Th..."/> Th..."/>

Chiefs Team Success: Defense


This is part two of a two-part evaluation of the Kansas City City Chiefs success as a team. You can read part one here.

These evaluations of the Chiefs in 2011 are seen through the success circle. The success circle takes the evaluation of each player and places them together in a circle. Each player must do their job for the team to be successful as a whole. The more each player contributes, the more well-rounded the team becomes.

Here’s a pre-cap of the evaluation circle process.

The circle evaluation system consists of a numerical rating from 1-10 for each player with one being the worst and 10 being the best.

The evaluation will rate the position and not a specific player only.   Such was the case with the QB position since three players played that spot during the course of the season.

What’s being asked to determine a rating is: What did the Chiefs get out of that position this season and did that player contribute positively to the overall success of the team?

I’m looking globally and specifically at a position to answer that question.

Finally, the evaluation process can come across a bit negative, and while that is not the intention if it sounds negative, it’s only because the Chiefs’ final results were not all positive.

ROLB – 10/10
As a rule, I generally don’t believe in giving out perfect scores because no one is perfect. Even the best athletes at the zenith of their careers will tell you there are things they can do to get better. Having said that… mathematically speaking… if a player rates in the top 4 percent of all the players playing their position, then they should get a 100 percent, or in this case a 10. That describes Tamba Hali. He has played near to, or at, the top of his position for the past three years. Even when others around him are not playing very good, Tamba Hali still plays at a Pro Bowl level. Now, I don’t think Tamba Hali is even close to Derrick Thomas in terms of the overall impact he can have on a game. However, Tamba is better in coverage than DT and this was only his third year playing ROLB. Right now, Hali is the cornerstone of the Chiefs defense. He is that person who everyone else can count on to play at a high level or make a play when needed. Impact on the others around you is a big part of evaluating team success and Hali is right at the top in that department. Tamba is quiet but not flashy like Jared Allen was/is. That kind of silent approach to the game ingratiates those around him and makes him more likable, approachable and palatable. Although I don’t believe in the idea of “perfect,” Tamba Hali comes as close as is humanly possible to being “the perfect team player.”

DB2 – 7/10
Brandon Carr is a good corner. Yes but, I don’t think he’s as good as Brandon Flowers. He’s stepped in and done an admirable job for Flowers when necessary and he’s even covered the other team’s best receivers. While I think Flowers is on the verge of becoming an all-pro corner, which means scoring a nine in my book, he’s not quite there yet. Consequently, Flowers gets an eight and Carr gets a seven. Carr is the free agent everyone is wondering about. No one knows for sure what he’s going to do. When reading a tweet of Carr’s last week he said he wishes everyone would just shut up about football and stop asking him what he’s going to do. That means there’s indecision on his part and in all likelihood he doesn’t even know what he’s going to do yet. Scott Pioli has said before that he wants players who want to be here. It doesn’t sound like Carr knows for sure right now whether or not he wants to be in K.C.. That’s too bad because his team mates are all wondering whether or not he will be one of them next season. Money aside, Carr has a decision to make. Does he want to be in K.C. or does he want to be somewhere else. That will have plenty to do with “team success” for the Chiefs going forward.

Carr Update: I live in the Dallas area and on Tuesday evening, on radio station 105.3, Gavin Dawson reported that the Cowboys interest in Brandon Carr is intense. He also shared a report from an NFL draft guru who has tracked Brandon Carr’s career and said, “Carr had his best season his first season and has been on a downward trend since then.” He gave Carr an overall rating of average. Dawson was suggesting that the Cowboys would be far better off signing Courtland Finnegan but, indicated that Jerry Jones would likely ignore that and attempt to sign both of them. A broadly held delusion here in Cowgirl country is that the team is only a DB or two away from going to a Super Bowl.

RILB – 9/10
Derrick Johnson is finally achieving  the success that anyone who is a Chiefs fan has always hoped he’d achieve. His first Pro Bowl year was memorable. The Chiefs’ ex-head coach Todd Haley “used” Derrick Johnson and made an example out of him… to do what… prove that he’s the BMOC and the one in charge!? The problem is that it placed DJ in a no-win situation when it comes to being a team player. Players who are good should stick up for themselves but DJ couldn’t do that without making Coach Haley look like the bad guy. So, every single time I have seen Johnson interviewed about his relationship with Haley, he down plays it. In other words, he takes the high road. In the meantime, the team was suffering without DJ being set free to go and do his thing which is to roam the football fields of America looking for people to crunch… which he is incredibly good at. I remember when DJ came out of college at Texas the big rip on him was that he would try to go around blockers to get to the ball carrier. Well, he’s not doing that now. He blows frickin’ ball carriers to He77 and all their blockers with them. I have heard national media, more than once, compare DJ to Ray Lewis and say that DJ is better than Ray Ray right now. He has become my favorite defensive player to watch and I can’t wait to see what a year of roaming free in the wonderful world of Crennel will be like for DJ. I also can’t wait to see what kind of compound effect DJ, Hali and Berry have this year on all the other Chiefs defenders. Because of DJ, the team success arrow is pointing up. Way up.

FS – 7/10
I’m giving Kendrick Lewis the benefit of the doubt here because the overall play of the safeties was not stellar in 2011. However, there were enough times that Lewis came up with big plays for this position to earn a seven. In fact, KL stepped up his game in the absence of Eric Berry on the field. Enough so that there is a buzz  of excitement around Chiefs Nation about the Berry and Lewis combination in 2012. Yes, depth is the big issue at safety but I’ll address that issue when I get to the strong safety position.

P – 9/10
Dustin Colquitt has become one of the better punters in the league. However, he is not the best and what hurts the most is that he is now a step beneath his own brother who plays for Denver. I don’t know if you have to live in the Bay area to lead the league in punting or if that’s even a rule now because Andy Lee (49ers) and Shane Lechler (Raiders) led the league in punting average in 2011. Lee, 50.9 and Lechler 50.8. Colquitt finished 12th in the league with a 45.9 average. I don’t know if fans take Colquitt for granted, but I sure don’t. He consistently places the ball inside the 20. His ball often has a knuckle ball effect and that makes it hard to handle for opposing returners. Also, most of the time his kicks bounce back toward the line of scrimmage giving the Chiefs cover men time to get there and down the ball. Aside from the punter, there is probably no one player whose performance impacts so many others on the team. Consequently, I rate Dustin Colquitt closer to a nine than an eight. He’s very important to the Chiefs’ overall team success.

SS – 5/10
What happened at the strong safety position this year is similar to what happened at quarterback. Once the Pro Bowl performer went down, there was no one with any pro level ability on the roster to step in to replace them. This one failing was the single most important failing that brought the Chiefs down in 2011. In other words, if there was someone ready to take over for Eric Berry after he went down, someone who was even halfway decent, then the Chief would likely have won the AFC West crown again in 2011. That would be especially true if the Chiefs had had a good backup quarterback (of course having a good first-string quarterback with would help, too). Strangely enough, the strong safety is often thought to be the quarterback of the defense. That’s true in Eric Berry’s case. So, what does it say about the organization that there was no one of any competence to step in when the starter at safety went down? This was the great failing of the organization in 2011 because the management (coach or GM… it doesn’t matter who) didn’t locate and pay for a competent replacement at multiple positions. In this case… the war was lost, before it was fought. Five out of 10 may be too high for strong safety. Visually and functionally it leaves the success wheel with a big flat tire. It’s a miracle that the defense was as good as it was this year, considering….

LILB – 5/10
I’ve heard a lot of people who are enamored of Jovan Belcher and his play this year. That’s hard for me to see. He’s had two full years to develop or prove himself worthy of the starting position. Had Brandon Siler not been hurt, he would have gotten a major portion of the snaps there.

Overall, LILB is still seen as an area of need by anyone evaluating the Chiefs team needs. The question is, why? And here’s why. London Fletcher of the Washington Redskins recorded 166 tackles from the ILB position in 2011. Jovan Belcher had 87. Almost exactly half. So, that’s what this score reflects. Five out of 10. He’s half as good as the best ILB in the league and I don’t think fans should get too googly eyed about his performance this year because the reality is that the Chiefs finished 26th against the run. The 3-4 defense is set up so that the linemen tie the blockers up so that the LBs can get to the ball carrier. The other LB right next to him, who also had coverage responsibilities, had 131 tackles this year. Did Belcher have less snaps? Yes, but not enough fewer to make up the difference. Besides, if he had to be taken off the field in certain down and distance situations, that’s not a plus for him, it’s a minus. You would think that playing LB next to two all-pros would make you better but it hasn’t. It’s obvious that the Chiefs need to upgrade the starter at LILB. Belcher might make a serviceable backup on running plays. Then again, he might not.

DB1 – 8/10
Aside from the one play in the first game with the Broncos in which Flowers was burned for a long TD, I think Brandon Flowers had a Pro Bowl level season. However, it may take some time for that to happen like it did for Derrick Johnson at LB. Just like LB there are so many other excellent DBs in the league who have name power. It’s a bit of a popularity contest and the most popular kids on campus seem to be the ones attending the prom every year… er… the playoffs. Either that or the East Coast bias sets in. In any event, the Chiefs have one of the best corners in the league in Brandon Flowers. I just wish he’d use some of his friendly influence on his bud, Brandon Carr, but I know it’s hard for Carr when millions are at stake. Flowers is excellent, but Flowers and Carr together in the same defensive backfield has been a luxury.

LOLB – 7/10
Andy Studebaker. Remember him? I didn’t think so. That’s how good Justin Houston played at the end of the year. Now, fans are all aboard and no one can wait to see opposing QBs in the middle of the H & H head on train collision. That would be Hali & Houston. While the year started out strangely with his mini-holdout, the problem was that he, along with the rest of the rookies, received no quality prep time so, it took Houston several months to get his act together. Of course there was his rub with the shrub last February. However, that worked out to the Chiefs’ advantage and now we are looking forward to the H & H show every Sunday next fall at noon. Stay tuned. Seven out of 10 and rising.

LDE – 6/10
It was difficult to generate a score that reflects that Tyson Jackson has both progressed and is still a disappointment after three full seasons as a starter at his left defensive end position. Many people want to point to scheme expectations to justify Jackson’s low performance. Meaning, in the 3-4 defense he’s not supposed to generate  sacks so, don’t judge him on that. That doesn’t explain why other, even average, defensive ends in the league who are also playing in the 3-4 have a lot more sacks than Jackson. Mark Anderson of N.E. had 10 sacks in 2011 while Tyson Jackson had one. You say that’s not a fair comparison because they’re not being asked to do the same things? Bologna. You can even look at teams like the Baltimore Ravens and see that their second best DE has better stats than Jackson. Instead of quoting Haloti Ngata’s totals, use Cory Redding’s. He had 4.5 sacks. Jason Hatcher of the Cowboys had 4.5 sacks. Dwan Edwards (I know what you’re thinking… WHO’S HE ? !) of the Buffalo Bills had 2.5 sacks. Tyson Jackson has two sacks total in his three years as a starter. These aren’t even the best 3-4 defensive ends in the league. Tyson Jackson’s total tackles were up this year so I recognize he’s getting better at stopping the run. However, after three years I had hoped for more out of Jackson than being a situational DE. And that’s all he is, a situational DE. Not too thrifty for the third overall pick in the draft.

NT- 5/10
To quote Charles Barkley, “Father Time has caught up with the veteran”… in this case, Kelly Gregg. It’s too bad too but it seemed to happen right in the middle of the season. Gregg started out really well and then faded fast. Kind of like Thomas Jones did in 2010. The lack of a quality first-string nose tackle has been a glaring weakness for years now and ever since GM Scott Pioli came to town over three years ago, fans have been expecting him to draft someone who could hold down the fort for years to come, much like Vince Wilfork has in N.E. for the past eight years. Jerrell Powe may be able to help but hasn’t risen to the occasion yet. The answer appears to be coming in this draft because this draft is strong in defensive linemen and there are several nose tackles who could fit the bill. However, it just goes to show you that the NT position is an empty void in K.C. and has been for some time. Hopefully that’s about to end. For now, five out of 10 is probably too high.

RDE – 6/10
Everything that’s been said about Tyson Jackson earlier, applies to Glenn Dorsey except Dorsey just finished his fourth season. Dorsey is a little better against the pass but not a ton better. I’m disappointed in Dorsey because he seems to have taken a step backward this season. Now, Dorsey has become the target of a vast number of possible trade rumors… at least among the fans. Everyone and their mother seems to want to trade Dorsey to gain more draft picks. I understand that. Dorsey is not the ideal size that you want to have in a 3-4 DE. In 2010, he was on the field more than any other defensive player. This season he came off the field a lot more in passing situations but, that’s not an excuse for him. Zero sacks in 2011 is not the target. Four sacks in four years is not what fans had in mind when the Chiefs drafted him fifth overall in 2008. That’s a long way away from the hype Dorsey got when he was coming into the league. It’s quite a fall from grace and the six out of 10 score reflects a downward trend.

The scores for both Jackson and Dorsey may have been even lower except I know they have stayed within the scheme and have done what was being asked of them within the 3-4 context. Consequently, I see both Dorsey and Jackson as good team players. They’re just not productive when it comes to pass rushing and that means they’re always going to see limited action. They carry an expensive price tag for limited time players.

Would a good nose tackle make Dorsey and Jackson better? Probably. Are the nose tackle and ILB the positions of greatest need on defense? Yes. Could safety depth have helped to win more games this year. There’s a good chance of that. Looking at the gold blob above you can see how much more circular the defensive circle is than the offensive circle seen below.

It means the Chiefs have a more rounded and full defense than they do an offense. By drafting or signing players at three positions, NT, LILB and safety, the defense could make a major jump this offseason. Dontari Poe might help. Mike Mayock calls Poe a beast. Although, it’s hard not to see the Chiefs taking a OT in the first or second round. Ah, what to do?

What should the Chiefs draft first?

A. Defensive help?

B. Offensive help?

C. Or, trade most of their picks to St. Louis and take RGIII.