Scouting the Chiefs: Defense

The Chiefs rank second in scoring defense and shut down the Chargers in Week 1. Are they ready for the Colts? Brad Keller takes a look.

Defensive Line:

Kansas City switched to a 3-4 alignment from the 4-3 when Todd Haley took over as head coach after the 2008 season.  The team moved Ron Edwards to nose tackle and he is a little out of place at the position at 6-foot-3 inches and 315 pounds.

Normally, a nose tackle is more squat and bigger, but Edwards plays the position with a tremendous amount of zeal and hustle and thus is able to penetrate into the backfield and pressure the quarterback, as he already has a sack on the season.  The key words for this front three are effort and energy, as they bring a great deal of intensity to their positions to make up for what they lack in physical attributes.


LB Tamba Hali
Doug Pensinger /Getty

Right end Glenn Dorsey is a converted tackle that is probably too short, too light, and too much of a natural tackle to play the position, but he still gets after the ball and wreaks a great deal of havoc in terms of shooting gaps and creating penetration.  Left end Tyson Jackson was limited in practice this week and may be spelled by sixth year veteran reserve Shaun Smith.  This is a young front, though, that will get after the ball and will be ready to come at the quarterback at the snap.

Outside linebacker Tamba Hali is a converted defensive end that usually plays with his hand on the ground.  There is not a tremendous amount of mystery in the flavor of the 3-4 that Kansas City deploys, as Hali rushes the passer on virtually every play and has accounted for half of the seven sacks the Chiefs have recorded thus far this season.  He will present a challenge for Charlie Johnson, who has struggled against speed rushers in the past, but Johnson should be able to handle Hali with only occasional help.

In the running game, Ryan Diem and Kyle DeVan may be able to wear down the taller, leaner Jackson as the game wears on — especially if he is still recovering from his injury — but they will not be able to wear Smith out by way of sheer force.  This will be a tactical battle, with Kansas City likely deploying their best players in a 3-3-5 base defense in order to combat the Colts potent passing offense.

Hali will be coming on nearly every play, but Peyton Manning needs to isolate on him in coverage when he gets a one-on-one match-up, particularly on wheel routes to Joseph Addai, when he gets them. 

The Chiefs rank fifth in the league in rushing defense and will not give up that ranking easily.  Indianapolis has only shown an occasional interest in running the ball, but they should have success against a smaller front for Kansas City.  The offense is at its peak effectiveness when it is balanced and Manning should be able to take advantage of an aggressive and trigger-happy secondary on play action.

Linebackers:

Former first round pick and outside linebacker Derrick Johnson was moved inside when the team made the transition to the 3-4 defense.  He is playing out of position, but is still a tremendous two-way player that has a nose for the ball.  He will most likely cover the short-to-intermediate area of the field and be responsible for shadowing Dallas Clark and Austin Collie, either breaking up the pass or punishing the receiver when he catches the ball.  Johnson is a run defender first and foremost, though, so he is susceptible to the play action fake and his area of the field will likely be targeted with Clark and Collie in the red zone.

Outside linebacker Mike Vrabel is still in the league, still playing at a fairly high level, and is still a very intelligent player that knows the Indianapolis offense.  He will have coached his teammates throughout the week and will probably be barking out signals and commands prior to the snap.

Manning has a mixed history against Vrabel and 3-4 defenses in general, but the recent history against both has produced positive results.  Manning cannot allow himself to be rattled by Vrabel's presence or signals and Jeff Saturday and Mike Pollak must be ready for Vrabel to sweep inside and pressure Manning up the middle in his face, where he knows Manning is the least comfortable and least effective.

Secondary:

If Reggie Wayne is indeed a match-up player at this point in his career, he draws a juicy match-up in third year cornerback Brandon Carr.  Though the Chiefs rank fifth against the rush and second in scoring defense, they rank 25th against the pass and have been involved in two close games out of three, so those numbers were not all posted in garbage time.

Wayne ate Jacksonville cornerback David Jones alive in Week 4 and could have similar success against Carr in this week's game.  Like Jones, Carr is young and brash and prefers man coverage, so Wayne should be able to exploit that match-up to his advantage.


CB Brandon Flowers
AP Photo

Brandon Flowers has five passes defended and two interceptions in this young season and is beginning to emerge as a quality cornerback.  He may shift over to Wayne's side in an attempt to take him out of the game, but if he draws rookie Blair White, Manning should avoid his side of the field.

If Pierre Garcon — who had full participation in practice this week — is able to go, he presents an interesting matchup for Flowers.  Flowers is aggressive and trusts his instincts and abilities.  He may be lured into a double-move by Garcon on the slant and go that Garcon and Manning have perfected over the past two seasons.  Kansas City has been able to survive on defense with a bend-don't-break mentality thus far in 2010, but one big hit to Garcon may be enough to break them, or at least frazzle them for a period.

Rookie safeties Kendrick Lewis and Eric Berry cover a lot of ground, but they are also prone to mental lapses and mistakes common to rookies.  They may try to jump a route or cheat too close to the line of scrimmage, trusting their athletic abilities to be the great equalizer.  Manning must try to catch them out of position and hit for a big play to Collie, Wayne, Garcon, or Clark.  This defense is young, has only known success thus far this season, and is potentially fragile.

Through effort, energy, and timely bounces, they have been able to limit their opponents and be instrumental in winning the three games on the schedule thus far.  They need to create and force turnovers instead of hoping that they will just happen.  They need to get in Manning's face and neutralize his receivers at the line of scrimmage.

Ultimately, though, this match-up will come down to whether the Chiefs have just been hard-working and lucky, or whether they are actually a good defense.  They faced a solid Chargers offense in Week 1, but have been untested since then.  This Sunday's game gives them a chance to prove their mettle against one of the best offenses of the century.  Manning will seek to prove that they are not ready for prime time and Kansas City will strive to prove that they are. 

It will come down to execution and turnovers, which favors the experienced Colts over the enthusiastic Chiefs.


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Kansas City switched to a 3-4 alignment from the 4-3 when Todd Haley took over as head coach after the 2008 season.  The team moved Ron Edwards to nose tackle and he is a little out of place at the position at 6-foot-3 inches and 315 pounds.

Normally, a nose tackle is more squat and bigger, but Edwards plays the position with a tremendous amount of zeal and hustle and thus is able to penetrate into the backfield and pressure the quarterback, as he already has a sack on the season.  The key words for this front three are effort and energy, as they bring a great deal of intensity to their positions to make up for what they lack in physical attributes.

Right end Glenn Dorsey is a converted tackle that is probably too short, too light, and too much of a natural tackle to play the position, but he still gets after the ball and wreaks a great deal of havoc in terms of shooting gaps and creating penetration.  Left end Tyson Jackson was limited in practice this week and may be spelled by sixth year veteran reserve Shaun Smith.  This is a young front, though, that will get after the ball and will be ready to come at the quarterback at the snap.

Outside linebacker Tamba Hali is a converted defensive end that usually plays with his hand on the ground.  There is not a tremendous amount of mystery in the flavor of the 3-4 that Kansas City deploys, as Hali rushes the passer on virtually every play and has accounted for half of the seven sacks the Chiefs have recorded thus far this season.  He will present a challenge for Charlie Johnson, who has struggled against speed rushers in the past, but Johnson should be able to handle Hali with only occasional help.

In the running game, Ryan Diem and Kyle DeVan may be able to wear down the taller, leaner Jackson as the game wears on — especially if he is still recovering from his injury — but they will not be able to wear Smith out by way of sheer force.  This will be a tactical battle, with Kansas City likely deploying their best players in a 3-3-5 base defense in order to combat the Colts potent passing offense.

Hali will be coming on nearly every play, but Peyton Manning needs to isolate on him in coverage when he gets a one-on-one match-up, particularly on wheel routes to Joseph Addai, when he gets them. 

The Chiefs rank fifth in the league in rushing defense and will not give up that ranking easily.  Indianapolis has only shown an occasional interest in running the ball, but they should have success against a smaller front for Kansas City.  The offense is at its peak effectiveness when it is balanced and Manning should be able to take advantage of an aggressive and trigger-happy secondary on play action.

Former first round pick and outside linebacker Derrick Johnson was moved inside when the team made the transition to the 3-4 defense.  He is playing out of position, but is still a tremendous two-way player that has a nose for the ball.  He will most likely cover the short-to-intermediate area of the field and be responsible for shadowing Dallas Clark and Austin Collie, either breaking up the pass or punishing the receiver when he catches the ball.  Johnson is a run defender first and foremost, though, so he is susceptible to the play action fake and his area of the field will likely be targeted with Clark and Collie in the red zone.

Outside linebacker Mike Vrabel is still in the league, still playing at a fairly high level, and is still a very intelligent player that knows the Indianapolis offense.  He will have coached his teammates throughout the week and will probably be barking out signals and commands prior to the snap.

Manning has a mixed history against Vrabel and 3-4 defenses in general, but the recent history against both has produced positive results.  Manning cannot allow himself to be rattled by Vrabel's presence or signals and Jeff Saturday and Mike Pollak must be ready for Vrabel to sweep inside and pressure Manning up the middle in his face, where he knows Manning is the least comfortable and least effective.

If Reggie Wayne is indeed a match-up player at this point in his career, he draws a juicy match-up in third year cornerback Brandon Carr.  Though the Chiefs rank fifth against the rush and second in scoring defense, they rank 25th against the pass and have been involved in two close games out of three, so those numbers were not all posted in garbage time.

Wayne ate Jacksonville cornerback David Jones alive in Week 4 and could have similar success against Carr in this week's game.  Like Jones, Carr is young and brash and prefers man coverage, so Wayne should be able to exploit that match-up to his advantage.

Brandon Flowers has five passes defended and two interceptions in this young season and is beginning to emerge as a quality cornerback.  He may shift over to Wayne's side in an attempt to take him out of the game, but if he draws rookie Blair White, Manning should avoid his side of the field.

If Pierre Garcon — who had full participation in practice this week — is able to go, he presents an interesting matchup for Flowers.  Flowers is aggressive and trusts his instincts and abilities.  He may be lured into a double-move by Garcon on the slant and go that Garcon and Manning have perfected over the past two seasons.  Kansas City has been able to survive on defense with a bend-don't-break mentality thus far in 2010, but one big hit to Garcon may be enough to break them, or at least frazzle them for a period.

Rookie safeties Kendrick Lewis and Eric Berry cover a lot of ground, but they are also prone to mental lapses and mistakes common to rookies.  They may try to jump a route or cheat too close to the line of scrimmage, trusting their athletic abilities to be the great equalizer.  Manning must try to catch them out of position and hit for a big play to Collie, Wayne, Garcon, or Clark.  This defense is young, has only known success thus far this season, and is potentially fragile.

Through effort, energy, and timely bounces, they have been able to limit their opponents and be instrumental in winning the three games on the schedule thus far.  They need to create and force turnovers instead of hoping that they will just happen.  They need to get in Manning's face and neutralize his receivers at the line of scrimmage.

Ultimately, though, this match-up will come down to whether the Chiefs have just been hard-working and lucky, or whether they are actually a good defense.  They faced a solid Chargers offense in Week 1, but have been untested since then.  This Sunday's game gives them a chance to prove their mettle against one of the best offenses of the century.  Manning will seek to prove that they are not ready for prime time and Kansas City will strive to prove that they are. 

It will come down to execution and turnovers, which favors the experienced Colts over the enthusiastic Chiefs.

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