We continue our offseason evaluation of the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster. We’ve already taken a look at Jovan Belcher and Barry Richardson. Today we move back to the defensive side of the ball to evaluate our first rookie, Kendrick Lewis.
In many ways, Lewis was the surprise of the season for the Chiefs. Going into last year’s draft, most assumed that if the Chiefs did draft Eric Berry to play strong safety that he would be playing alongside Jarred Page. Page, however, had other ideas and decided not to sign his tender offer so the Chiefs decided to trade him to the New England Patriots for a conditional draft pick in September of 2010.
The Chiefs had prepared themselves for Page’s future departure by drafting FS Kendrick Lewis in the 5th round. Lewis quickly impressed his coaches and while he wasn’t originally named as the starter at FS, he quickly took over the roll.
Some folks have question how much Lewis played vs. John McGraw but thanks to our friends at Pro Football Focus, I can tell you.
Snaps: (including the playoffs)
Kendrick Lewis: 879 (played in 13 games)
John McGraw: 456 (played in 14 games)
In fact, some folks around the site mentioned that they thought the Chiefs played McGraw too much in the playoff game. This is not really true. McGraw was only on the field for 19 of the 80 defensive snaps in the playoff game. The reason it seemed like McGraw was on the field more than he actually was is because he was playing so poorly. In fact, the Baltimore game was McGraw’s worst game of the season by a long shot. But we’ll talk about McGraw later.
Penalties: Drew one.
Missed Tackles: 8
QB Hits: 1
QB Pressures: 0
*Solo tackles constituting an offensive failure
Run Defense: -0.2
Pass Defense: +2.1
Pass Rush: +0.2
I am definitely listing Lewis as an ascending starter.
The first think I have to keep reminding myself when it comes to Lewis is that he was a 5th round pick. His numbers indicate that he was just slightly above average (0.0 would be an average grade) but the fact that he was selected in the 5th round makes his grade more impressive as far as I am concerned.
Lewis only had 4 games where he was graded less than average. His first (and worst) was his very first game against the San Diego Chargers. In that game, Lewis was graded at a -2.8. He also struggled in the Seattle game and the second Oakland game with grades of -1.4 and -1.2 respectively. He got a slight negative mark against the Jaguars coming in at -0/4.
Other than that, Lewis was always graded to the positive, even if his grades weren’t spectacularly high. His best games were against the Bills (+1.2) and the Rams (+2.7).
Lewis struggled a bit in run defense, though he wasn’t expected to some up in run support much as Eric Berry filled that roll. He excelled in pass defense, in fact of the 4 games Lewis missed with injury, the Chiefs lost 3. Those games included the Denver shellacking and the Texans comeback. In both of those games the Chiefs could have used help in the secondary. They also lost the Raiders game in Oakland when they were without Lewis. The only game the Chiefs won without Lewis on the field was the Broncos game at Arrowhead where KC prevailed 10-7. I’m not saying that the Chiefs would have performed better in those games had Lewis played but you have to admit it is an interesting fact.
Lewis needs to work on his tackling a bit but he showed remarkable poise in his rookie season, especially given his draft stock. Now that he is a fill fledged NFL players, his draft position becomes irrelevant. If he wants to continue to start at FS for the Chiefs, Lewis will certainly have to improve but with only one year under his belt, there is no reason to believe he won’t.
In fact, it is kind of looking like the Chiefs got a big steal in Lewis. A lot of folks were predicting him to go in the 4th round but then he ran a slow 40 time (4.73) at the combine and saw his stock plummet. Before the draft, NFL Draft Scout was projecting him as a 7th round pick with the possibility of going undrafted. Lewis had been clocked at running around a 4.5 in the 40 before so his run at the combine was likely on the low end. He may not be the fastest guy in the world his primary job in Crennel’s defense is to play center field and it is something he did well reeling in 3 interceptions in his rookie season.
I think the Chiefs certainly need depth at safety as there is pretty much no one behind Lewis and Berry but Lewis is definitely a starter for next year and possibly beyond. I’d say Lewis, along with Tony Moeaki and Eric Berry KC’s most promising rookies.
Chiefs Roster Evaluation: