Between the comments Tamba Hali made prior to training camp and the comments made after the loss to the New York Jets, it’s time for Hali to put his money where his mouth is.
Veteran outside linebacker Tamba Hali took to Twitter prior to training camp about the lack of snaps that he was given late in the year in 2016 and players not showing up for voluntary workouts. Hali was fired up wanting to get the leaders in there to get ready for this season and was soon put on the PUP list (Physically Unable to Perform) himself. I never believed that Hali was hurt and unable to play but instead thought that the Kansas City Chiefs coaching staff was trying to preserve his body for a deep playoff run this year.
Hali had yet to hit the field until the week 9 game against the Dallas Cowboys right before the bye week. The Chiefs had little options at the position as outside linebacker Dee Ford was back on the injured list and unable to play. Hali has played very few snaps in games including the Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills.
Following the loss to the New York Jets this past Sunday, Hali made comments to the media and on Twitter regarding the Chiefs turning things around.
Chiefs Kingdom took to social media and made fun of Hali for his comments not only present but past ones. I don’t fully understand attacking the guy for making the comments above when it shows he appreciates us as the fan base and saying that we deserve more than what we have gotten from our Chiefs these last couple months. It also shows that even though he hasn’t been on the field, he believes in this team and has some fire in him. Isn’t that what we have been asking for from our players?
During the offseason, I went back to the film from 2016 to see what I would find from Hali’s play. I came to the conclusion that while the money didn’t make sense, especially when they only played him on 50.6% of the defensive snaps last year, he was still productive. According to Pro Football Focus, Hali graded an 81.4 which ranked 21st among 106 edge defenders in 2016.
More from Arrowhead Addict
- Former Chiefs cornerback in legal trouble in Las Vegas
- Chiefs Kingdom: Get ready to break contract news
- Chiefs news: Travis Kelce wants to host fan ‘chug-off’ in Germany
- Podcast: Breaking down the Chiefs biggest roster battles
- KC Chiefs send Dave Merritt to NFL coaching accelerator
While the injuries and age have taken their toll on him, he was still able to get 43 pressures on the quarterback in 2016 while only being on the field for half of the defensive snaps. He wasn’t getting the sack numbers that we all wanted but he was definitely making quarterbacks throw the ball or leave the pocket before they wanted to which is still a good thing.
In Hali’s first game in 2017 against the Cowboys, he looked like he still had some fire and gas in the tank. On only his second snap, he forced the tackle to hold him to keep him from getting to the quarterback. Yet we have yet to see him get hardly any snaps except in the Buffalo game where he surfaced for a few more snaps.
With no indication of when Ford will return from injury if at all, the Chiefs have really struggled to generate any kind of pressure on quarterbacks. Outside linebacker Justin Houston has been left on an island with no help from the other side. Offenses are game planning around stopping Houston and defensive coordinator continues to use him for coverages and filling gaps.
Houston has also received his share of criticism from the fan base by not generating enough sacks. Without someone on the defensive line or the other side to be a threat to offensive lines, Houston has been the sole focus for offenses. It’s hard to expect Houston to record high numbers of sacks when he has no help on the other side.
A perfect example of this is Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack. While he doesn’t have a high number of sacks either, he is still considered one of the best in the league and also has little to no help from the rest of the defensive line. Houston also had his best year when Hali was on the other side generating pressure from the right.
While I am not blind to the fact that Hali is not what he used to be, I still think that the Chiefs need to plug him into the defense more going forward. This doesn’t mean getting full game reps, but cycling him in with rookie outside linebacker Tanoh Kpassagnon who saw a career-high of snaps against the Jets with 28 snaps. Neither should be on the field for the whole game as Kpassagnon still has much development to improve, but it gives a good combination of pass rush now and development.
It’s no secret that the Chiefs need to figure out something new on the defense with the team looking at the possibility of not even making the playoffs at this point. It’s time to see what Hali does have left in the tank. What do they have to lose? Would he be taking snaps from someone that you would rather see out there?
While outside linebacker Frank Zombo has done well in previous weeks against the run, he is not a good pass rusher by any means. Then considering that Ford is still out, that leaves Hali and Kpassagnon. I think a good combination of the two would be good for this Chiefs defense now and in the future. This also gives Kpassagnon time to work with Hali and Houston and learn from two guys that are high performers.
Many fans want to see outside linebacker Dadi Nicolas play when he comes back from the PUP list, thinking he will be the answer or savior to the defense. Nicolas has only had a couple preseason games of experience against third-level talent and even then didn’t dominate. He is undersized and lacks the strength in my opinion. Much of the same with Ford in lacking strength and size.
The Chiefs often come out with only two down linemen and play their outside rushers like defensive ends more than linebackers. For linebackers to have success, they require more strength than Nicolas and even Ford. Most of Ford’s success comes when there are three down linemen—not to mention when he is playing on Houston’s side.
Worst case scenario, the Chiefs throw Hali out there to split snaps and he doesn’t perform at a high level or comes off the field due to his knees giving him trouble. You still aren’t losing anything by making an attempt at a change when you aren’t getting to the quarterback as of right now.
The Chiefs need someone that can generate pressure from the other side, and I think that splitting snaps between Hali and Kpassagnon is the best way to go moving forward—both for now and the future. At least then you would have a player that doesn’t look like he’s sleeping on the field and actually has some fire in his play.