Chiefs Kingdom is a scant 48 hours away from its first real look at the 2014 Kansas City Chiefs. When the final whistle blows on Thursday night, there could be a few answers to some of the offseason’s burning questions. One of the most commonly discussed areas of concern for this team centers around its defensive secondary. Over the past five months, the position group lost four players to free agency. Kendrick Lewis is now Houston’s “problem”, Quintin Demps joined former teammate Geoff Schwartz in the Big Apple, Brandon Flowers now plays for division rival San Diego, and Dunta Robinson’s somewhere selling insurance. For some, that’s reason enough to have pause about one of Kansas City’s trouble spots in 2013.
Others, like myself, are less panicked and willing to reserve judgment until the group has been found lacking. I happen to think those players were the most ill-fitting pieces on the back end of the defensive puzzle. Flowers is best suited for a zone coverage scheme. He was originally drafted by Herman Edwards to play in the Tampa-2 defense.
Lewis doesn’t have the range, recognition, recovery speed (he registered a 4.75 40 time in college), or tackling technique necessary to be a free safety in a single-high system. Demps, on the other hand, was fast enough to be effective in the role, but rarely in the right position to use it to his advantage. As for Robinson, well, he may be the lone personnel blemish on Dorsey’s short record as general manager. The game’s passed him by. In short terms, if Kansas City had to lose four defensivebacks, they couldn’t have picked a better quartet.
What reasons, if any, are there to have confidence in the secondary?
I’m glad you asked. I’m not sure how persuasive I can be this early on a Tuesday morning, but I’ll do my best to allay your fears. If all hearts and minds are clear, let’s begin:
1. The Chiefs are returning five players from the 2013 secondary.
Stay with me. I realize this might not be a compelling factoid, but I think continuity is always vital to year-over-year improvement. Especially, when those returning are comparatively the strongest members of the 2013 group. Another year in Bob Sutton’s scheme should aid their growth and maturation. Scheme-appropriate personnel is likely to allow Sutton to stick with his preferred coverages throughout the year. He didn’t have that luxury down the stretch last season and was forced to play lots of Cover 2 and Cover 3 to compensate.
2. Chris Owens is a suitable replacement for Brandon Flowers.
I’ve been asked all offseason about how detrimental the departure of Flowers will be to the secondary. I’ve given the same answer consistently — I don’t think the loss will affect the defense as much as people think. Veteran cornerback Chris Owens is better equipped to play in the slot. Make no mistake, I’m not suggesting he’s the better overall corner, but I do believe his skillset is more ideal for the role he’s being asked to play (mainly in sub packages).
For starters, he’s considerably faster than Flowers (his 4.44 40 time is more than a tenth of a second faster than Brandon’s best). He’s also the kind of antagonistic, physical player you want in the slot. According to Pro Football Focus, he received a +2.2 grade for his performance last year (that would’ve been tops among all Chiefs’ corners in 2013). PFF ranked him 45th out of 110 cornerbacks in the NFL.
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