These position groups are strong up top but don’t have the depth to be classified as a Tier 1. The starters in these groups are still among the top in the league but if one were to go down there’d be a significant drop off.
The trio of Allen Bailey, Dontari Poe, and Jaye Howard is as solid as it comes, and while the amount of times the Chiefs only use two down linemen temps me to place this group in Tier 1, the depth behind these three is what ultimately makes them the best Tier 2 position group.
The only other linemen we have really seen play is Nick Williams, and although he’s solid as a fill-in every now and then, I’m not sure how good he’d be in a full time role if needed. We’ve seen that this group plays its best when there’s a consistent rotation going to keep them fresh, and with the possible return of Mike Devito and/or addition of one of the many good looking defensive line prospects in the draft, this group could easily become a Tier 1 group.
Derrick Johnson has year in and year out been a top-three ILB in the NFL.
Many assumed his play would fall off after tearing his Achilles at 31 years old, but he ended coming back as good as ever. He may not have the same athleticism as he did during his younger Chiefs days, but even this version of DJ is still one of the most athletic linebackers. Paired with his excellent play recognition and ability to shoot his way into the backfield, there’s no question as to why he was brought back to finish his career out as a Chief.
During the season he did tear his Achilles, however, we saw how much the entire defense is affected with him not on the field. Ramik Wilson and Justin March were still in college during that season, but for as much potential as they both have they still have a lot to prove to be considered an eventual DJ replacement.
As for Josh Mauga, he’s good for what he is as a solid, opportunistic weak-side inside linebacker in the Chiefs’ 3-4 scheme. Overall, though, the Chiefs need Wilson and/or March to step up and show enough development to be considered a Tier 1 group.
Next: More Tier 2