Kansas City Chiefs: How the West was won in 2015

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Aug 28, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints guard Ben Grubbs (66) prepares to block Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (97) during the first quarter of their game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs offensive line: yes, many are wondering how the line will do against a Broncos front seven that includes DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller and Shane Ray. I’m not sure where Ray will be playing. In Phillips’ conversion to a 3-4 defense, both Ware and Miller will be playing outside linebacker. So, where does that leave Ray? The loss of Knighton should weaken this front significantly.

Of all the front seven players on the Broncos defense in the past two seasons, Knighton has been the biggest thorn in the Chiefs’ side. I don’t expect much of a push up the middle with Sylvester Williams as the projected starter at nose tackle, so blockers can kick out on Ware and Miller. Williams ranked 66th by Pro Football Focus, so don’t expect to see Kansas City’s center knocked backward into Smith nearly as often, if at all.

Defensive end Malik Williams is another story. William ranks third among all defensive ends by Pro Football Focus (you’ll need a subscription to see the stats at that link). However, the Broncos’ other defensive end ranked 30th in the league. Here’s the catch: those rankings were based upon both players playing in a 4-3 defense last year. Defensive ends in a 3-4 alignment not only have different responsibilities but because of those responsibilities their body types are usually bigger and bulkier.

The reason for that is the double-teaming they must bear so that the linebackers can flow to the ball carrier or quarterback. It’s all in the design, and with the Broncos’ defensive needs, they may not do as well this year as they did last year. Playing in the right scheme can make or break a player’s career. The Broncos are placing half of their defensive players in a kind of scheme-ambiguous black hole.

On the other hand, the Broncos defensive backfield is top-notch. They should be excellent again this year but not deep. Corner Chris Harris Jr. ranked as the league’s best corner by Pro Football Focus. Only six corners of the top 20 played more than 1,000 snaps and Harris was one of them. On the other side, Aqib Talib ranks 16th in the league. Both safeties are solid as well with T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart.

The challenge for Denver’s secondary also involves the new scheme. In the 3-4, outside linebackers drop into coverage occasionally. Unless everyone is on the same page, defensive backs and linebackers can end up covering the same man on one play, allowing no one to cover a receiver on the next.

The complexities of the 3-4 defense take awhile to digest so I’m giving the Chiefs an advantage here for these reasons. Ultimately, I see more success for the Chiefs in the passing game against the Broncos in 2015.

Next: And finally, the special teams...