The winning formula for the Kansas City Chiefs this season is going to involve a strong special teams unit and an elite defense. Early returns – no pun intended – have made it obvious the special teams unit is making the strides necessary to be an excellent unity. But what about the defense?
Coming into the season some of the biggest concerns about the defense centered around the defensive line play and if the Chiefs could make plays behind the line of scrimmage. Here are three plays to suggest the defense in on their way towards being great.
(Note: The gifs come courtesy of this thread at Chiefs Planet. There are plenty more to view if you wish.)
GIF #1: Dontari Poe shakes his man.
Mike Iuputi is a three-year starter for the San Francisco 49ers. He was a first round pick in 2010 and was named to his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro team last season.
Mike Iuputi is a very, very good guard… and Poe made him look silly.
Poe completely shook Iuputi out of his shoes to get himself into the backfield very quickly. This is one of those plays where you say, “Well, he didn’t get to the quarterback.” And this is where I tell you to shut your mouth.
Yes, this time the quarterback had a quick route to throw to, and a running back to slow Poe down. But next time neither of those built-in protections may not be there.
What the Chiefs need Poe to do is exactly this: Get in the backfield as frequently as possible. Because eventually opponents are going to have to start shifting their protection to the inside. As a result, Justin Houston and Tamba Hali will have matchups against tight ends and running backs instead of offensive tackles.
More pressure from the middle will create these kinds of positive matchups for the Chiefs. And given that Poe is doing this against one of the better interior linemen in football, there is reason to believe the Chiefs will start seeing those positive matchups more often.
GIF #2: Justin Houston is a beast.
You know what makes Justin Houston so scary? He’s so much more than a speed rusher.
Houston is known more amongst fans as a guy who can come off the edge quickly and get to the quarterback. And he is excellent at that. A game like the three-sack outing he had against the New Orleans Saints last season is a prime example of his speed rushing ability.
What we don’t see as much is both his power and his awareness.
In the clip above Houston stays home, reads the play, dismisses two would-be 49er blockers, and then swallows up the speedy LaMichael James in the backfield. The two blockers he runs through on the play – 220 pound veteran Anquan Boldin and 252 pound tight end Garrett Celek – are no rag dolls when it comes to blockers. No, neither are offensive lineman, but both are physical, large, and athletic receivers.
Houston was essentially the only guy standing in the way of James in at least a first down, and Houston made the play.
GIF #3: Mike DeVito with the best defensive line play for the Chiefs in years.
Kansas City’s defense has lacked edge ever since Dick Vermeil arrived in Kansas City. It has mostly been a personnel issues as much as it has been a schematic issues. Yes, you can scheme for an aggressive defense but that doesn’t mean you’ll have a defense that plays with aggression. There is a mindset that has to go with the aggressive scheme, and that mindset really isn’t something that can be taught.
Mike DeVito has that edge to him. This play is all about want, aggression and violence, in addition be being technically sound.
The Chiefs defensive scheme allows for more aggression as it is more of an attacking style defense. But the personnel the Chiefs have added over the offseason bring the aggressive frame of mind that will make this defense work. DeVito is one piece to that mental puzzle.
Kansas City’s defense is going to have to continue to make plays like this if the Chiefs are going to make a run for a playoff spot. The good news is they are showing flashes in the preseason, against good competition, that leads one to believe they are making the necessary steps towards being an elite defense.