The Kansas City Chiefs take a gut-wrenching loss to the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night and fans took out their frustrations afterward on Twitter. Much of it directed at defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.
I think it is safe to say that I was as frustrated as most of you on how the game ended Thursday night against the Oakland Raiders. While I thought that I had some major concerns for this Kansas City Chiefs team, many fans on Twitter were apparently more outraged than I was.
The main topic I saw as I scrolled through my twitter feed was about Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. Most of what I was seeing was just fans lashing out saying what Sutton did wrong in this game, but there were numerous fans calling for Sutton’s job. I find this a bit overboard.
While the Chiefs defense has struggled this year, in no way shape or form do I believe that Sutton has done enough to be rightfully fired at this point in the season. While this defense has definitely had it’s ups and downs, in this game more downs, Sutton’s defense has been what’s carried this team the last few seasons.
That does not mean I don’t have my own issues with what we have seen the first seven weeks of the season, however. All I am saying is that even with what we have seen from our defense this year, I don’t believe that Sutton should be fired. If the Chiefs were to let go of Sutton, then what? Who would take on that job? Are the Chiefs going to change their whole scheme mid-season?
Room for improvement
That said, there is definitely room for improvement for not only Bob Sutton but the defensive players as well. Sutton’s bend-but-don’t-break system only works if his players are healthy and doing their job. We have seen some of that contribute to the issues of the defense.
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The way I look at the defense, it is built around its star players such as safety Eric Berry, cornerback Marcus Peters, and linebacker Justin Houston. You can even throw in middle linebacker Derrick Johnson as well. Berry is out for the season, starting right corner Steven Nelson has not played yet, and Johnson has not been himself this year.
There is part of the problem. The part that is on Bob Sutton is the fact that we haven’t seen him change how he plays this defense with those issues. He is still calling plays and scheming as if he has all those players at 100%.
While Sutton is part to blame, he’s not the guy missing tackles and causing penalties on the field. Especially over the past few weeks, fans have seen large numbers of missed tackles by the offense and coming from guys like Johnson and Peters—two of the key guys the defense is built around. Peters has also been a problem when it comes to penalties. Both of those guys are not playing well enough the last couple of weeks for the defensive scheme to work.
Sutton likes to rely on a great secondary to be left on islands by themselves with their man, but when you have Berry and Nelson out, you can’t continue that and expect the defense to have the same success.
The use of Houston
My biggest issue with his defense this year is his playcalling, specifically the constant call for Justin Houston to drop into coverage or contain instead of letting him do what he does best: rushing the passer. Houston is one of the NFL’s elite pass rushers, yet Sutton has him doing the opposite most plays. Sutton is wanting to rush three linemen most plays and expecting to get consistent pressure.
Now, an argument can be made that Sutton is dropping his linebackers into coverage to help cover the weakness of the secondary after Berry went down and without Nelson. Problem is, he was doing this most of week one against the New England Patriots before Berry went down with an injury.
I’m not certain on the thought process of this as it was again used this week against the Raiders, especially in a key play at the end of the game where you have to stop Oakland from scoring. Houston was put into containment instead of going after Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who is not an extremely mobile quarterback. Even more so after being rushed back from a back injury.
With your secondary missing two key players, I fail to see why Sutton refuses to get more pressure on the quarterback. The Chiefs have never been a high blitz team under Sutton, but even allowing Houston and outside linebacker Dee Ford to rush more often would go a long way. All too often, quarterbacks have lots of time to throw. We can’t expect our cornerbacks to cover their guy every play for that long.
Lack of adjustments
Another issue I have is how long it takes Sutton to adjust his defense, when often times it’s not until halftime. Even then, he still sticks to the overall scheme that he goes into every play with. In fact, Sutton tends to play for the most part the same scheme week to week instead of building a scheme around the offense that they are playing.
The one time that we see Sutton change his scheme was against the Raiders after the Pittsburgh Steelers ran the ball up and down the Chiefs defense last weekend. Although the Chiefs defense has never been all that great against the run game, since its schemed to stop the big pass, there are still question marks for me.
The Chiefs brought in some new middle linebackers this year through trades, including Kevin Pierre-Louis and Reggie Ragland. Ragland is hoped to be that thumper style linebacker that the Chiefs defense has been missing and Pierre-Louis is the sideline to sideline linebacker much like Johnson.
While I understand wanting to get both of those guys time on the field, I can’t help but question middle linebacker Ramik Wilson being inactive. The Chiefs don’t run a large number of sets with two middle linebackers so there are limited snaps, but Wilson looked fantastic in the preseason and the first couple weeks of regular season.
Wilson looked much quicker to attack, did well at plugging up holes, and putting a dent in the run game. I fail to understand fully why they haven’t had him active and playing instead of bringing safety Daniel Sorensen down to the box to play that position. Sorensen gets pushed out of the play most of the time against the run.
Better days ahead
There is still much hope for the Chiefs going forward. With guys like Steven Nelson and longtime Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali coming back, we can expect for the defense to look better. With Nelson being back especially will mean a lot less of cornerback Phillip Gaines getting picked on each week. Nelson brings a lot of upside back to the secondary.
The Chiefs schedule in the second half of the year is also not nearly as difficult as the first half. Kansas City has played some of the best teams in the NFL just about every week so far this season and have a lighter load in the second half. I expect with those players coming back from injury and the easier schedule the defense to look better going forward.