December 21, 2011; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets linebackers coach Bob Sutton watches during practice. Mandatory Credit: Tim Farrell/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports
The Kansas City Chiefs defense sent four players to the 2012 Pro Bowl. The overall defense sat near the bottom of the league last season at 20th overall, giving up 356.5 yards per game and nearly 27 points. By most standards, that’s not very good. Giving up close to four touchdowns per game isn’t a way to win footballs games, especially when your offense isn’t producing enough to maintain that pace. And the Chiefs’ 2012 offense definitely didn’t produce four touchdowns per game. But that’s a whole other topic.
To be fair to the Chiefs’ defense, they played most of the season from behind. One only had to watch any Chiefs game from week one until they scored against the Carolina Panthers in week 13 to know that they didn’t have a lead the entire season. While that falls on the offense for not putting points on the board, the defense didn’t exactly hold their own, either. Still, four players of the eleven starters made the NFL All-Star game in Honolulu.
Many considered former Chiefs’ head coach and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to be somewhat of a defensive genius. I’ll admit, I fell into that category like most everyone else. However, the more I watched the Chiefs’ defense and compared it to other defenses, say like from the Pittsburgh Steelers or Chicago Bears, it was easy to see why the nay-sayers to the Crennel philosophy of “bend don’t break” was wearing thing with Chiefs’ fans. Even as horrible as the New York football Jets were last season at just about everything they did, their defense was ranked 8th overall in total yards allowed. That bodes well considering the man who devised that system, Bob Sutton, now calls Kansas City home.
But what’s the difference? Terms have been thrown around this offseason like “Attacking 3-4” and “Block Sucker.” (Okay, I made that second one up.) I don’t claim to be a defensive guru in any way, shape or form, but I like the idea of the team using their players to their utmost strengths.
The Chiefs have, perhaps, one of the more dynamic pass rushing duos in the NFL. While it’s been a couple of seasons since Tamba Hali, we’ll call him “Batman” in this scenario, has gone off in the sack department, it wasn’t long ago that he led the AFC in putting the opposing quarterback down. “Robin” (aka Justin Houston) is a young stud that works the other side of the field and led the team in sacks last season with ten. Many who claim to know more than me about defensive schemes, will say the success Hali and Houston have had is due to the genius of Crennel and the fact that the Chiefs linemen sucked up all the blockers and allowed Batman and Robin to reach the Joker unabated. Of course those same defensive Einsteins also lament – generally at great length – of how much a disappointment defensive linemen Tyson Jackson and the recently departed Glenn Dorsey were because they didn’t get the sack count many thought they would out of college. It would seem to me that this is a case of having your cake and eating it too.
So what does this all mean? Where am I going with all this?
I believe the Chiefs’ defense will be a top five squad this season. I think they have the potential to lead the league in sacks and they could very well turn into the powerhouse “offensive defense” similar to the Chicago Bears of last season. This is why:
Bob Sutton runs an “Attacking 3-4.” While we don’t know exactly what that means quite yet, it will most likely involve much more aggressive blitz packages and using the defensive linemen to do much more than just absorb blocks from the offensive linemen. Sutton will have Jackson, Dontari Poe and newly acquired lineman Mike DeVito trying to get to the quarterback just as hard as Hali and Houston. And oh, by the way, he may throw a wrinkle in there and bring packages where perhaps Brandon Flowers or former Miami Dolphin Shaun Smith blitz from the corner position. Let’s not forget our favorite defensive Chief, Derrick Johnson, coming up the middle on occasion or even the safeties moving up to get after the quarterback. The blitz packages Sutton arranges could involve any and/or all of those scenarios. While I think that will increase the Chiefs’ sack-count, it will serve another purpose as well.
Quarterbacks don’t like to get hit. Really, they don’t even like to get pressured. There are a ton of stats that show when even the great QBs of the game have a defender breathing down their neck, they get nervous and their accuracy goes into the toilet. We won’t even go down the road of the “sack-fumble” in the turnover category. Quarterbacks are taught from a young age that they are the most important person on the field and they become prima-donnas. Roger Goodell and the NFL “competition committee” have done everything in their power to perpetuate this quarterback elitist attitude. They have made every rule imaginable, to protect the signal caller. As long as the ball is out of the quarterback’s hands, he can’t be touched.
So, it stands that if the Chiefs’ defense is in the quarterback’s face all game long – or even better, putting him on his ass – he will start to get jumpy. A jumpy quarterback starts to make bad decisions and starts to hurry his throws. That’s where our much improved secondary comes into play. Between the vets and the rookies, as well as the free agents who have joined the Chiefs this offseason, I think the secondary is the most improved position group on this team. They all have the opportunity to not only prosper under this new “Attacking 3-4” system, but actually thrive. Flowers can fully reach his potential, as can strong safety, Eric Berry. Both are superstars who need the right system to fully showcase their talents. From everything I’ve read, I think this can be it.
Of course, the Chiefs’ offense will have to perform “as advertised” for all this to work. After all, half the reason the defense allowed so many points last season is because they were exhausted from constantly being on the field. Series after series of three-and-outs will do that to you. However, if Alex Smith and company can sustain some drives, and let D.J. and company on defense take a breath and get some water between series on the sidelines, Chiefs’ Kingdom could be in for one hell of a ride this fall.
My final thought, before I go is this: As you enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend out there in the Sea of Red, whether you’re enjoying a barbeque with friends and family, traveling, or taking advantage of any of the thousands of sales that seem to accompany this holiday, please remember why you have this three-day weekend. United States Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy everyday. They are who we honor the last weekend in May. To everyone who has served, who is currently serving and who will serve, I say thank you!
Have a happy and safe Memorial Day Weekend, Addicts. Until next time!