What can we expect out of the linebacking crew? The ascending talent at middle linebacker is looking so good that incumbent starter Josh Mauga may not have a roster spot in September.
As for the outside linebacking corp, you can expect that the position will be at full strength by the time the playoffs roll around. Not to say that Justin Houston will miss the whole season but judging by the way Andy Reid has brought other recovering player back slowly, it should not surprise anyone if Houston is not permitted to see the field in a live game action until sometime in October even if he says he’s ready to go in August. Which, also means he may not be up to speed and full-throttle until mid-December.
Now make sure you’re sitting down or this one because I know it may be shocking but… Dee Ford will probably surprise you, in a good way, before Houston returns.
So much of the team’s pass rushing success will depend on when Houston returns however, Dee Ford should not be counted out. Take a look at the graph below showing that Dee Ford was second on the team in creating sacks per snaps. Every 120 snaps, Ford would get a sack.
Dee Ford gets a lot of grief from fans for not producing more sacks. Here, it’s clear that in 2015, Ford had fewer snaps for every sack he created than anyone else on the team, except for Justin Houston… and that includes Tamba Hali. It’s not enough to just get sacks. After all, Derrick Johnson got 4 sacks last year too… but it took 1,063 snaps to do it. Sure, that’s not DJ’s primary responsibility but this illustrates Ford’s effectiveness at creating sacks for the number of snaps he’s given.
Have I saved the defensive line for last on purpose? Of course. You only really need to read Craig Scott’s article called, “Six pack: Kansas City Chiefs Defensive Line” to know why. When speaking about where the Chiefs defensive line ranks in the NFL this year Scott says,
"“There are certainly those who have star players that top them, but as a cohesive unit, there are very few that can match it. The Rams, Jets, Bills, and Dolphins can definitely make a claim for the top spot in the league at this position group, and one that’s hard to argue. Adding in the depth of Jones and RNR [Rakeem Nunez-Roches] to the equation, it’s down to the Rams and the Chiefs in my book, with a nod to LA for the top spot.”"
Who knows, maybe it will be Nick Williams who gets that last DL roster spot and not RNR.
When you think back over some of the most recent and dominating Super Bowl champions you think of teams with dominant defensive lines. That’s exactly the strength of this Chiefs defense… if not the strength of the whole team. With the Kansas City Chiefs getting that kind of push this season from their front line players on defense, there’s no reason not to consider them in the championship conversation.From May one year ago, John Keim had a piece published for ESPN called, “Which Defensive Stats Matter the Most?” in which he stated this about “takeaways,”
"“When I broke it down by year, here’s how it looked: Eight top-10 teams in takeaways finished with winning records in each season between 2012-14. In 2013, there were 12 teams tied in the top 10 and last year there were 13. So in an individual season it matters a lot more than, say, over a three-year stretch.”"
Also from ESPN, showing the NFL’s stats on giveaways and takeaways in 2014, the Denver Broncos finished with a +5 in that department. Kansas City was at -4 in 2014. In 2015, the roles reversed and K.C. was at +14 differential while Denver was -4. Can much of that be attributed to an aging Peyton Manning? Yes, but the Chiefs defense had 29 regular season takeaways last year while the Broncos had 27.One stat that is clear is that there is great value in having a quarterback who knows how important it is to not turn the ball over and “manage” the game well.
In the last 14 games of 2015, including their playoff games, the Chiefs allowed and average of 13.5 points per game with a playoff shut out to shout about. Denver allowed 18.6 points per game in their last 14 games (15.8 in the first part of the season). Clearly, the Kansas City defense is on the rise while Denver’s has taken some hits.
The number one most obvious reason that championship defenses fail is that they typically suffer losses during the following offseason and Denver’s defense has been no different.
What do you think Addict fans? Is the Denver Broncos defense going to be a championship defense again in 2016? Or, will there be another defense, rising to the top of the division, conference and league… that helps their team take it all?