A complete guide to fixing the Kansas City Chiefs run defense

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 6: Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson
KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 6: Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson /
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KANSAS CITY, MO – OCTOBER 15: Wide receiver Antonio Brown
KANSAS CITY, MO – OCTOBER 15: Wide receiver Antonio Brown /

Inside linebacker is a huge problem

New general manager Brett Veach made it a point to start his new position by bringing in help at the inside linebacker position to help the run defense. He traded a 2019 fourth round pick for Buffalo Bills inside linebacker Reggie Ragland. He also traded away special teams Pro Bowl linebacker D.J. Alexander to the Seattle Seahawks for inside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis.

Ragland was a thumper style linebacker in college playing for Alabama and was someone many Chiefs fans wanted them to get in the 2015 NFL Draft. Ragland had not played an NFL snap since he tore his ACL in training camp last year. Pierre-Louis hadn’t had many snaps outside of special teams for Seattle since he didn’t really fit their scheme and the amount of talent the Seahawks have at the position.

Ragland is what most Chiefs fans hope to be that thumper style linebacker that we have long been waiting for next to Derrick Johnson. We have yet to see him get a considerable amount of snaps since the Chiefs don’t tend to play two inside linebackers very often. When he has been on the field it doesn’t seem that he is playing that aggressive style that we saw him play at Alabama.

I think that this has a lot to do with what he has been told to do. It doesn’t matter who is lined up at inside linebacker, we don’t see them attacking the holes and instead of waiting for the runner to come to them often leading to an offensive lineman getting to them first. This is one of my biggest issues with the run defense.

Even Derrick Johnson has not been as aggressive and more hesitant to attack this season. Whether that has to do with coaching or him being more hesitant himself I don’t know. We have seen Johnson be late to attacking a hole or attacking the wrong one many times this season. Which is concerning since Johnson has been one of our best run defenders for years.

Johnson has definitely lost a step this year due to age and injuries but it seems like more mental errors than anything. Yes, he is not as fast to get to the outside but the failure to find the right holes and hesitating are a much bigger issue. Now instead of having a problem finding someone to go next to DJ, we have a problem of not having a single inside linebacker that can attack the run.

Both Johnson and Ragland have had good plays against the run and shown some flashes but neither are on a consistent basis. Too often we see them getting pushed out of the play and a safety having to come up and make the tackle after the runner has already gotten a good-sized gain.

Your linebackers are supposed to be your guys with the most tackles on the team if you have a good defense but instead the Chiefs two starting safeties in Daniel Sorensen and Ron Parker lead the team in tackles. That means that running backs especially are getting good yardage and not being stopped till they get to the last line of defense. The game against the Denver Broncos is a prime example as they averaged 5.7 yards per carry against the Chiefs defense.

If Sutton is telling his linebackers to wait for the running back instead of attacking then that is something he needs to change as it is clearly not working. If Ragland isn’t attacking and being hesitant on his own, then there needs to be a change there. We have not seen Ragland be what we had hoped for when we traded for him.

Something that really bothers me is if it is Ragland and not Sutton telling him to wait for the running back, why have we not been playing inside linebacker Ramik Wilson? Wilson played hesitant last year but came into camp and preseason like a much more aggressive linebacker in 2017. He was quick to attack holes and plug up running lanes, and quick to get to the running back. I would go as far as saying that Wilson looked better in the preseason that Johnson has for most of the regular season.