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Which Kansas City Chief Is Going Down?

Ah you smell that? I do. It’s the smell of optimism in the air. The Chiefs have a new regime with an experienced, successful NFL coach leading us. The holdover players are saying all the right things. People are drooling over Alex Smith’s leadership and intelligence. Jon Baldwin is reprising his superman in shorts routine from last year. The Bowe Show appears to be back and Jamaal Charles is gushing. Fans all over Chiefs Kingdom are drooling, imagining how much better player X or player Y will be in the new system (offense or defense). Yes Addicts, these are heady times. Fans have good reason to smile and dream a bit. After a two win season, it seems a virtual lock that the Chiefs will be better this season. Frankly, it’s hard to stink up the joint worse than last years team did.

However, there is one thought nagging at the back of my mind. New systems are not rising tides that lift all boats. The chances are likely that someone we are counting on will not be as good in the new system as he was in the old system. Let’s hop in the Merlin time machine for a history lesson.

The year is 1989. The Chiefs had hired (King) Carl Peterson as the GM and he brought in Marty Schottenheimer in to be the new Head Coach. OLB Derrick Thomas was drafted in the first round. The Chiefs’ linebacker corps was weak, however it was not bereft of talent. There was a very good linebacker on the team. In fact, he was coming off a Pro Bowl season. He was Dino Hackett, one of my favorite Chiefs of the time. Dino was a fun guy to watch play. He was a wild man, making plays all over the field. Therein lay the problem. Marty Schottenheimer wasn’t going to have anything to do with Dino’s freelancing. Marty put the handcuffs on Dino and he was never the same player.

So Addicts, I am raising the uncomfortable question. What current star is going to be less effective in the new system. I keep mulling over that question and I come up with one name. My answer is below the fold (yes, I am old school. No jumping here, I am folding.)

Addicts, feast your eyes on Derrick Johnson. Like Dino, he is coming off a Pro Bowl. So, why in the world would he regress? Bob Sutton is implementing an attacking 3-4 and fans are drooling over the image of a DJ that blitzes more. That seems tailor-made for someone as athletic as DJ. The answer lies not in his role, but in the role of the players around him, specifically the defensive line. In the old system, the line’s job was to occupy blockers, allowing the linebackers to flow to the play, unimpeded. That system was set up for DJ’s skills. As athletic as he is, he has never been great in shedding blockers. Now, with an 3-4 that asks the defensive line to penetrate, there will be more blockers for DJ to shed. Frankly, it’s not his strong suit. As much as I like him as a player, I can’t escape the logic. He appears to be the Chiefs star most set up for a fall.

Ok Addicts, that’s my take. What star do you think will be less effective in the new system and why?

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  • Michael Shaw

    Since he has shown great coverage skills, I say turn him into a coverage LB. Let Tamba and Justin pass rush and let DJ and NJ do the coverage thing. Mix it up every now and then and let the two Johnson’s attack, but use them as the coverage LB’s for the leagues best TE’s. Or am I wrong??????

    • KCMikeG

      Nico is not strong in coverage and it has not been DJ’s strong suit either. I fear Merlin may have exposed a major concern.

  • Kyle ferguson

    He only had 2 sacks last season, he is more of a run stopper. And he isn’t that bad playing in coverage. I would send the ends let the big guys be aggressive and have Dj play run/coverage he is smart enough to make plays and the o line will have to account for 5 guys still with two very good pass rushers on the end. All though we’ll have an “attacking d” I think it would be wise not to use dj to attack but rather be the tackling monster he has been the last few seasons

  • steve james

    I have to say I am glad this article turned out like it did. I was afraid from the title you were trying to prognosticate who was going to be next on the acl list. You know a prominent player will get hurt this year and get put on ir. Happens every year. I just don’t want to jinx things.

  • Stacy D. Smith

    Jamaal Charles, as a runningback. I think he may have more all-purpose yards, but I can see him having fewer rushing yards in the new system. Especially with Knile Davis and Shaun Draughn around to spell him.

    • Jim Harper

      Don’t forget his other big year in 2010 where he had to split carries with Thomas Jones, with Jones getting the lions share of the carries. I do think his all purpose yards will be astronomical He is going to catch a bunch of passes.

      • Stacy D. Smith

        I just want the guy to stay healthy. I don’t know that I necessarily need him to have astronomical numbers in 2013. Spread it around. 1300/500 works for me.

        • Jim Harper

          I agree Stacy! You mentioned Shaun Draughn and I liked him last year, but have not heard much chatter on him during OTA’s. Sounds like he has slipped below below Davis on the depth chart.

          • Stacy D. Smith

            I’m not too concerned. It’s easier to separate yourself with the kind of athleticism that Davis has. Draughn seems to be a fierce competitor so I think we’ll see him close the gap when they put pads on. That guy gets after it! He’s always running hard. He also takes good care of the football. Our perception of him may change 8 weeks from now.

          • KCMikeG

            You all seem to be overlooking Cyrus Gray. I have heard more about him from Reid & Pederson than Draughn. I think Gray being hurt/recovery last year was the only reason we saw Draughn.

          • Stacy D. Smith

            He just hasn’t proven that he’s ready to contribute yet. Draughn was more effective for this team last year. I think Cyrus Gray has the potential to be a special runningback though.

          • Jim Harper

            Does that make Cyrus Gray the odd man out then? I’ve heard even less about him so far. Of course he was hurt most of last year and did not see much action, so it is hard to tell what the Chiefs have in him.

          • KCMikeG

            Gray – if healthy – will be another effective weapon in our arsenal of many. Gray was spectacular at A&M while Draughn was average at UNC. The only reason Draughn got the carries he did was because Gray wasn’t healthy.


  • KcNdaRock

    I would have to say Justin Houston unfortunately with suttons defense from what Ive heard is more aggressive. I think with Houston coming off a pro bowl yr will more than likely keep the same conditioning and work out routines which was successful in situational pass rushing. I’m afraid his motor might be hitting e come the 4th qter of the game.. Dj is a vet and a leader of the team I don’t see his game declining from not being able to shed a block, he’s older and wiser if anything he’ll
    lose a step in his game from age but not this year.

  • Kisersosay

    I don’t see this as a problem. DJ will have more big plays …sacks, interceptions, fumble recoveries due to the line making an impact. Less tackles does not bother me because our D-Line will have more.

  • Jim Harper

    I am sorry Merlin, but I just do not see DJ having a down year. He is probably the best player on the team at making adjustments to new systems. He has always stepped up and makes plays. Actually the only player I am concerned about is Rodney Hudson. He appears to be the weakest link on the OL, but the truth is we really don’t know what we have in him. Way too little playing time, and now they are throwing another new (and more complicated) offense at him. The center is responsible for calling the protection. He worries me the most. He will likely get a lot of help from Alex though.

  • Stacy D. Smith

    I’m not sure that anybody will necessarily be hurt by the scheme changes. This defense suits the parts we have. I also think it suits the offensive personnel. There are other reasons why players might regress, but I don’t think the scheme will be one of them. It plays to our personnel’s strengths.

  • ArrowFan

    Due to the attaching DL DJ will have at least 1-3 pick 6′s, remember them.

  • Lyle Graversen

    I have to disagree on DJ. The guy has evolved over the past 2-3 seasons. The guy’s game may change and his stats may take a hit, but the guy is just too good. I’d be more prone to say Tamba. I hope I’m wrong, but I just get this feeling that he peaked a couple of years ago and will start to drop off. Again, I hope I’m wrong.

  • Steve Blank

    I say no one. Some are saying JC…but who is to say that getting yards through the air is less effective than on the ground? They all end up as positive yards in the gamebook…in fact, it may benefit him…getting tackled downfield by smaller guys..perhaps the corners and safeties might be better than getting crushed by the 300+ pounders at the line…I cant see any defender not benefitting from an attacking defense…you either get there or you dont…and when you dont you probably pressured the QB…so you benefitted the DBs either way…the only drawback I can see is the occasional empty spot on at the second level where the blitzing linebacker would have been…so maybe a little added pressure on a DB to come up and make a solid tackle in that situation… but, personally, Im not going to agree with the notion that someone will digress…