Joe Mays' Maleficence And What It Means For The Chiefs' Defense

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ma•lef•i•cent (m -l f  -s nt)


Harmful or evil in intent or effect.

If we were playing the word association game, what adjective might comport with the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense? “Talented” is certainly one. “Athletic” could be another. How about “tough”? Any takers? No? I think you’d be hard-pressed to characterize them that way. They’re a gifted bunch, but lack the kind of edge we typically ascribe to a great defense. What defensive players from the 2013 roster play with a nasty demeanor? Eric Berry certainly has it in him, but I’m not sure that defines his game.

I hate to undersell the importance of execution, but I think a nastier defense might’ve been able to squelch the second half surge of the Indianapolis Colts. Kansas City bowed out of the postseason in unceremonious fashion because the defensive side of the ball couldn’t get a stop when it needed one. I’d attribute part of that failure to attitude. It’s a problem the Chiefs may have solved with the addition of former Broncos and Texans linebacker Joe Mays.

Mays is the kind of football player you hate when he’s on the opposite sideline. He’s a dirty, cheap shot artist when he’s wearing a different color jersey. I’m sure you remember his playing days in Denver. Mays obliterated former Chiefs’ tight end Tony Moeaki on an onside kick. Two years later, in a late-September game in 2012, he leveled quarterback Matt Schaub with a vicious hit that cost him part of his ear. We all hated him then, but outfit him in a red-and-yellow uni and he could help an impressive core of defensive talent develop an identity.


Last year, other than boasting one of the league’s top pass-rushing duos, I’m not convinced the Chiefs’ defense had an intimidation factor. Opposing offenses often exploited Kansas City’s soft spot. How often did a receiver, coming across the middle of the field, have to worry about being blown up by a fearsome linebacker? Akeem Jordan was a serviceable ILB, but he wasn’t exactly an enforcer. Mays is his hulking antithesis. In simple terms, Jordan is Dr. Bruce Banner and Mays is his big, green alter-ego.

Joe Mays is a former draft pick of current head coach Andy Reid. He was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles in the sixth-round of the 2008 NFL Draft. His stay in the City of Brotherly Love was short-lived. Mays played just two nondescript seasons for the Eagles before being traded to the Broncos for runningback J.J. Arrington. He’d spend the next three seasons at Invesco/Sports Authority Field. Despite his best season as a pro in 2011, his time in Denver was mostly marred by injuries. Mays was eventually cut by the Broncos and spent last season in Houston.

As a Texan, Mays received a -1.8 grade from Pro Football Focus (he was +1.1 against the run). He also made a career-high 13 starts for Houston. One of the knocks on Mays is his inability to stay healthy. To date, he’s never played a full 16 games in a single season. Staying healthy in Kansas City is a prime objective for Mays and head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder. If he can stay on the field, he’s likely to be a slight upgrade over predecessor Akeem Jordan.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Houston Texans

Stopping the run is Mays’ defensive strong suit. In 2012, he received the league’s top rank in what PFF calls Run Stop Percentage. Need a point-of-reference? Kansas City’s Derrick Johnson came in 20th in the same category that year. Mays will also prove valuable to special teams coordinator Dave Toub. He’s a standout in that third phase of the game. He’ll bring a significant level of tenacity to both the Chiefs’ defensive and special teams units.

I believe there’s value in having a defensive player in the mold of Mays. Remember defensive tackle Shaun Smith? He was the kind of back alley beast that struck fear into his opponents (especially in a scramble for a loose ball — pardon the pun). Smith’s presence on that 2010 team led to the division title and a postseason berth. That year, incidentally, was the last time the Chiefs won the AFC West. He wasn’t the singular hero of the unit, but his contributions were important to their 11th-ranked defense.

What say you, Addicts? Were you happy with the acquisition of Joe Mays? Can he really help instill a tougher mindset into his defensive counterparts? Do you think he’ll be an upgrade over Akeem Jordan? Use the comment section below to begin the discussion. As always, we appreciate y0ur readership and support.

Until next time, Addicts!

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  • Lyle Graversen

    I agree 100%. I’ve liked the Mays signing from day one. You nailed it when you said he’s the type of player you hate when he plays for the other team and love when he plays for yours. If healthy, I think he’ll be an upgrade over Jordan and hopefully that nasty attitude will rub off a little on the rest of the D.

    Great write up Reach!

    • Stacy D. Smith

      Thanks, Lyle.

  • berttheclock

    Ah, Smith, the human vise grip. One thing about such players and I include Lambeer of the Detroit Pistons in this, is how they can affect the mindset of opposing players. Case in point was Lambeer. He developed such a mean rep that he didn’t have to do anything untoward on the court. He had his opponents all playing only with him and forgetting about the rest of their game. Smith had the same affect after word was passed along about his vise gripping agenda. The opposing offensive linemen were more concerned about not allowing him to make such contact with them or trying to attempt some sort of payback that they didn’t concentrate on what they really were supposed to do on the line. I would love to see a healthy Mays making the opposing linemen start wondering where he was on the field.

    If memory serves me well, I believe that first vise grip at Arrowhead was against the Niners. Of course, playing “The Nutcracker” over the loud speaker was merely coincidental.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      Lambeer, Mahorn, Thomas, Rodman, etc. That whole Pistons team played the game that way. They could really take a player out of a game mentally.

  • Roger Mihalko

    I didn’t like the signing because of his injury history. I thought Jordan should have been kept for depth. Its water under the bridge at this point, Mays is here and targeted as the starter. I felt last year before the season started that Inside linebacker was a weak spot on the roster, and it remains that way this year.

    DJ is awesome and the one true ILB we have… the weak spot is no backup…..yes Mays is here but an injury queen….. we have a bunch of young ILB’s (three johnsons) all of which have been injured or not really demonstrated skills to be a starter. Berry played last year more as inside linebacker than safety….mainly because no one stepped up to be the stud on that side opposite DJ.

    I would like to see Nico Johnson Step up and be that starter opposite DJ. The other two johnsons step up as A grade depth as well as Martin. Will that happen?? not sure.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      He played 13 games just last year and is currently healthy. We’ll have to wait and see what happens once they actually start taking contact.

      • mnelson52

        I think Mays is an upgrade over Jordan. I was also hoping Nico would step up this year. To me, injury is a concern for every player and Mays played more games last year than a few of our current starters. I do hope he can help install a bit of that mean streak within the team, but keep the legal hits. I know everyone’s tired of hearing about the Hawks, but they allowed the short passes to be caught and hit them so hard they didn’t really want to be targeted much. They won by not allowing YAC.

        • Stacy D. Smith

          That’s the key. Last year, the Chiefs’ defense allowed far too many big plays off of short and intermediate throws.

  • berttheclock

    Why not bring in Quentin Groves as backup at OLB?

    • Stacy D. Smith

      You’re pretty high on Groves, huh?

  • mnelson52

    Good article Stacy

    • Stacy D. Smith

      Thanks, Nelson!

  • Hawthorne

    If Nico comes along like he should, we may not have to worry about Mays going down. Would like to see more attitude from the Chiefs D, a little less consummate professional a little more rabid wild beast.

    • Michael Shaw

      You mean like we used to have with Dan Saleamua, Neil Smith, Deron Cherry, Kevin Ross and Albert Lewis on the defense with Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas???

      • Stacy D. Smith

        The good old days.

    • mnelson52

      Nico and Sanders were known as hard hitters. I thought they would bring a little of the beast but have yet to make the starting roster.

      • Stacy D. Smith

        Give them time. It’s tough to contribute in year one.

      • Hawthorne

        Both had injuries, if all goes well they should start working their way in more and more as the season progresses. If Nico isn’t fighting for starts by years end I would expect him to be gone.

  • cyberry

    The Chief’s have been missing “punch you in the mouth” presence in the heart of the defense. It’s perfect he’s right behind Poe..

    • Stacy D. Smith

      Couldn’t agree more.

  • Stan Colbert

    The physicality of which you speak is often a byproduct of confidence in knowing what you are doing and have the talent to get it done. I loook forward to a little more of that aggression this year!

    • Stacy D. Smith

      The defensive design IS aggressive, but I’m not sure the defensive talent has much of a mean streak. Mays certainly does and I hope that rubs off on all of them.

  • Merlin_Arrowhead_Addict

    Personally, I don’t want players that take cheap shots. However, I do like fast, aggressive, physical defenses that play with a nasty attitude.

    • berttheclock

      Agreed. An example of a cheap shot was the wide out from Buffalo who cut Berry, then, both he and his HC vehemently denied it.

      • Merlin_Arrowhead_Addict

        Stevie Johnson, if I recall. yes, that was a cheap shot. Berry was not really involved in the play.

  • ladner morse

    Really nice piece Reach! I agree that Mays will be a difference maker. I think he’s right in that age category where he can take advantage of all the experience he has while still knowing when to lay the wood on opponents. I think we’ll see his best year ever which should also free the players around him… as if they need freeing.

    It does raise a question for you though… so do you still think Nico Johnson has a future on the Chiefs’ first team if they keep bringing in guys to start in front of him? (… just thought I’d rekindle that old debate from a year ago…..)

    • mnelson52

      I think if he doesn’t develop well this year, It will be his last as a Chiefs. We should have around 11 picks in the draft next year, so there may be a few shipped out if not up to par.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      The Mays signing suggests they aren’t yet comfortable with Nico Johnson, but it’s only been a year. There’s still time for him to make a contribution to this team.

  • Arrowhead Magic

    I liked this signing. I think he’ll help set the tone in games with his big hits. For example in week 2 when the Broncos set up on Welker on an illegal pick play and then Mays lights him up, they’ll think twice before running that crap again.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      Can’t wait!

  • Johnny

    I’m happy with the acquisition of Joe Mays. I don’t feel that it’s an upgrade, but it’s not a downgrade either. Jordan was a good fit with the Chiefs last year. I think Mays will be very similar to Jordan when it comes to production and playing with a new team. I feel Mays can easily help instill a tougher mindset into his defensive counterparts, he just has to prove he can stay healthy which is a tough task for him. I’m pretty positive he’s well prepared and well equipped for the challenge.

  • Jim Harper

    If he can stay on the field then he should have a positive impact on this defense who I am getting more pumped about on a daily basis. Just read about Bailey today and the loss of Jackson is a positive. Houston holding out is giving Ford valuable time with the first unit, and I can’t wait to see how the secondary shakes out. Things are looking up in Chief’s kingdom.

  • Suzi Conger

    Great article Stacy. I previously knew nothing about Mays. Thanks for the insight