We had a great chat/forum Wednesday evening which you can find elsewhere on the site. Good questions, good participation, I hope we provided good answers; we will do it again.
After going through the questions, without a doubt it seems the No. 1 piece of information still unclear in the minds of Chiefs fans is what kind of defense the team is going to run for the 2009 season.
Head coach Todd Haley hasn’t provided much information as to what the team will do under coordinator Clancy Pendergast. What clues do slip out, make it plain that the Chiefs will try to run a system similar to what the Arizona Cardinals used under Pendergast, an under 4-3 defense. It’s a defense that can morph into the 3-4 very quickly and it looks like the 3-4 at times.
Just how deeply the Chiefs can get into the Pendergast defensive playbook is something the coaching staff doesn’t know yet, because they haven’t seen enough of the players in action. If they don’t have the bodies they need to run the under 4-3, then it would be folly to try to play that defense.
This defense figures to be in transition for the next two years as the pieces come together to do what Pendergast wants from his unit.
The under/over term used with defenses comes with the direction the defensive front shifts based on the strong side of the offense, or where the tight end lines up. The under defense shifts towards the strong side of the offense; the over shifts away from the strong side. Most of the time, the defense has five guys on the line of scrimmage. The guys to watch are the weak-side defensive end and linebacker, because they are the guys who make the plays and bring the heat on the pass rush.
The difference between the 4-3 and 3-4 defenses really comes down to the outside linebackers. The offense tries to determine if the OLB in the 3-4 are going to rush the passer or drop in cover. Mixing those OLBs with defensive ends makes it even tougher for the offense to figure out who must be blocked.
Out in Arizona that man at WLB was Karlos Dansby who led the Cardinals defense last year with 128 total tackles and 100 unassisted tackles, along with four sacks. The weakside ends were Bertrand Berry and Travis LaBoy and they frequently lined up in a two-point stance (standing), rather than the three (with their hand on the ground.) They combined for nine sacks.
Do the Chiefs have a Dansby like character on their roster to play WLB? Not really. Derrick Johnson isn’t as big, at a full inch shorter and nearly 10 pounds lighter. Tamba Hali and Turk McBride are both 20 pounds heavier as defensive ends and they’ve spent little or no time in pass coverage, something the WLB has to do occasionally. Do they have guys to play the weakside DE? Berry and LaBoy are the same size as Dansby.
So one does not need to be Vince Lombardi to see that Haley, Pendergast and the defensive staff are going to be searching for a system that fits what they have right now, with the idea of gradually pushing the defense to the under 4-3 or some sort of hybrid that mixes and matches with the talent on hand and the type of offense they face that week.
One thing we know for sure: whatever alignment this defense takes on the field it must get better at stopping the run because that has been the big problem for the Chiefs defense. In fact, the trend line on run defense has been bad since the days of Marty Schottenheimer:
As the chart shows, from Marty to Herm the run defense became twice as bad on average. In seven of 10 seasons under Schottenheimer, the Chiefs were in the top half of the league in stopping the run and three times in the top 10. In the next 10 seasons, only once did they finish in the top 10 against the run, and that was the 2005 defense that was seventh against the run.
In three seasons under Herm Edwards and Gunther Cunningham, the run defense went from No. 18 to No. 28 to last year, No. 30. In the last two seasons, the Chiefs run defense has given up an average of 144.7 yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry. Last year’s defense gave up 25 rushing touchdowns. In 32 games over the last two seasons the Chiefs have allowed 14 rushers to gain over 100 yards.
Whether it’s the 4-3, 3-4, under 4-3, 5-2, the scheme had better be able to stop the run. For more, on this angle, check my piece on kcchiefs.com.
LEVI JONES IS AVAILABLE, BUT ARE THE CHIEFS INTERESTED IN JONES?
The Bengals finally got around to releasing veteran left tackle Levi Jones (left) on Wednesday and he would seem to be a player the Chiefs would be interested in speaking with, possibly to play right tackle or even as an experienced backup.
Jones will be 30 years old in August and is going into his eighth NFL season. Over his career, he’s played in 94 games. In recent seasons Jones has been bothered by knee and other leg problems. When the Bengals selected Andre Smith with the sixth pick of the first round in the 2009 NFL Draft, Jones became expendable.
Seattle, Denver and St. Louis have apparently expressed an interest in the former first-round draft choice (2002).
MOVEMENT & SIGNINGS AROUND THE LEAGUE
BENGALS – signed S Roy Williams (Cowboys); released OT Levi Jones.
BROWNS – promoted offensive quality control assistant George McDonald to wide receivers coach.
BUCCANEERS – released WR Anthony Mix.
LIONS – signed OL Toniu Fonoti.
PATRIOTS – third-round draft choice Tyrone McKenzie suffered torn ACL, out for the season.
RAMS – signed WR Tim Carter.
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …
Born on May 7, 1964 in Little Rock was DE Leslie O’Neal. He played 13 seasons in the NFL, and spent his last two years (1998-99) with the Chiefs. O’Neal appeared in 32 games with 23 starts in the Kansas City defense, producing 10 sacks. He finished his career with 132.5 sacks in 196 games. He appeared in nine seasons with San Diego and two years in St. Louis, along with his stint with the Chiefs.