defensive lineman, you have to take advantage of that, move around as quick as possible and try to create some pressure in the backfield.” – Tyson Jackson
“From cornerbacks to safeties, to linebackers, we’re coming; so, we can get a lot of sacks.” – Tamba Hali
Attack. Pressure. Sacks. These are words that continue to be spoken throughout the Chiefs defense every time questions about the system are asked. Just listen to a press conference with someone on defense and a sense of schematic aggressiveness emerges. With a new defensive coordinator in town, it’s clear that Bob Sutton isn’t just installing a new defensive playbook, he’s instilling a new defensive mindset.
“We’re trying to develop a certain kind of culture here, not only how we do something but the way we do it,’’ Sutton said. “To me, that’s probably just as critical as learning the Xs and Os, the blitzes, the coverages, etc. That’s the one element that will allow you to sustain through all parts of a season. We know every season has its ups and down and when you have this culture … it really helps you. That’s one of the things the guys have tried to embrace, buy into.”
The more you attack, the more pressure you put on the quarterback. The more pressure you put on the quarterback, the more chances you have to get sacks. Seems pretty simple right? But not only does pressure produce more sacks, it can also produce more turnovers. Since 2006, Sutton’s Jets ranked in the top 10 in turnover categories – interceptions and fumble recoveries – five times.. While most of these achievements came once Rex Ryan arrived in town in 2009, Sutton’s last season as the Jets Defensive Coordinator in 2008 featured the Jets being 7th in the NFL in sacks (41), 15th in interceptions (14), and 2nd in fumble recoveries (16).
While Romeo Crennel is viewed as a defensive mastermind, the bend but don’t break mentality he brought to many games unfortunately started breaking more often than not towards the end. In 2012, only seven teams gave up more points per game than the Chiefs, while the team finished 29th in sacks (27), 31st in interceptions (7), and 25th in fumble recoveries (6). In 2011, the team only had 29 sacks and still only 6 fumble recoveries. When a defense doesn’t produce turnovers, it puts even more pressure on them to make stops. This didn’t happen, and a two win season and a regime change was the result.
While I don’t think that just adding a bunch of blitzes to the defensive playbook is the right answer for our team, I am excited to see the amount of talent we have on the defensive side have the ability to make plays. While blitzing can be used by defenses to hide weaknesses, it can also be used by a good defense to absolutely dominate the opposing offense. And while Sutton might be preaching attack, he knows that a defense shouldn’t be predicated by just the blitz.
“You can’t give anybody in this league, especially the good quarterbacks, a steady diet of anything because they’ll usually figure it out,” Sutton said. “So you have to have some flexibility in what you do. There’s a lot of different ways that you can put pressure on the quarterback, whether it’s physical pressure or mental pressure, whatever. That’s the direction we’d like to head.’’
That mental pressure is where the turnovers come in to play. Make quarterbacks see “ghosts” out there. Make them feel pressure when there is none. That’s what an aggressive defense can do. As the Pro Bowl voters keep telling me, the Chiefs defense has the talent to be great. Now it’s up to Sutton to harness the talent and fulfill the potential.