The Chiefs’ defense took a significant step forward under new defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel in 2010. After years of struggling on defense, the Chiefs became competent in 2010. But the Chiefs must continue to improve on defense if they want to make a run in the playoffs. While the Chiefs were comparable in offense to the four teams in the AFC and NFC Championship Games this year, they weren’t comparable on defense.
First let’s look at some of the Chiefs’ primary defensive statistics:
Total Defense: #14
Points Allowed: #22
Rushing Defense: #14
Passing Defense: #17
Now let’s look at the final four teams in the playoffs this year.
Total Defense: #2
Points Allowed: #1
Rushing Defense: #1
Passing Defense: #12
New York Jets
Total Defense: #3
Points Allowed: #6
Rushing Defense: #3
Passing Defense: #6
Green Bay Packers
Total Defense: #5
Points Allowed: #2
Rushing Defense: #18
Passing Defense: #5
Total Defense: #9
Points Allowed: #4
Rushing Defense: #2
Passing Defense: #20
It’s not a coincidence that the two teams that made it to the Super Bowl, the Steelers and the Packers, had two of the top defenses in the league, and were the top two in points allowed. When you prevent teams from scoring, you can win a lot of games.
So let’s take a quick look at the Chiefs by position group on defense.
Defensive Line: Glenn Dorsey, Ron Edwards (free agent), Tyson Jackson, Shaun Smith (free agent), Wallace Gilberry (free agent), Anthony Toribio, Dion Gales
The Chiefs developed a nice rotation among their defensive linemen. We’ve seen Dorsey and Gilberry make good strides, and I’m still hopeful that Jackson can as well. Smith was a nice surprise this year, and helped the defense considerably. But the Chiefs need to continue to improve their line. They need a player who can collapse the middle of the pocket on a more consistent basis. I’d really like to see the Chiefs retain Gilberry for his pass rushing skills, who was second on the team with seven sacks. While I’m not opposed to resigning Smith and Edwards, eventually the Chiefs need to find a true nose tackle who can clog up the middle and generate a little pass rush in the pocket. I would expect that the Chiefs will consider a nose tackle high in the draft.
Linebackers: Tamba Hali (free agent), Derrick Johnson, Jovan Belcher, Mike Vrabel (free agent), Corey Mays (free agent), Andy Studebaker, Demorrio Williams, Cameron Sheffield, Charlie Anderson (free agent), Cory Greenwood (free agent), Justin Cole
I have similar feelings about the linebackers as I do the defensive line. We have a good unit, but not a great unit. Hali has become an exceptional pass rusher, and must be resigned. Johnson has become much more consistent, but he’s not the impact player we had hoped. And he drops too many potential interceptions. The Chiefs have been grooming Studebaker to replace Vrabel, but don’t count out Sheffield for this role. He spent the season on injured reserve, and it sounds like the Chiefs really like this kid.
The Chiefs are lacking that guy with the killer instinct like Green Bay’s Clay Matthews or Pittsburgh’s James Harrison. Would love to see the Chiefs target a linebacker in one of the top two rounds, either a pass rushing linebacker to replace Vrabel, or a hard-nosed playermaker in the middle to play with Johnson. An upgrade here would help the Chiefs considerably.
Cornerbacks: Brandon Flowers, Brandon Carr (free agent), Javier Arenas, Travis Daniels (free agent), Maurice Leggett (free agent, can also play safety), Donald Washington (can also play safety)
In 2009, the Chiefs were awful when they went into their nickel package utilizing three cornerbacks. Arenas really solidified the nickel spot this year and allowed the Chiefs to play Flowers on the outside. But you can never have enough good corners. Even if they resign Carr, don’t be surprised if the Chiefs draft another cornerback.
Safeties: Eric Berry, Kendrick Lewis, Jon McGraw (free agent), Ricky Price, Reshard Langford (free agent)
The Chiefs appear to have their two safeties of the future with Berry and Lewis. One of the primary reasons the Chiefs improved on defense this year was because of Berry and Lewis, who will only get better.
The Chiefs are strong in their defensive backfield, but a few key improvements to the line and among the linebackers could help the Chiefs reach that next level defensively.