First Quarter Secondary Grades

For the most part the defensive secondary has been average. Sometimes they've been stellar and sometimes they've been below NFL standards. But that's part of the course when you play in any NFL defensive secondary. For the Chiefs, they've experienced a high level of success and frustration in their first four games.

Mike Nugent - The Kansas City Chiefs secondary has been a work in progress, and they still are going to need time to gel. Easily the weakest link in the Chiefs defense the past few seasons has been the secondary. So, wisely, the Chiefs went out this offseason and shook up the secondary personnel in an attempt to coax better play out of the back four. They went out and signed a top five cornerback, Patrick Surtain, and signed veteran safety Sammy Knight. The Chiefs then moved strong safety Greg Wesley to the free safety spot, where they hoped he could use his youth and athleticism to make big plays.

With Cornerback Eric Warfield out, the Chiefs were forced to put reserve cornerback and former starter Dexter McCleon, whom the Chiefs felt would be a good interim replacement, as the teams other starter. Still, the Chiefs have been playing a lot of zone coverage, which has hurt them at times. They were able to survive against the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders, but the Denver Broncos and the Philadelphia Eagles were able to shred the Chiefs' zone. The lack of a pass rush has forced the secondary to hold coverage longer, and allows opposing receivers to find soft spots and settle in for big yardage plays.

Surtain hasn't been able to apply pressure to opposing receivers, taking away the strength of his game. At times, the entire secondary has resorted to arm-tackling, allowing big plays down the field after contact. It appears that the secondary isn't working that well with the front seven. The Chiefs need to solidify communication in the secondary, and the entire defense for that matter. Having said that, it was expected that the secondary would struggle early, and will need the bye and possibly a game or two to get settled and to reach their full potential as a unit. The return of Warfield should allow the Chiefs to return to aggressive, pressing man coverage on the outside, which should improve the play of the entire defense.
CHIEFS SECONDARY GRADE: B

Nick Athan - In the off-season the Kansas City Chiefs spent a lot of money landing free agent cornerback Patrick Surtain and safety Sammy Knight. At times, each has been amazing but they've also had some not-so-good moments. For Surtain his interception against the New York Jets had fans jumping for joy that they finally had a true shut down cornerback on the roster. But the last three games he has been above average.

The fact that he's matched up opposite Dexter McCleon has hurt his effectiveness. But he's been hampered by Defensive Coordinator Gunther Cunningham. Why he does not better use his premier cornerback is something that perplexes the average Joe in Kansas City. Clearly Surtain is the best player in the secondary and why Cunningham doesn't allow Surtain to play the other teams best receiver throughout the game is a mystery that only can be solved with a change in his coaching philosophy.

Against the Eagles, Surtain spent very little time covering Terrell Owens. Enough said. As far as McCleon, he's been okay to date. But when you play so far off a receiver teams have had an easy time completing 10-15 yard passes in front of the Chiefs cornerback. You add that with no consistent pass rush and McCleon and Surtain have little choice but to play soft coverages. But what does that say about their talent or coaching philosophies on defense?

Benny Sapp is a solid blitzing cornerback. In fact, I'd go as far as saying one of the best in the NFL. But his coverage skills should not be tested covering the likes of Randy Moss or Terrell Owens. Maybe someday he can develop into a solid nickel back but he has a long way to go. DeWayne Washington is simply hanging around until Eric Warfield is activated which should be sometime on Monday. But when the Chiefs put Warfield back on the roster, he needs to replace McCleon as the starter. Warfield and Surtain need to spend as much time on the field as possible so they can each bring out the best in each other. McCleon is better suited to play slot receivers than on the outside. He's not very quick and he can direct slot receivers into linebackers and that will help him keep them in front of him on most passing patterns.

Sammy Knight has been everything as advertised but he needs to take better angles to receivers. He's not the speedy safety that many teams covet but he's solid enough to get the job done. Still he needs to get more help from Greg Wesley.

In the offseason Wesley and Jerome Woods knew that they would be battling for a starting spot. Wesley took the challenge and Woods pouted. Wesley seems to have lost a step and he's not hitting receivers nearly as hard as he's done in the past. He needs to play with the physical reckless abandon that Chiefs fans have come to enjoy over the years.

As far as Woods, I've been real disappointed with his attitude and his play on Special teams cost the Chiefs a touchdown in Oakland and a long gain against the Eagles a week ago. The Chiefs should bench him all together if Woods attitude doesn't change over the bye week.

He's a professional making a ton of money and he can help this team both on defense and special teams. But it's all up to the veteran and so far he's hurt his team.
CHIEFS SECONDARY GRADE C+

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