ma•lef•i•cent (m -l f -s nt)
Harmful or evil in intent or effect.
If we were playing the word association game, what adjective might comport with the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense? “Talented” is certainly one. “Athletic” could be another. How about “tough”? Any takers? No? I think you’d be hard-pressed to characterize them that way. They’re a gifted bunch, but lack the kind of edge we typically ascribe to a great defense. What defensive players from the 2013 roster play with a nasty demeanor? Eric Berry certainly has it in him, but I’m not sure that defines his game.
I hate to undersell the importance of execution, but I think a nastier defense might’ve been able to squelch the second half surge of the Indianapolis Colts. Kansas City bowed out of the postseason in unceremonious fashion because the defensive side of the ball couldn’t get a stop when it needed one. I’d attribute part of that failure to attitude. It’s a problem the Chiefs may have solved with the addition of former Broncos and Texans linebacker Joe Mays.
Mays is the kind of football player you hate when he’s on the opposite sideline. He’s a dirty, cheap shot artist when he’s wearing a different color jersey. I’m sure you remember his playing days in Denver. Mays obliterated former Chiefs’ tight end Tony Moeaki on an onside kick. Two years later, in a late-September game in 2012, he leveled quarterback Matt Schaub with a vicious hit that cost him part of his ear. We all hated him then, but outfit him in a red-and-yellow uni and he could help an impressive core of defensive talent develop an identity.
Last year, other than boasting one of the league’s top pass-rushing duos, I’m not convinced the Chiefs’ defense had an intimidation factor. Opposing offenses often exploited Kansas City’s soft spot. How often did a receiver, coming across the middle of the field, have to worry about being blown up by a fearsome linebacker? Akeem Jordan was a serviceable ILB, but he wasn’t exactly an enforcer. Mays is his hulking antithesis. In simple terms, Jordan is Dr. Bruce Banner and Mays is his big, green alter-ego.
Joe Mays is a former draft pick of current head coach Andy Reid. He was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles in the sixth-round of the 2008 NFL Draft. His stay in the City of Brotherly Love was short-lived. Mays played just two nondescript seasons for the Eagles before being traded to the Broncos for runningback J.J. Arrington. He’d spend the next three seasons at Invesco/Sports Authority Field. Despite his best season as a pro in 2011, his time in Denver was mostly marred by injuries. Mays was eventually cut by the Broncos and spent last season in Houston.
As a Texan, Mays received a -1.8 grade from Pro Football Focus (he was +1.1 against the run). He also made a career-high 13 starts for Houston. One of the knocks on Mays is his inability to stay healthy. To date, he’s never played a full 16 games in a single season. Staying healthy in Kansas City is a prime objective for Mays and head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder. If he can stay on the field, he’s likely to be a slight upgrade over predecessor Akeem Jordan.
Stopping the run is Mays’ defensive strong suit. In 2012, he received the league’s top rank in what PFF calls Run Stop Percentage. Need a point-of-reference? Kansas City’s Derrick Johnson came in 20th in the same category that year. Mays will also prove valuable to special teams coordinator Dave Toub. He’s a standout in that third phase of the game. He’ll bring a significant level of tenacity to both the Chiefs’ defensive and special teams units.
I believe there’s value in having a defensive player in the mold of Mays. Remember defensive tackle Shaun Smith? He was the kind of back alley beast that struck fear into his opponents (especially in a scramble for a loose ball — pardon the pun). Smith’s presence on that 2010 team led to the division title and a postseason berth. That year, incidentally, was the last time the Chiefs won the AFC West. He wasn’t the singular hero of the unit, but his contributions were important to their 11th-ranked defense.
What say you, Addicts? Were you happy with the acquisition of Joe Mays? Can he really help instill a tougher mindset into his defensive counterparts? Do you think he’ll be an upgrade over Akeem Jordan? Use the comment section below to begin the discussion. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.
Until next time, Addicts!