Penetrate with inside linebackers
As much as it pains us all to accept, Derrick Johnson’s in the twilight of his career and has lost the step that made him such a disruptive run defender in his prime. Half of Chiefs Kingdom believes that’s a result of his advancing age and declining athleticism. The other half theorizes that Johnson’s apprehension is a failure to trust his instincts. I tend to think the two aren’t mutually exclusive. The physical limitations to his game are a likely cause for Johnson’s hesitation. Unfortunately that’s not just a problem that’s plagued Johnson. The Chiefs inside linebackers as a whole have been playing far too much reactionary football in 2017.
Sutton experimented with his use of ILB’s Kevin Pierre-Louis with Reggie Ragland in the Dallas game. The two of them were paired in Nickel sets and found some success throughout the contest. Ragland and Pierre-Louis have both flashed the ability to crash into gaps and be disruptive. The Chiefs need more of a “downhill” attitude through the back half of the schedule. This defense played on its heels too often in run support in the second quarter of the season.
Rush Justin Houston on passing downs
Critics have called Bob Sutton on the carpet for his usage of four-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Justin Houston in 2017. He’s been asked to drop into coverage a bit more often than some are comfortable with.
Thus far, here are the numbers of note (regarding Houston’s snaps):
573 snaps — 271 pass rush, 227 run defense, 75 coverage
30 tackles, 7 assists, 7.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, four pass deflections, one fumble recovery
If you’re scoring at home, he’s been dropped into coverage roughly 28% of the time he’s been on the field for passing plays. Given Dee Ford’s struggles with injury in 2017 and a dearth of pass rushing talent behind them, one might say this is less than ideal. Though if I’m honest, a linebacker with Houston’s skill set makes it tough not to consider him for coverage assignments in what’s been an otherwise porous pass defense.
With Tamba Hali back in the fold and Ford hopefully returning to action, Sutton must consider keeping Houston in to rush on obvious passing downs. Part of the secondary’s well-publicized coverage issues can be attributed to the Chiefs’ inability to consistently pressure the quarterback. Kansas City is currently 22nd in the NFL in sacks with 19 on the year. Houston comes out of the break with 7.5 sacks despite his role in coverage this season.