Some pundits believe the Chiefs defense will take a step backwards because cornerback Sean Smith is now with the Oakland Raiders. However, Smith was absent for three games, finished with two interceptions and had 45 tackles averaging 3.5 tackles per game with no sacks on the year. No one is disputing that he was a good cover corner for the Chiefs but replacing that kind of production may not be that hard to do.
Can the Kansas City Chiefs have an elite championship defense in 2016?
Following week 17 of the 2015 season, Pro Football Focus (PFF) rated the top Ten defensive secondaries in the NFL and the Chiefs finished 4th. PFF rated the Chiefs secondary like this:
+74.4 Marcus Peters
+84.8 Sean Smith
+89.0 Eric Berry
+83.3 Husain Abdullah
+72.5 Ron Parker
3 out of 5 of these starters are back for the 2016 season and replacing safety Husain Abdullah will be as much a concern as will be replacing corner Sean Smith. However, with Marcus Cooper stepping in at safety, with his 6-foot-2, 192 lb. frame, he has a lot to offer the Chiefs at that position. When Cooper came out of Rutgers in 2013, he ran a 4.45- 40 yard dash and his 39 ½ inch vertical jump should come in handy in jump-ball situations. While Cooper’s performance as a cover corner has not worked out, his skills and size may be more suited to the safety position.
Defensive back Jamell Fleming faces the same transition and his stocky frame should help. Fleming was selected at #80 overall in the 2012 draft by the Arizona Cardinals and was thought to be one of the best corner prospects at that time. His 23 bench press reps of 225 pounds shows off his upper body strength, while his 10’4” broad jump clearly displays the explosion and balance he has in his lower half.
With the influx of new cornerbacks on the team, perhaps the only way for Cooper and Fleming to make the team is by making the transition to safety. Consequently, both of them should be well motivated. John Dorsey has also brought in safety Stevie Brown. This is Brown’s 7th team in 7 seasons in the league so, the Chiefs coaching staff will need to place Brown in positions where he can excel. However, John Dorsey has shown the ability to bring in different safeties over the past three years and Andy Reid has shown the ability to get the most out of them. Can we expect the same out of Brown, Cooper and/or Fleming? It appears that there’s plenty of talent there to work with… to pair up with Eric Berry, Ron Parker and Daniel Sorenson.
Akeem Davis looks impressive and I’ve never seen a 21 minute college highlight reel. He’s in on a lot of plays.
How about the cornerback position? With NFL rookie of the year in 2015, Marcus Peters, occupying one side of the field, Phillip Gaines holding down the other corner position and Steven Nelson taking the nickel, the future is also looking up for K.C.. However, the Chiefs corners are like a good young pitching rotation that has very little experience… and consequently we’ll have to wait and see how they turn out after a few starts. Beginning the season against Philip Rivers, Brock Osweiler, Ryan Fitzpatrick (or Geno Smith) and Ben Roethlisberger should give the Chiefs young corners a sufficient challenge, enough for us to see what they’ve got. In the meantime, by using what we do know about them, it’s easy to see why the Chiefs are feeling positive about the secondary as a whole.
What is advantageous for all Chiefs DB’s? Knowing that they usually won’t have to cover their wide outs for very long before the defensive front gets to the QB. That should be a big help for the Chiefs young defensive backs as they learn on the fly.
Next: Have the linebackers lost a step?