An Ode To Block Eating


The Chiefs can’t get to the quarterback.

That was the difference yesterday.  Matt Cassel isn’t that bad, and Matt Moore isn’t that good.  There were plenty of things that went wrong for the Chiefs, and plenty that went right for Miami.  But when one QB is running for his life and the other has a constant, perfect pocket, the outcome is obvious.

I’m not going to talk about our offensive line today, because I don’t think thats a dire situation.  Barry Richardson is awful, but the line as a group is good enough to provide decent protection most of the time.  What we saw from them isn’t the norm.  And in any case, even if it were, there really isn’t much we could do about it at this point. 

The defensive line is another matter entirely.  What we saw from them was very much the norm.  And I think a possible solution is sitting right in front of our faces.  Find out what it is after the jump:

Lets start with this: almost 60% of offensive plays in the NFL are pass plays.  Not surprising, but maybe not given enough weight, either.  Average yards per rushing play in the NFL is usually just a tick above 4, if I’m not mistaken.  Average yards per passing play among starting NFL QBs this season is over 7.  Most teams rack up twice as many yards through the air as on the ground, and the scoring discrepancy can be even wider (case in point, Chiefs).  So why is our defense’s base set designed to stop the run?  Or for that matter, why would any base set be designed that way?

Most teams in the NFL understand, at least on an intellectual level, that the pass is king.  But in practice, nothing has really changed.  Gritty old football guys still think stopping the run is key, and by and large, they’re still the people coordinating defenses.  What do you think Gunther Cunningham thinks is more important, stopping the pass or stopping the run?

Here’s another question: how many times have you seen someone on a message board or blog say that a 3-4 defensive end’s job isn’t to pressure the QB, its to occupy blockers.  1,000?  10,000?  In all seriousness, I’ve read that several hundred times.  Its been relentlessly drilled into our heads ever since Tin Man was picked.  What we’re being told, essentially, is that our starting defensive ends, in our base set, only have responsibilities in the running game.  The passing game is not their province.  Thats how the defense is set up.  These guys are only expected to be useful on 40% of plays.  Does that seem archaic to anyone else?

Through eight games, Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey have combined for zero sacks.  I’m not going to talk about where these guys were drafted, or how much money they make, or any of that.  All I’m saying is that these players cannot rush the passer.  At all.  I think we can all agree on this. 

Romeo Crennel, bless his heart, understands their limitations.  On obvious passing downs, both of those guys come out.  Allen Bailey and Justin Houston may not have sacked anyone yet, but they at least have the potential to.  Crennel understands that makes them more valuable than Tin Man and Dorsey if the QB is dropping back.  Repeat: on 60% of defensive plays, Allen Bailey is more valuable to this team, right now, than Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson.  Think about that. 

Am I saying Dorsey and Tin Man suck?  No, that is not what I’m saying (in this article).  By all accounts, they can play the run.  Seeing as how that is the less important, and less frequent, aspect of defensive play, it seems to me they shouldn’t automatically be locks for the base set.  Goal line, and obvious running situations?  Sure.  First and ten?  Debatable.

The Chiefs need to find more snaps for Wallace Gilberry.  I know he’s been something of a disappointment thus far, but he’s the only guy who laid a finger on Matt Moore yesterday.  And he’s our only defensive lineman who has shown any ability, in his NFL career, to rush the passer.  That makes him extremely valuable to this defense, disappointing start or no.  I think the base set needs to feature him at RDE.  Enen in a 3-4, its still the QBs blind side, and its still a position that will be going after the quarterback for many plays every game.  Having Dorsey there is a waste.  He and Tin Man should be competing for the LDE spot. 

Wally Gilby may be a liability against the run, but Dorsey and Jackson are a clear liability against the pass.  Why should the former matter so much more than the latter?  NFL offenses being what they are, shouldn’t it matter less?

Lets go crazy here and say Gilberry’s presence in the base set would cost us .5 yards per running play.  That seems extremely high to me, but lets go with it.  If a team runs 25 times per game, maybe 15-18 are against the base defense*?  In this scenario, Gilby would cost us 7-9 yards per game.  How much do you think a consistent 2nd pass-rush threat is worth?  More or less than 7 yards?  How about more or less than 20 yards?

*The others being obvious running plays where we could conceivably have Dorsey and Tin Man both in, for their specialty.  Or a few surprise runs on passing downs, when Gilby would’ve been in anyway.

Its also much easier to cover up a liability against the run than it is a liability against the pass.  We could shade the nose towards Gilby, crowd the box, rotate the linebackers.  If it really comes down to it, you can find ways to stop the run.  And even on his worst play, Gilberry is going to occupy at least one blocker.  Isn’t that what Jackson and Dorsey do, most of the time?  I’m not going to claim Gilby would hold the point of attack as well as a bigger man, I’m just saying there are ways to gameplan for that.  How do you gameplan for a defensive line that cannot sack a quarterback, ever?

I think our defense has a lot of talent, but the blueprint for beating them is out there for anyone that wants it.  Pass on the early downs, double-team Tamba Hali.  As long as the formations don’t scream pass, your QB will be rushed by the likes of Kelly Gregg, GlennGarry Glenn Dorsey, and Tin Man.  Thats a recipe for success for any NFL offense that chooses to exploit it. 

The Chiefs need to adjust before its too late.  The one-dimensional game of our current defensive ends could actually end up being a blessing in disguise if it serves as the catalyst for a more advanced defensive approach.  I think Crennel and Haley will soon realize, if they haven’t already, that our defense can’t go on like this.  We have 9 sacks on the season, and six of them came from Tamba Hali.  We need to think outside the box here, or it could turn into a long year for this defense.  And in this case “think outside the box” means “do the logical thing.”

Free Wallace Gilberry.  Who’s with me?