In 2014, the Kansas City Chiefs had a solid defense. Bob Sutton’s group finished second in points allowed, seventh in yards permitted and second against the pass, but a ghastly 28th versus the run. The issue became more glaring as the season wore on, with the duo of James-Michael Johnson and Josh Mauga wearing down.
A huge part of the defense’s struggle against the run was the losses of inside linebacker Derrick Johnson and run-stuffing defensive end Mike DeVito. Both tore their Achilles in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans and missed the rest of the campaign.
Both are on track for full recoveries by training camp and with each entering the final year of their contracts, there should be ample motivation. The question is whether the additions of DeVito, 30, and Johnson, 32, will make the desired impact to a defense which could go from solid to spectacular.
General manager John Dorsey apparently believes both can still play. While DeVito did take a pay cut, he was not undermined by bringing in veteran competition. In fact, Dorsey allowed Kevin Vickerson to walk and released Vance Walker. With Johnson, he is clearly starting without competition while Mauga will now play the role that James-Michael Johnson had last year.
With both on the field for in 2013, the Chiefs only ranked 22nd against the run and 26th in yards per attempt allowed. Considering both are two years older and coming off significant injuries, there is a legitimate concern that Kansas City will be a sieve against run-first teams. Dorsey’s acquisition of safety Tyvon Branch should help, although he’s quite an injury risk in his own right.
Personally, I think Dorsey has to address the run defense in the draft early and often. Even when DeVito and Johnson were on the field, this group struggled to stop rushing attacks. It would be nice to see Dorsey go after Eric Kendricks, Denzel Perryman and/or Paul Dawson in the second and third rounds.
What about you? Will the return of DeVito and Johnson be enough to solidify the defense up front?