Not only does the middle of the Kansas City Chiefs defense offer up linebacker, Josh Mauga, fresh off a new $8 million contract. It also boasts the heart of the team coming off an Achilles-tendon injury, Derrick Johnson; one of the best Chiefs defenders of all time. So without further ado, let’s put the duo through the good, the bad and the ugly.
We can all hope Derrick Johnson comes back to the Chiefs defense at full strength. If he does, that would be great fortune for the Kansas City Chiefs. While Josh Mauga played inspired football in DJ’s absence, enough to earn a new contract, Johnson’s all-pro presence was severely missed throughout the season as the team limped to a disappointing 9-7 record.
Despite a solid season Mauga won’t walk into a starters role this season. Though they don’t have their experience, linebackers, Ramik Wilson (118th overall) and D.J. Alexander (172nd overall) came out of the 2015 NFL draft ready to get on the field their rookie seasons.
When Chiefs training camp gets under way at the first of August, the competition will begin to tackle the future of DJ’s However, that’s just the nature of the NFL beast during the preseason. The good news is the Chiefs also have names like James Michael-Johnson who will take to those battles as if football careers depend on it.
Realistically, their jobs are on the line, and the Chiefs have zero-room for players that aren’t here to compete and win. Luckily, from DJ down to the rookies, the boys in red have plenty of wannabe-members that will give it their all to make the Kansas City Chiefs.
Every team wants to have a 2,000-yard rusher on offense. The trouble with the Chiefs run defense is they gave up 2,036 yards on defense instead of gaining it on offense. They accomplished this particular stat in a division that included a pair of teams that didn’t feature starting running backs listed on pro football reference to begin the season.
In 2015, who knows what new Denver Broncos Head Coach, Gary Kubiak will do to the teams rushing game. Piling on that question, Chiefs linebackers might have to be weary of San Diego Chargers running back, Melvin Gordon, he’s full of crazy talent. At the same time, Raiders rolled the dice on Trent Richardson. His talent has never matured at the NFL level, nevertheless it will be a chore for the Chiefs middle defense to stop the run this season.
On paper the return of Johnson is outstanding for the Chiefs, but the “bad” truth is the Chiefs have needed another inside linebacker for years. In failing to develop linebacker, Nico Johnson, as a successor to the late, Jovan Belcher, that is the primary reason the Chiefs drafted a pair of inside linebackers a couple of months ago.
If the Chiefs are serious about stopping the run, not only do they need their 32-year old linebacker to enter the season at 100%. The team desperately needs to develop an additional linebacker that can truly be a thumper at the NFL level.
The Chiefs gave Mauga a fair sum of money, so it’s obvious they see the potential in his game, but they need both Mauga and Wilson to play a more consistent brand of inside linebacker. If not, the Chiefs will get run over defensively this season. That would be bad. So no matter whom it is, someone at the position must step up and be the man in the middle for Kansas City.
It’s hard not to go back DJ’s injury and state again his age. Setting aside the number of years he’s played in the NFL, a torn Achilles heel is a nasty injury that has destroyed gridiron careers for decades.
From what we can gather, Johnson seems to be in good shape entering training camp. Prior to the season ending injury he suffered a year ago, he rarely missed time on the gridiron. That’s why he spent so much time in the weight room this off-season. He knew the injury would require a commitment to rebuild his body and get him back to NFL speed.
For a decade now, Johnson has been one of the best athletes on the field. But taking a year off at his age to workout at the incredible pace he maintained, fans can only hope he regains his old pro bowl persona on the field.
In training camp, we’re going to find out quickly if he can play at the standards he’s set for himself. If Johnson is hobbled and kept under microscope throughout camp or spends time off the practice field, it could be a big concern for the Chiefs defense in 2015.