Kansas City Chiefs: NFL’s best defense?


Arrowhead Stadium is renowned as a place that offenses hate. From the elite ’69 defense (check out this fantastic series of articles on the ’69 defense if you have time) to the Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Thomas and beyond, the Kansas City Chiefs have often had one of the strongest defenses in the league. It is expected that 2015 will be more of the same. In fact, the Chiefs’ defense will be one of, if not the, best defense in the league. A bold prediction, yes, but not an unfounded one.

First, Kansas City held claim to the second-best defense in terms of points allowed last season behind the Seattle Seahawks and the Legion of Boom. A strong defensive line consisting of Allen Bailey, Dontari Poe and Jaye Howard played consistently well, if not spectacularly. It was, however, the building blocks for an elite pass-rush virtue of outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali.

Hali only recorded six sacks,  but was instrumental in orchestrating the monstrous 22-sack season from Houston. Having two Pro Bowlers rushing from either edge throughout the 2014 season was a particular highlight for many Chiefs fans, and having both weapons was essential in the dominant pass-rush displayed in Kansas City. It was the pressure applied on opposing quarterbacks that was the cornerstone of the second-rated pass defense in the NFL.

Hali will be back in a Chiefs jersey next year after becoming everyone’s favorite player by taking a $7 million pay cut to stay with Chiefs. Houston’s situation, however, is more unclear. The man wants to be paid. The man deserves to be paid, and I expect Dorsey to work his magic and produce a deal for Kansas City’s star player. With Hali and Houston (I’m currently crossing everything I know possible) back in 2015, and Dee Ford hopefully able to improve on a quiet rookie season, Sack City is set to remain.

What will improve the already potent pass defense, however, is the improvement to the secondary. In 2014, only Sean Smith could stake a claim to being top quality in his position. Husain Abdullah and Ron Parker (when played at safety) are good in coverage but do not possess the skills of an Earl Thomas or Eric Berry. Jamell Fleming and Marcus Cooper played inconsistently throughout the season opposite of Smith, and Phillip Gaines played well for a rookie, especially late in the season, but struggled in anticipating routes. The secondary was good, but was perhaps made to look great by the pressure put on the opposing quarterback.

Yet, the secondary in 2015 looks set to be comparable to any in the NFL. Smith, playing in his contract year, will only improve. Abdullah and Parker will continue to be solid and dependable, and Gaines could be the most improved player on the Chiefs’ roster. The drafting of Steven Nelson and Marcus Peters at corner provides top-quality competition throughout the roster (this is the position battle I’m most looking forward to watching over the summer) and hopefully all of Kansas City will be able to welcome back Berry with open arms. The secondary will be elite whether Berry is able to play or not and the talent available to defensive coordinator Bob Sutton will be exceptional.

Where Sutton must improve, however, is in stopping the run. Ranked 28th last season, Sutton and Co. struggled to contain fairly average running backs at the best of times and at the worst saw Latavius Murray waltz through for a 90-yard score. I have written previously that the run defense will be vastly improved in 2015, and there is no reason to think otherwise.

“The run defense of the Chiefs will be solid, rather than elite, but paired with possibly the best pass defense in the league, Kansas City fans can look forward to seeing terrified opposing offensive coordinators on the touchline; eyes bulging, lip quivering.”

The return of Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito will have a massive impact on the quality of this run defense. Both play exceptionally well against the run, and their absences in 2014 were clear to see. Secondly, Josh Mauga and James-Michael Johnson will improve upon their 2014 play alongside the returning Johnson at inside linebacker.

Finally, the drafting of Nelson and Peters to the secondary and D.J. Alexander and Ramik Wilson will provide at worst competition for starting roster spots. Nelson is an excellent tackler, and although mid-late round picks, Wilson and Alexander have the potential to improve the run defense of Kansas City.

The run defense of the Chiefs will be solid, rather than elite, but paired with possibly the best pass-defense in the league, Kansas City fans can look forward to seeing terrified opposing offensive coordinators on the touchline; eyes bulging, lip quivering.

So Chiefs fans, do you agree that Arrowhead will play host to arguably the best defense in the league? Will  Gaines be the most improved player in 2015? Will Sutton be able to improve a rather leaky run defense? Let me know in the comments below.

And as always… GO CHIEFS!!