Chiefs defensive line looks good even without help

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 25: Defensive end Chris Jones
KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 25: Defensive end Chris Jones /

We have still yet to see what the Chiefs defensive line is made of in 2017. A lot of that can be due to the conservative play calling by defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.

The Chiefs have one of the most talented defensive lines in the league, especially when you add in the depth of talent. Of course, some of this is me being a homer, but you cannot deny that the line has some serious talent in second-year defensive end Chris Jones, newly acquired nose tackle Bennie Logan, defensive end Allen Bailey, and rotational lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches.

You can go further than that if you want, but that is a solid group of four guys along a line that features only two down linemen a majority of the time. (Although, that has not been the case the past three weeks as the Chiefs have been lining up three down linemen more often.) This is because defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has been dropping eight into coverage early in games so far in 2017.

I wrote an article last week before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers on how it was time for Sutton and the defense to bring the pressure. They were going against a weak offensive line that really struggled against the Denver Broncos pass rush. Sutton, however, did not read my article and continued with his dropping eight most of the game playcalling.

This is something that has been really frustrating not only for me but for much of Chiefs Kingdom. Outside linebacker Justin Houston is one of the best in the game at rushing the passer and yet he is being used for coverage on most passing snaps. While he is good in coverage, he is a much better pass rusher.

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We all know that the pass rush was a weakness last year with all the injuries along the front seven. Heading into this season, we were excited to see Houston get back to its quarterback eating self. Yet we have been forced to watch the team barely rush the passer.

Many fans on Twitter have even expressed how the reason we are not getting pressure is that the defensive line is not playing up to the hype generated during training camp and the preseason. I disagree with this. Considering the Chiefs have been only sending three down linemen after the passer with almost no help, I think they have done a pretty good job.

It’s very hard to get consistent pressure on a quarterback when you are only rushing three most plays. At least two of those guys are going to get double-teamed making it very hard to get your one-on-one match ups that would normally tear right through. Although, the defensive line has gotten through and done their job with the little help they have been getting.

Chris Jones

Chris Jones was one of my favorite players to watch down the stretch last year. A guy that wasn’t expected to have much playing time, but due to injuries along the defensive line, he got his opportunity. Jones took full advantage of that opportunity, too.

While a lot of you like to just look at the stat sheet and tell me, “well he only had 2 sacks and 28 tackles”, you obviously don’t watch very closely. The box score stats don’t show you how many times he disrupted plays or completely ruined them.

Even if you want to just look at the box score stats, Jones has already beat his 2016 sack total by getting three sacks against the Eagles. He also had two forced fumbles and an interception that game. Maybe that will keep the stat people happy for a little bit.

While he has had limited snaps to start off the season, he has looked his dominant self from last year. He is still manhandling and speeding past linemen like it’s nothing.

One of my favorite things about Chris Jones is when, instead of trying to get around a lineman, he bullrushes them literally back into the quarterback or running back. In fact, he got a fumble in the Eagles game by doing this.

There were so many times last year that I saw Jones literally just throw a lineman out of his way like they were a rag doll. He also will hold a lineman right where he wants him till he wants to make his move on the ball carrier. Isn’t it the offensive lineman’s job to control the defensive lineman on run plays?

Well, that did not happen here at all. Chris Jones moves the lineman to the right to position himself in front of the hole, forcing LeGarrette Blount to the outside, where he will then throw the lineman back to his left and pounce on Blount.

The run game was one of Jones’ struggles in the 2016 season and he himself admitted as much. He stated how he felt lost at times on where he was supposed to be in the play. He has looked improved from what I have watched on All-22 film this year.

Even with limited snaps so far this season and a constantly rotating line, Jones looks to improve on his rookie season. I think we will continue to see him improve on an already dominant playstyle. When Sutton decides to let the outside linebackers rush the passer, I think we will see Jones step up even more when getting one on one matchups.

Bennie Logan

Chiefs fans were really torn during the 2017 offseason when the Chiefs decided to let defensive tackle Dontari Poe walk and sign with the Atlanta Falcons. I talked in the offseason how I thought it was the right move considering not only Poe’s back problems but the kind of money he was wanting.

As it turns out, no team was willing to put up that kind of money for him as he got a one year prove it deal from Atlanta worth $8 million ($10M in incentives). That’s the same base deal that the Chiefs gave defensive tackle Bennie Logan who came from the Philidelphia Eagles. The Eagles didn’t want to spend the money it would take to sign Logan because they still have plenty of elite talent on their defensive line.

Logan is a big upgrade in my opinion over Poe, especially if you are looking at last year’s performances. Logan is a much better run stopper and much more consistent. When watching his film from 2016 with the Eagles, he looked much harder to move and more dominant when attacking than Poe. He has continued that since coming to Kansas City.

He also fits Sutton’s play style looking for guys who can line up anywhere on the line. We saw him lining up outside of outside linebacker Dee Ford a couple times the last two games. While Logan was brought in to help against the run primarily, he has done pretty well when rushing the passer as well.

Here is a play where Logan is put outside the right tackle on a run play. He recognizes where the run is going, tosses the tight end aside and makes the tackle in the backfield. Something we hadn’t seen a whole lot from Poe last year.

Allen Bailey

Defensive end Allen Bailey has looked great since coming back from injury. He looks like the strongest guy on the field still and even looks faster. I mean, look at the speed he had on this play in the preseason.

One of the better run defenders on the Chiefs defensive line for sure. He reminds me of Mike DeVito, retired defensive end for the Chiefs, in the sense that he is forgotten about much of the time since he usually does the dirty work like opening up lanes for the second group of defenders to get through.

There is a reason they call him “Hulk” though. Bailey makes other linemen look like children when lined up across from them. In this one, the New England Patriots center didn’t stand a chance against Bailey. There’s almost nothing better than watching Brady’s own lineman get shoved into him for a sack.

Another thing to watch with Bailey is when a running back tries to run right at him. Here we see the Eagles running back hit a brick wall and bounce backward.

It’s fair to say that the Chiefs missed Bailey when he went down last year. Now that he is healthy, he has been one of the pieces making this defensive line much improved—especially against the run.

Rakeem Nunez-Roches

As also referred to as RNR or Nacho, Rakeem Nunez-Roches was mainly a backup last year. He came into camp after adding 25 pounds to his frame and it shows. RNR looks much more powerful and harder to move.

One of the issues he had last year was being moved out of running plays. With the additional weight below the waist, he has been a lot more powerful and cemented in his spot. In fact, its also helped him play every position along the defensive line.

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Each game this season we have seen him play not only defensive end but defensive tackle as well. The crazy part about him playing defensive tackle is it’s usually when Bennie Logan is on the field as well.

RNR has found himself even with a line as talented as the Chiefs, getting plenty of snaps in the rotation. I would not be surprised if the Chiefs find a way to keep him around on a new contract after this year if he continues to play at the level he has been this year.