Surtain, Knight Welcome Defensive Changes

When the Chiefs signed Patrick Surtain and Sammy Knight last off-season, the pair was heralded as saviors of a long-maligned defensive secondary. The safety-corner tandem brought experience and pedigree after playing together in Miami. Surtain and Knight fielded half of the NFL's No. 2 secondary in 2004.

Both players had solid individual years, combining for eight turnovers and 20 passes defensed, but for one reason or another, it didn't work out during their first year in Kansas City, as the Chiefs ranked 30th in pass defense.

The offseason brought Herman Edwards, who's looking to turn things around for the defense in Kansas City. At the heart of that turnaround is the new defensive scheme, the cover two. Surtain and Knight are both looking forward to playing in it.

Surtain characterized the scheme as "a turnover defense," but that doesn't mean he's going to abandon his responsibilities to go ball-hawking. Cornerbacks have a specific job within the scheme.

"My job as a corner, first and foremost, is to try to disrupt the receiver and make it easy on the safeties," said Surtain. "They're showing a two-deep look, so they have a lot of pressure on them. My job is to disrupt the receiver's rhythm, jam them inside the route and sink and read the quarterback."

Knight identified the scheme as a system that allows the entire defense to work together in reading the quarterback. In a cover two defense, the linebackers and defensive backs rarely turn their backs to the line of scrimmage. That means everyone is watching the quarterback, and can break on the ball when it's thrown.

"Each guy has a specific area," said Surtain. "For the linebackers, we try to preach it every day: if a guy runs in front of you, don't bite the cheese. If someone is running in front of you, there's probably someone behind you, and that's who they're going to throw to. Play your zone. It's a discipline defense. When its time for you to make a play, you have to make it if it's in your area."

The new scheme has been a welcome change from last year's complicated defense. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham is well-known for his fat defensive playbooks. Surtain and second-year cornerback Alphonso Hodge said the cover two was much simpler.

"It's cake," said Hodge. "It's hard, but it's easier than what we were doing last year. It's good for the defense, because it lets you make a lot of plays."

"If you're a cornerback, you want to play in a defense like this," said Surtain. "It allows you to read the quarterback and let your instincts take over. Last year we were in a lot of man-to-man and it didn't allow you to look back in the backfield, because you're on your man most of the time."

The cover two has been a welcome change to the defense, but Edwards' arrival in Kansas City has been well-received by the entire team. Players in training camp have given rave reviews over his short, efficient practices and his up-tempo style of coaching.

The defensive backs are no different. Edwards has been hands-on with the entire secondary, acting almost as if he was the defensive backs coach himself.

That style of teaching has been welcomed by veterans and young players alike.

"He brings knowledge and really understands from a defensive backs' standpoint of what you saw, and what you're going through and what you need to do," said Knight. "He kind of cuts out all the verbiage and gets to the point. ‘Look, you need to see this. Don't worry about all that. Look at this and make the play."

"I've got nothing negative to say about Herm," said Hodge. "He's the best coach I've had. He's just a great guy and a players coach. He messes with us, but you know that whatever he says, you've got to listen. He's played in Pro Bowls and went to the Super Bowl, so he's had success. Everything he says, you have to take it in."

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