Kansas City Chiefs: Can the defense survive without Justin Houston & Sean Smith?
The Chiefs defense was a dominant force last season, especially when it really got going during the team’s 11-game win streak. Ranking seventh in yards allowed and third in points allowed, duplicating the success from last season will not be an easy task with some key pieces missing. Justin Houston’s timeline for return from a non-functional ACL remains to be seen; he could be back by the middle of the season or perhaps not at all.
Without their best pass rusher, the Chiefs will need to rely on an aging Tamba Hali and a mixed bunch of Dee Ford, Frank Zombo, and Dadi Nicolas.
Kansas City proved they could win some games without Houston, but now they have lost their top corner in Sean Smith as well. The Chiefs simply could not match what the Raiders offered to Smith financially, and in turn, lost one of their finest players to a division rival. It was certainly a “two for one” deal in Oakland’s favor.
While many will argue the Chiefs will be just fine due to Marcus Peters (and they may be right), Smith was a big help to the rookie in 2015. As a result of Smith locking up basically one side of the field, Peters had plenty of opportunities come his way with QBs around the league choosing the lesser of two evils.
The reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year is expected to build upon the great amount of success he has already had, but with a supporting corner cast of Phillip Gaines, Steven Nelson, and rookie unknowns, this defense may take a step backward. KC still has a lot of talent on defense without Houston and Smith, but it will certainly be interesting to see if they remain among the league’s best.