The K.C. Chiefs And The Need For Speed

1 Feature From The Bleachers

One thing we learned from this year’s Super Bowl is that the Seattle Seahawks team speed is a difference maker. Yes, the Seattle players appeared smart, well prepared and articulate but I know of quite a few players who are smart, well prepared and articulate… but can’t find a place in the NFL. The difference for the Seahawks is their physicality and specifically, their team speed.

These Seahawks looked like they were playing at 78 rpms while their opponent was stuck at 45 rpms with the record skipping and scratching… and not in the good DJ way.

So, where does this “need” for increased speed come from? Well, when the Chiefs defensive coordinator, Bob Sutton, decided to play one-deep Safety on many sets this season he was concurrently electing to place S Kendrick Lewis in a position to cover the complete width of the field in the case a deep pass play would occur. Well… it did. And… he didn’t.

Now, the reason is… that Lewis is not known for reading and anticipating a quarterback’s moves prior to the release of the football so he then has to depend solely on his natural born speed to make up the difference. The problem for the Chiefs this season was that Lewis was always attempting to make up a difference in distance that was not possible for him to make up. He’s simply not fast enough.

Although Andy Reid said at the beginning of this off season, that this year is different that the beginning of last season, because staff and player evaluation was already “on-going” so, it’s hard to understand why the Chiefs didn’t already “know” this about Lewis and make some “other” decisions than they did. Clearly, Lewis has not been up to the task.

Kendrick Lewis came to the Chiefs the same year Eric Berry took over and Berry immediately started hitting home runs in center field, and that was in 2010. Berry turned out to be so good as a rookie he made the Pro Bowl his first season. Plus, many believed the Chiefs had found their “new safety tandem,” in Berry & Lewis, that would last for the next ten years.

So, why didn’t it work out?

Kendrick Lewis was drafted 130th overall, the 15th ranked Safety in the 2010 draft, and was taken in the fifth round. Furthermore, then GM Scott Pioli, totally ignored the speed required to play the centerfield position that Free Safety has become, because the best 40 yard dash time Kendrick Lewis had run up to that point was a 4.57.

Well, you may reason, “There aren’t going to be any players who can run a sub 4.4, 40 available that late in the draft.” However, take a look at this year’s possible late rounders.

  • Consider… WR Jeff Janis, 6-2, 212, Saginaw Valley State. He’s rated the 169th best prospect in this year’s coming draft by which means he’ll likely be drafted somewhere in the 6th round. Janis has run a 4.32, 40 yard dash.
  • Consider… CB Deion Belue, 5-11, 183, Alabama. He’s been clocked at 4.38 in the 40 and being ranked 148 overall should go somewhere in the 5th round.
  • Consider… RB/WR De’Anthony Thomas, 5-9 170, of Oregon. He can be had in the later rounds too even though the Chiefs could just as easily re-sign their own Mighty Mouse munchkin, Dexter McCluster, who goes 5-8, 170. Why don’t they? The answer is money.

Money and speed.

Am I suggesting that De’Anthony Thomas is faster than Dex? Yes. In fact, the fastest 40 yard dash time that McCluster ran coming out of college was a 4.42. Now, I realize that’s nothing to sneeze at but, Thomas has run a 4.23. With the experience Thomas has at both running back and wide receiver he becomes perfectly qualified to take Dexter McCluster, the Pro Bowler’s spot in the Chiefs lineup.

Newly signed WR Weston Dressler has 4.44 speed but he may not be the real replacement for Dex either. However, he might work out as a platoon plyer who helps to replace Dex.

The money part of this equation is that McCluster was a $1,400.000 dollar hit in 2013 in a contract year no less. Now, without a contract, and and in anticipation of free agency on the horizon… and with the Chiefs having to fit so many others under the cap… it looks like Dex, will be an ex-Chief.

The cost for drafting a 5th or 6th round player? Less than $500,000 per year. So, you can see that the Chiefs can easily free up around a million cap space dollars by going a different direction than re-signing Dexter McCluster. Especially because it will likely take a lot more than 1.4 million to re-sign Dex.

For a realistic snapshot of the situation the Chiefs are in with the salary cap, check out Lyle Graversen post called, The Kansas City Chiefs Salary Cap Options. The funny-sad-strange part is… it looks like the Chiefs can improve their team speed at that position — slot WR/PR — by letting their Pro Bowler walk in free agency.

The History of Speed

The year was 1964. I remember it well. The topless swimsuit made it’s brief but unforgettable debut. The Beatles landed on American paydirt and the culture of music, as well as culture itself,  would never be the same. LBJ was re-elected after JFK was shot dead in 63 on the streets of Dallas and all of Camelot died along with him. Muhammad Ali became Muhammad Ali beating Sonny Liston (which I watched on the radio) changing the face of sports, religion and politics in one stinging blow. And… Bullet Bob Hayes ran away from from world records and Olympic glory and changed the face of American football forever.

In those days, the lucky and talented few who represented our country in the Olympics were truly American heroes immortalized the very first moments we would see them on one of only a few channels we had on our black and white TV.  Bob Hayes was certainly one of those guys for me. I was a skinny kid who not only idolized men like Hayes but wanted with every ounce of my being to “become” someone just like him.

In those days, many kids thought it was just as glamorous to become a speed demon sprinter like Bob Hayes… as it was to become a football player. However, in our minds, those two weren’t exclusive. One led to the other, especially with heroes like Jim Thorpe. We all wanted to be All-Everything. However, few ever are.

Except, Bob Hayes was one of those guys.

To fully understand the impact of Bob Hayes speed, you first had to understand the era in which he came to the NFL. Those were the days of Jim Brown in Cleveland who was known more from running over opponents than around, which he was also perfectly capable of doing. Those were the days of the Lombardi led Packers who had not only one Marshawn Lynch type RB but two in Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor.

So, along comes the speedster Bob Hayes and what does he do? He led the league in receiving TDs his first two seasons which also included a nine catch 246 yard game. Bob Hayes was one of the first impact players in the game… before there were impact players.

What most fans forget about Bob Hayes… and probably his most notable contribution to the game was… the way defenses had to adjust to him because of this speed. Thus, the bump and run was born as well as forcing teams into a “zone coverage” scheme. Beyond that, the presence of Hayes also forced opponents to value the defensive back (DB) ushering in the age of the passing game… long before the passing game became the central focus of the NFL game we know today.

There have been plenty of other speedsters to follow. Willie Gault. Renaldo Nehemiah. Cliff Branch. These players leave us with a legacy of unforgettable speed yet, unknown speed. These days everyone knows everyone else’s 40 time. Not so for these mentioned above. We are left with only images of their blurring contribution to the game.

Now, all times are kept by electronic processes but some hand held times dazzle us to this day. Bo Jackson at 4.12. Darrell Green at 4.15. Ike Taylor at 4.18. These days the time of Deion Sanders at 4.21 is popularly accepted as the fastest electronic record.

Chiefs Team Speed

So, what does any of that have to do with the Chiefs? Well, judging by what we saw in the Super Bowl, if the Chiefs want to get to the promised land anytime soon, they will have to improve their overall team speed. And that doesn’t just mean a faster WR and a faster Free Safety… but those are good places to start.

The Seattle Seahawks have set the new standard. Speed must now be moved up the laundry list of priorities for prospects to possess when evaluating them. Or else, there’s just no competing with the new defending Super Bowl Champions. Period.

So, over the next couple of months… until the 2014 draft in May, let’s make sure we keep an eye out for the speed of the new players that the new regime is bringing into Arrowhead. because… if I’m right about John Dorsey and Andy Reid… then all the newbies will be speed freaks. And, in this case, that’s going to be a very, very good thing.

How about you Addict fans? Do you feel the need for speed?

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Tags: KC Chiefs

  • berttheclock

    Ah, yes, !964. Speaking of which and speed, the NY Giants took Henry Carr, the 200 meter winner at the Olympics in Tokyo in ’64 and he played both safety and corner back for 3 years.

    The Chiefs tried speed in ’82, when, they selected the track and football star from Tennessee, Anthony Hancock, but, for some reason, his game seemed to grow dimmer each year in the 4 years he spent with the Chiefs. One problem which hurt him is he could never run the same pattern twice and Bill Kenney ended up not even looking for him, but, concentrated on Carlos Carson.

    Funny thing about Bob Hayes, yes, he was great and he changed the game, but, one afternoon at the LA Coliseum, I watched with surprise, when, he was wide open flying down the center of the field and a perfectly thrown pass bounced off his hands. Yes, it was very rare.

    But, Laddie is correct in the need for far more speed, both at wide out and, especially, in the defensive backfield. Guys who can separate on offense and close rapidly on defense.

    BTW, Laddie, Jim Brown was better at turning his shoulders and slipping past defenders. Jim Taylor was the one who thought going through someone’s sternum was the shortest distance to the goal line.

    Yes, I still am in a tiff over your preaching about Sherman, but, your threads are just too hard to pass up.

    • ladner morse

      I’m pretty sure Jim Brown loved running through guys as much as he did around them. :)

      Sorry about the Sherman rant but it’s hard to write in a vacuum. In any event… it’s really good to hear your unique insights…..

  • Chris Tarrants

    Look here Laddie, I always like reading your articles but your title on this one sucks! Not because it isn’t true and not because it isn’t catchy but rather it sucks because I have the Top Gun song stuck in my head at 8:30 in the freaking morning lol great piece tho

  • ArrowFan

    Why did we just sign a slow Canadian Wide out?

    • berttheclock

      er, 4.48 in the forty is not exactly slow. However, have you ever watched track meets, either, the 60 meters in indoor meets or the 100 in outdoor meets? If you have, remember how 10 runners spread across the lanes rarely ran chest to chest from start to finish? The reason is some are quicker out of the blocks, whereas, it takes a bit longer for others to reach top speed. This is why the 40 yard dash is far more important in football and, even there, it can be deceptive. Case in point is Jon Baldwin ran a 4.5 at the Combines, so, he was declared fast. However, one of his problems was it took long strides for him to reach his ultimate speed. He was not quick enough to get off the line of scrimmage and could be jammed. He developed into a pure Diva who wanted to run by himself and never be crowded. That is why he will no longer be in the NFL. Defenders learned how to jam him.

      Remember OJ’s speed of 9.2 in the hundred, whereas, Gale Sayers never ran faster than 9.7? However, Gale could be at top speed in a couple of steps and if he juked the D-b, he was gone before they could catch him. Whereas, if OJ could turn the corner on a Student Body Right, then, he was long gone. It is not really the overall speed, but, how one attains that speed. Dressler has quickness which allows him to separate. Remember how Marcus Allen could line himself up behind the blockers, see a hole, then, explode into the hole. It really comes down to how one is able to use his speed, but, there must be speed there in the first place Many never learn how to control their speed properly. The very fast LB from Wake Forest taken by the Seahawks in the 1st round, and loved by Herm, never learned how to control his speed and ended up far too often over running plays. He is no longer in the NFL.

    • ladner morse

      I think our slot receiver slash PR needs to be more quick than fast but still fast.

  • Canad-Ian

    As long as we don’t get obsessed with speed like Al Davis. Heyward Bay over Crabtree, HA.

  • berttheclock

    Anyone want to take a flyer on a FA who ran a 4.34 40 at the Combine, the same year as his college teammate Torrey Smith? Da’rel Scott is a FA RB, who never really clicked with the Giants after being a 7th round pick, then, suffered a ham string which ended his season. At one time, he even started against the Chiefs.

  • Spencer

    Who’s the Chiefs best player on the team undoubtedly??? Jamal Charles…he was a track star (as well as football star) at Texas….this team needs a speed rusher (hali and houston are more power/bull rushers)…we need a fast safety (or two considering Berry rarely played safety until the end of the the season) We need fast cbs (Flowers doesn’t have size nor speed-is a slot cb that I personally believe needs to be traded-Parker has it, but Cooper only has catch up speed, not the out of the gates speed)…we need speed at wr to spread the field…hell we need the new slot wr (te) speedster…well Bowe (should) take that spot…don’t know why Sutton and Reid are wasting time on these small Slots guys when Bowe is perfect for it…but whatever

    Ya the team needs speed…it needs a revamped defense that won’t be acquired without letting beloved players go (Flowers, Hali) not only for their cap space but because they don’t fit the system very well…(Hali and Houston just bring the same thing (albeit a great same thing) but we need a pure speed rusher, and we are unlikely to get one without trading Hali or Flowers for a 1st rnder)….lot of work is in need for this team.

    • ladner morse

      I’m wondering… do you fell like I do… that the Chiefs need much more fixing on the defensive side than the offensive side?

      • Spencer

        Agree completely…I don’t see that many holes offensively other then depth issues on the line specifically…

        #1 WR or just a speed receiver is a need…but then again we have Jenkins who has a lot of speed…slot is a need…but only if you think of it in the traditional small McCluster/Welker type of slot…the new age has the Boldin’s or WR/TE’s…Bowe fits that bill perfectly…TE could be improved but we have Fasano, Kelce and McBeard…it isn’t a huge issue..

        Looking at how well our offense played at the end of the year it would imply that our offense is the strength compared to the defense by far

        Defensive needs:
        DL pass rush (Poe is the only one that can consistently provide it…and that is when he isn’t being double teamed (so never).
        OLB…we need a speed rusher to go with the power and power used by Hali and Houston plus depth for if they go down again
        ILB opposite DJ…we have no one there…unless you consider Berry’s earlier hybrid position as taking that SILB position
        CB’s…Sean Smith is meh…might look into him becoming a safety…Cooper and Parker I like alot (feel outside CB is a relatively strong position as long as they play to their strength (bump n run, press coverage) rather then their weaknesses (zone/backed 10 yrds deep being useless)
        Slot CB..Flowers has it…but no slot CB is worth 10 mill+…Flowers doesn’t fit the bill of a bump n run cb…doesn’t have the size nor speed to do it…rather see him traded (sorry flowers)…so slot cb would be a need.
        FS/SS (depending on if Berry plays his hyrbid safety position) are needs…you could move Sean Smith to FS…but who knows…Commings has promise…but may be Kendrick Lewis 2.0 injury bug wise (same with Kelce/Moeaki)..

        Defense is riddles with issues…we need a pass rushing RE (Stephon Tuitt could be an option)…we need a speed rushing OLB (Dee Ford of Auburn)…We need a SILB (if Jordan walks…and for depth behind Nico Johnson if Jordan does walk) CB is an issue…yes I like Cooper and Parker but they still haven’t proved themselves of starting quality week n and out…Slot cb will be an issue 1) for depth 2) because I think we should trade Flowers for a 2nd (hopefully 1st but highly unlikely) FS is an issue SS may be an issue depending on Sutton’s play calling with Berry….

        Issue’s on offense??? (speed receiver)…that’s basically it and depth on the O-Line majorly…Defense is riddles with issues everywhere.

  • Tristian Shelley

    Speed doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. Especially defensively. If you play disiplined and with proper tecqnique while always looking for the ball you will rarely get beat. Seattle’s corners arent fast. They have above average speed. Earl Thomas on the other hand Is fast. But Chancellor isn’t fast. Neither is Sherman or Browner or Maxwell. I know because I saw all 4 of those guys 2+ years in college and in the NFL. They study film like peyton manning. So u have smarts length comfortability plus understanding of the system athletic ability plus proper tecqnique. You combine all that and u have a dominant defense. Why do u think everyone outside of Earl Thomas had a 4th round grade or lower? Part of it was 40 time or speed. Look em up. Chancellor ran a 4.7 and Sherman ran a 4.5. Not exactly Jammal Charles. Speed does you good if you know how to use it. If you asked me why I have 16 interceptions in my flag football league id tell you im not even the 3rd fastest guy on my team. But like Seattle I understand what offenses are trying to do and I never EVER get beat deep moreso than anything else. Yes im 6 ft 2 185 pounds and that helps. But your brain overcompensates for any deficiency physically you may have. Ask Rich Gannon or Joe Montana or Brady. Physically imposing? Not even close. But smarter than everyone else. Thats what Sutton needs to do. Find his players strengths (Big rangy athletic)and weaknesses (lack of catchup speed or turning around for the football) and build this defense like Seattle’s. We have the same components they do. 2 Tall outside young corners one incredibly athletic saftey better linebacking core and better pass rush. So why was our defense one of the worst? Coaching plain and simple. I worry alot less abo Reid who seems to be able to overcompensate with his brain no matter who is on the field offensively. I mean for us to put up 44 without our biggest speed or best overall player threat tells you how great Reid is.

    • berttheclock

      Quinn, their D-Coord is very under rated. Many thought when, their former DC left for a higher position in the NFL, Seattle’s defense might falter, yet, when, Quinn returned from coaching at Florida, it really improved. Look at the various statements by Sherman and Bennett about them knowing the tendencies of Manning, to the point, they claimed they were picking up his hand audibles. That was coaching by Quinn which put them into proper position. No defensive backfield can hold fast wide outs to a mere 3.6 yards after the catch, by chance. They were in position to hit and not end up in wind sprints with them. Of course, signing Avril for a $1.5 M base in 2013, certainly helped their defensive backfield, especially, after hitting the arm of Manning.

      Interesting that one of the reasons, the Chiefs were able to pick up Parker from the Niners was the fact a small, but very fast from the combines, D-b, was considered to be faster than Parker, so, Baalke wanted to keep him. He really thought he might slip Parker through waivers and keep him as well, but, Dorsey and his merry men had watched him in practice prior to the preseason game with the Niners and had him on their charts. That faster smallish D-b ended up on the roster for the Niners. Name escapes me. Baalke put him in his “Speed Kills” catalog.

      • JLKC355

        Cooper from the 9er’s Parker from Seattle but overall I’m with you the scheme needs to make adjustments I truly do not understand why Sutton chose not to jam WRs consistently if we’re going to continue to run primarily man coverage jamming technique must improve.

    • berttheclock

      Kam Chancellor’s 40 depended on the day of the week he ran the forty. He ran from a low of just over 4.2 at Virginia Tech, to times in the 4.5, 4.6 and 4.7 range at the combines. However, one of his great strengths he knows how to position his size on the playing field and is rarely out of position. He has enough of a burst to cover short distances very well. He did run some faster times than Kendrick Lewis, who went 3 slots lower than he did. But, consider the fact Seattle wanted him enough to trade up with Detroit in that 5th round and gave the Lions a starting guard. Schneider had him circled on his road map.

    • Tony Parker

      absolutely perfect response, good job. Speed kills if you don’t know how to use it.

    • ladner morse

      Great post. You definitely have to know how to use your speed. However, I would never say speed doesn’t matter. But, like you… I’d say smarts does and is at the top of the priority list of needed traits to succeed.

  • KCMikeG

    Not you too! Another one willing to let McCluster go because we can save a $1M by just pick up a guy who is slightly faster who has never played at the NFL level. Yes, Thomas “sounds” like Dexter but is projected for the 7th round and how often does a player drafted there produce over a 1,000 total yards a year and lead the NFL in punt returns. Good luck with that. You need to start thinking McCluster/Dressler = Jackson/Maclin. Cutting Robinson will more than pay for McCluster and your late round pick. Problem solved.

    Our group of safeties definitely needs addressed and sending Lewis on his way is a good start. Speed is an important part but you were starting to sound like the ghost of Al Davis had possessed you. In your analysis you have overlooked Sanders Commings who ran a 4.34 40. With Berry running around 4.4 that should address our issues of speed. Seems to me we should put Berry back in centerfield where he was a Pro Bowler as a rookie, develop Commings and draft a banger of a SS like Craig Loston from in the 4th or Isaiah Lewis from Michigan State in the 6th round.

    Not one of the top draft picks at safety or the top 3 FA’s are any faster than Lewis was. Chris Clemons from the Fins is in the 4.3 range and he is listed as the #4 FA. Sean Smith would be familiar with working together with him and Clemons has been solid. The #1 FA is Jairus Byrd, who is successful, not because of his speed, but due to his awareness and instincts. Many want us to sign him but he has been inconsistent with his number of tackles declining while failing to match up to his rookie year performance of 9 INT’s. Instead of over paying a FA Sutton needs to adjust his use of Berry.

    I believe our 1st round pick should be either a DE to replace Jackson like Jernigan or Hageman or we could go with Quarles or Easley with our 3rd round pick if we want to address our receiving corps first then we should pick Kelvin Benjamin or Jace Amaro with our #1 or if we go DE then Abbrederis, Moncrief or Davis would serve us well.

  • jimfromkcj

    I’ll bet old Al Davis is laughing his butt of in his grave. I wonder how many of you who are talking about needing speed speed speed were making jokes about old Al’s predilection for speed in his draft picks. Seems he was ahead of his time. Of course when you compare his record to the chief’s record it isn’t too hard to figure out who was the best of the two.