There has been a lot of discussion the last three days about the moves the Denver Broncos have made in addition to the losses the Chiefs have suffered. Much of that discussion has been about how Denver has improved far beyond a level the Chiefs can match or surpass in 2014.
According to PFF, however, some of those Denver additions and Chiefs subtractions may not be significant as previously thought. In a piece for ESPN Insider (subscription required) PFF broke down five contracts made in the first two days of free agency that didn’t make a lot of sense to them. What we find is is the Chiefs may be improving via addition by subtraction while the Broncos are just trying to stay above the water mark they set last season.
Other than interceptions (where he trailed by one), Rodgers-Cromartie bettered Talib’s coverage numbers across the board in 2013. He allowed fewer catches (30 to 38), 143 fewer yards, a lower percentage of targets to be caught (44.1 to 53.5) and broke up more passes (10 to 7 PDs) while passers throwing into his coverage ended the season with a rating of just 67.8 as opposed to the 72.3 when aiming at Talib.
The article points out Rodgers-Cromartie had a better coverage grade (+11) compared to Talib (-5.8) and DRC didn’t have games like Talb had where he was completely destroyed by a receiver (i.e. Talib vs. Josh Gordon). Finally, they note New England was able to replace Talib with the cheaper and better Darrelle Revis.
Imagine if Denver had landed Revis instead? Actually, no, don’t do that.
Add to the mix Denver is losing Champ Bailey next season and Chris Harris will be recovering from an ACL injury he suffered in the playoffs. It wouldn’t be out of the question to think Harris will see the quality of his play dip in 2014 as he tries to get his knee back in shape. (Side note: Von Miller is also coming off an ACL injury.)
To recap: Denver’s secondary is losing Bailey, downgrading from DRC, and has a rehabbing Harris. Does this mean the Broncos are going to have a terrible secondary? No. But maybe we should rethink some of this “Dream Team” talk.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs are losing Tyson Jackson, and PFF isn’t particularly high on the investment Scott Pioli and his Atlanta Falcons made in him.
The Falcons seem intent on finding run-stoppers this offseason, it’s just a shame that hasn’t been the league’s best strategy since about 1994.
Ouch. Moving on…
Eleven 3-4 defensive ends got more pressure in 2013 than Jackson has generated in five years in Kansas City. He has posted just 38 pressures in his pro career. To put that into some perspective, J.J. Watt notched 85 last season alone, more than twice as many.
Part of the issue Kansas City’s defense had in the second half of the season was they did not have a secondary pass rush beyond Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Dontari Poe provided some in the first half of the season but the elbow injury to Houston made taking Poe away in the passing game a little bit easier for opponents.
It is virtually impossible for the Chiefs to get less pass rush production from Jackson’s spot on the defensive line. If PFF’s 38 pressures statistic is to be believed – which there is no reason to doubt it – then Jackson provided on average 0.5 quarterback pressures per game over his career in Kansas City (74 games). Are you going to suggest to me the Chiefs can’t find a guy off the street who cannot at least average 0.5 pressures per game and not cost $5 million per season?
It should be noted Chiefs free agent target Vance Walker totaled 41 pressures – or three more than Jackson has in his entire career – for the Raiders in 2013. Add Walker and a draft pick in addition to Alan Bailey and Mike Catapano (nine pressures in 75 pass rushing snaps in 2013) and the interior pass rush should improve tremendously.
Yes, the Chiefs will likely take a step back at the position when it comes to run defense but I’ll gladly trade that step back for an improved pass rush. And the Chiefs still have two of the better interior run defenders in the NFL in Mike DeVito and Poe.
PFF’s post is a great example of how big names added in free agency do not always mean the team got better. Targeting affordable players who fill specific needs or roles for the Chiefs will give them the financial flexibility to keep players like Houston, Eric Berry, and Dontari Poe when they become free agents over the next two years.
It isn’t an easy process but John Dorsey is doing the right things to make the Chiefs better in 2014 and beyond.