Predicting the Chiefs’ Defensive Depth Chart
By Jason Seibel
May 12, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Sanders Commings (34) catches a pass during the rookie mini camp at the University of Kansas Hospital Training Complex. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
If there was a bright spot to what was the sucking black hole of the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs, it was their defense. Of the six pro-bowlers produced by the Chiefs last season, four came from the “D.” Suffice it to say, that even though there was a huge changeover in the Chiefs’ front office, that shouldn’t translate to changeover on the field. There’s talent on the roster, the coaching staff just has to find a way to gel it together.
Last week, I took a look at the current Chiefs’ depth chart as they head into their “summer vacation” which translates to that six-week period during the summer when there is absolutely nothing football related to report on, so we get “The Hernandez Murder Mystery” on NFL Network. But, I digress. Many of you were concerned about the fact that I placed 28 players on the final 53-man roster on offense. With three spots dedicated to special teams, that only leaves 22 positions for the defensive side of the ball.
As I explained in the comments section last week, my thought process was that the offense would need a bit more help, thus holding on to more players. I could be totally off base here, but this is just my first hack at the roster, I’ll probably take another swing at it once we get into the actual preseason.
Without further ado, here is the defensive depth chart:
The defensive line got what many believe was an upgrade in the off-season. Tyson “Tin-Man” Jackson restructured his contract (making him NOT the second highest paid player on the team) and the Chiefs picked up Mike “Danny” DeVito in free agency. I’m confident these two will be the starters in base 3-4 sets during the season. Originally, I had only Allen Bailey as a back up to them, however with the signing of free agent Austen Lane, I made a change to my original chart, signing him and cutting wide receiver Terrance Copper from my original depth chart. (Like I said earlier, this is a fluid process.)
The Chiefs’ defensive front will be rounded out by the Po(w)e brothers Dontari and Jerrell. We’ve already heard praises from defensive coaches during the mini-camps and OTAs about the level of play from these two. I’m really hoping that Dontari picks up his game this year and becomes the beast I was hoping for when the Chiefs drafted him 11th overall in last year’s draft. Rob Lohr gets the nod as a backup to the big men up front.
The linebackers playing in Chiefs’ red and gold this season have the potential to be the absolute best in the league. I’m not saying that because I’m a Chiefs fan. I’m serious. Three of the four starting linebackers went to the pro-bowl last year. Two of them were the NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players of 2013.” The group as a whole is only missing one piece to be truly unstoppable.
In the middle, Derrick Johnson obviously is the starter. He’s the “quarterback of the defense” and (hopefully) a Chief for life. But, who will be standing next to him? Who will that role? As it stands right now, my money is on rookie, Nico Johnson, and not just because I want to hear the Johnson and Johnson references all throughout the season. I honestly was surprised the kid fell as far as he did in the draft, and I’m glad the Chiefs were the team to scoop him up. Akeem Jordan who the Chiefs picked up in free agency will fill in well too, but I think the rookie gets the nod. (Note: Obviously this is written still not knowing the outcome of the Desmond Bishop sweepstakes. If the Chiefs sign him, he’s starting next to DJ and all bets are off with Nico Johnson and Akeem Jordan.)
On the outside, the Chiefs are set. Tamba Hali was drafted into the league as a pass rushing, defensive end to work opposite Jared Allen. Allen was traded and the Chiefs converted from a 4-3 to a 3-4, moving Hali back to the OLB position. He hasn’t stopped since. Even though his stats suffered last season, I don’t think he’s slowing down at all. I expect to see quite a few “Tamba-hawk Chops” this season as hunts down opposing quarterbacks in defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s “attacking 3-4” defense.
Working the other side of the field from Hali, is Justin Houston who is just getting his start in the league, but catching on like wild fire. Houston led the team in sacks last season and shows no intention of slowing down. If teams throw an additional blocker to cover Hali, it leaves Houston with the ability to get to the passer. If the help comes to Houston’s side, Hali can bull rush his way to the QB. It’s a win-win for the Chiefs. Backing them up, I see rookie Mike Capatano and free agent acquisition, Frank Zombo. Either way, I’m excited about the prospect of the Chiefs linebacking corps this season.
If the Chiefs’ defense was the bright spot on the team last year, the dark spot in the bright spot was the secondary. I’m not saying they were bad, but they definitely showed room for…check that. They were bad. The team was never really able to recover from the loss of Brandon Carr playing opposite starting corner back, Brandon Flowers. Carr wanted to leave KC in the worst way, and he did, signing a ridiculous contract in Dallas. Former Chiefs’ GM, Scott Pioli signed free agent Stanford Routt to take Carr’s place, but that never really panned out, and Chiefs’ fans were forced to sit though horrible secondary play from Jalil Brown and Javier Arenas.
The Chiefs made some serious upgrades this season in their secondary. The first move was to sign former Miami Dolphin, Shaun Smith. Despite the fact that Shaun was the second “Smith” picked up by the Chiefs in the off-season, he will make just as much of a contribution as that other guy on offense. Smith is a big bodied corner back who will compliment Flowers well, and start opposite him in base packages.
With Javier Arenas being shipped off to Tempe, Arizona for fullback Anthony Sherman, the third cornerback position, commonly referred to as the “nickel back” was left vacant. From all accounts, Sanders Commings, the rookie out of Georgia, could take that spot, if they don’t move him to safety full time. Rounding out the reserve positions at cornerback are free agent Dunta Robinson and as much as I hated to put him there, Jalil Brown. In fact the only reason Brown gets the nod is the couple of great special teams plays he had last season. Otherwise I would have sent him packing.
Rounding out the secondary – and the defense – are the safeties. Discussing the free safeties first, I’ll say up front that I’m a Kendrick Lewis fan. I’ve been a fan of his from his rookie year. I just don’t think his busted up shoulder and his non-hitting ability translates well to the position of free safety. Currently I have Hussain Abdullah ahead of him (even though the guy took last year off of football for personal, religious reasons) but Abdullah could just as easily be replaced by Commings if the Chiefs decide to move him over to FS. Regardless, I just don’t see an injury prone guy like Lewis getting the starting non from a coaching staff who doesn’t have any loyalty to him.
On the strong side, the Chiefs have a star and they know it. Eric Berry was drafted because of his leadership and altheleticism. After a breakout rookie year, he was sidelined as one of the “ACL Trio” and got off to a slow start coming back last season. However, he gathered steam towards the end of the season and even managed to make the pro-bowl. If the Chiefs can put together a couple of good seasons, I think Berry is one of those guys that becomes a household name like Polimalu or Reed.
There it is, Addicts; my predictions for defense and last week the offense.
The current count is 23 players on defense, 27 players on offense and three players on special teams. Let me know what you think. Am I off, or am I close? I look forward to the discussion.
Until next time, Addicts!