Jackson And Magee - The Foundation?

Four thousand, six-hundred and thirty-two rushing yards, 4.67 yards per carry, 36 rushing touchdowns, 35 runs over 20 yards. If you saw the last 32 games played by the Kansas City Chiefs, no doubt you're acutely aware of what those statistics represent. They are the numerical representation of one of the NFL's worst run defenses.

In fact, only one team has allowed more rushing yards than the Chiefs over the last two seasons – the Oakland Raiders. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Raiders are the only team the Chiefs have beaten more than once over the last two seasons.

Do you think any of this escaped the attention of Scott Pioli?

Early this offseason, as he reviewed film of the ragtag defense he was inheriting, likely he was completely disgusted by what he saw: huge running lanes, missed tackles, safeties and linebackers being abused by even pedestrian running backs.

Actually, forget running backs. How about ball carriers in general? Last September, when former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel put a juke on former Chiefs middle linebacker Pat Thomas, Pioli had to be laughing. A few months later, Pioli probably wasn't giggling when he decided not to re-sign Thomas.

There's really nothing more demoralizing to a football team than bad run defense. Via the play-action pass, it effectively turns any defense into a complete laughingstock. It forces the offense to play catch-up against a well-rested defense.

Worst of all, it emasculates abnormally large men who possess strength much greater than the average human. To put it bluntly, if you're a defender who can't hold up against the run, the average fan might assign you certain feminine characteristics. There is no greater embarrassment in the world of pro football.

It's probably not a coincidence that eight of the last 10 Super Bowl winners featured top 10 run defenses during the regular season. And the two exceptions – the 2006 Colts and 2001 Patriots – just happened to play phenomenal run defense on their way to championships.

"Pick me! Pick me!" screamed Tyson Jackson. And Pioli obliged.
Doug Benc - Getty

Again, none of this escapes Pioli, who witnessed firsthand what a bad run defense does to a football team in 2002, with the Patriots. A championship team the previous year, New England was reduced to missing the playoffs because of the 31st ranked run defense.

That's why we shouldn't be surprised Tyson Jackson and Alex Magee are Chiefs today.

Leading up to the draft, it seemed a foregone conclusion that if Pioli was going pick based on need, as we had seen him do in New England, picking a pass rusher appeared to be the most obvious choice. When you only get to the quarterback 10 times in 16 games, it's fairly obvious your roster is stocked with a lack of individuals who can beat an offensive tackle with any sort of consistency.

So when the Chiefs didn't even bother to trade down in an effort to pick an outside pass rusher, and in fact went through the entire draft without selecting a single player who might play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, fans started scratching their heads. Actually, they started beating their heads against the wall when Pioli and company apparently "reached" for a 3-4 defensive end in Jackson with the third overall pick.

But perhaps we all misjudged what the Chiefs' biggest need really was? Think of it this way – how is a defense going to get to the quarterback when the ball is being shoved down its throat 35 or 40 times on a given Sunday?

What's the old football adage? You earn the right to rush the passer by stopping the run? Last year the only thing the Chiefs' defense earned was pink slips for Herm Edwards and Gunther Cunningham.

If Jackson and Magee are the 3-4 run stuffers Pioli believes them to be, and Tank Tyler is the supposed anchor in the middle, they'll create more opportunities for Tamba Hali, Mike Vrabel and hopefully a few more pass rushers to be named later this offseason. They'll also give Derrick Johnson a chance to revive his career and Zach Thomas a chance to do what he was signed to do.

After the fact, and considering all of that, how can anyone disagree with the drafting of Jackson and Magee? What was Pioli supposed to do? Go to war with Glenn Dorsey, Alfonso Boone and Turk McBride playing end in the 3-4? There are already indications that Dorsey isn't a particularly good fit anywhere in the scheme. Boone is a career 4-3 defensive tackle. McBride, despite his size, has been moved to outside linebacker.

After seeing the guns on Alex Magee, Pioli could not resist picking him.
Andrew Hancock - IndyStar.com

Without a pair of players like Jackson and Magee, the Chiefs were just asking to get run all over again for the third year in a row. Can you imagine the gaping holes off right and left tackle that might've been created in Kansas City's defensive line this season without competent 3-4 defensive ends? Forget running up the middle, teams would have been ripping off enormous gains to the outside.

The Chiefs would have been asking any pass rushers, no matter their talent, to be bystanders in a hopeless war of attrition. Even worse, they would have been asking Matt Cassel to play catch-up against well-rested defenses. Not a great way to start the new era at Arrowhead Stadium.

Clearly, if you want to build a football team, you have to start with the foundation. Jackson and Magee appear to be just that.

In drafting the pair, Pioli is sending you a simple message. If we could step inside his thought process, it might sound a little something like this:

"My God, Chiefs fans. My God. This team may have the most pathetic run defense in the history of the franchise. It may be the worst I've seen my 17 years in and around the National Football League. I know you covet pass rushers. But right now, I have to do something to fix this run defense.

My God, if I don't, what will happen? I saw how you turned on Gunther Cunningham. You ate Herm Edwards alive! You guys scare me! I have to fix this run defense RIGHT NOW, or Clancy Pendergast may soon be compared to Greg Robinson. I need Tyson Jackson. I need Alex Magee. Help me, Zach Thomas, you're my only hope!"

What about Todd Haley? We don't even have to guess. Shortly after Jackson was selected, he had this to say about his new defensive end:

"We probably see him right now away from the tight end, on the back side, the open side," said Haley. "That's a key position for the defense as far as stopping the run."

And who knows? The Chiefs may yet make a play for Julius Peppers or Jason Taylor. But what good would either player – or any pass rusher picked early in the draft - have done for Kansas City this season if opposing offenses were ramming the ball in every direction for huge chunks of yardage again and again?

The answer is obvious: little good at all.

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