I simply love our team. I haven't had as much fun in an off season since, well, ever. I read Josh Looney's blog religiously (if you haven't read it on the mothership you really should, Josh covers everything well. He may not do too much in the way of letting you see into the future, but he makes darn sure that you don't miss a thing as events develop).
I like to read the other posters here on AP so that I can see how the Nation is feeling concerning what is happening. Frankly, we have some of the best informed, most intelligent and tuned in fans that I have seen on ANY team's blog. Call me biased, but I have learned more from reading posts on AP than any other source of Chiefs specific, and football in general, info around.
One thing that has been a topic of discussion lately is the state of our defense. Particularly the front seven. Many are worried that the front seven will once again screw the pooch and leave us on the low end of the scoreboard come the end of regulation.
I, however, am unconcerned. The Chiefs WILL improve defensively this year. There is simply no doubt in my mind that this will happen. There are several reasons for that, that I intend to explore, but rest assured my fellow rabid Chiefs fan that our defense will no longer be disparaged in the national press as one that cannot find their way. As the 2010 season comes to a close, talk of the 'NEW' and 'IMPROVED' Chiefs defensive unit will be all the rage. Come, walk with me after the jump to find out why.
The 2009 version of the KC Chiefs defense was not very pretty. Actually, you could make the case that the entire pile of minutae known as the 2009 KC Chiefs was a bit ugly to behold. If you like being a fan of a team that gives you plenty of opportunity to be upset with how they are playing, well let's just say that last years Chiefs did not disappoint. The BRIGHT spot? Without that opportunity to form a baseline opinion, we wouldn't be able to appreciate all the improvement going forward.
IMPROVEMENT? Just who does this Aiken Drum think he is anyway? Everybody knows that Pioli in his infinite (some would call it finite after this last draft and FA period) wisdom basically screwed up and didn't adress the REAL needs of this defense, right? I mean, Javier Arenas and Eric Berry are FABULOUS players and all, but what about the front seven?
Why in God's name didn't he get a nose tackle to squash opposing running backs like ants trying to get in the sugar bowl (college football fans can go there if they want to, but this thought was accompanied by a rememberance of my Grandmother thumbing ants on her countertop that were making their way for her sugar bowl)? Why in the name of Hades didn't he go out and draft a REAL DE that will finally give us a chance to be good in a few years once he gets tired of the Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson experiment?
My friends, if these questions have been on your mind I must tell you that Pioli is like a Chess player. He is thinking several moves ahead of where the board now stands. Why waste draft picks on questionable talent (in this years draft at least) for positions of need, when the reality is that we can do just as well (for 2010 anyway) by drafting for the positions that will MAKE THE MOST DIFFERENCE?
The positions that make the most difference for 2010 are exactly what we drafted. Secondary. Safetys and Corners. Offensive linemen and a top notch running back, followed by a slot receiver that will be used in our offense similar to the way Darren Sproles is used in San Diego (the CREAM of the division according to many so what's so bad about copying off their paper?).
Many of you are now saying that Aiken has lost his marbles (or for a certain poster who shall remain nameless, ran out of fingers). Not so. I give you our schedule for the 2010 season as evidence. Actually, the difference between the 2009 and the 2010 schedule concerning the running games we face is the secret. Our defense will improve this year just by showing up for the games. Let's take a look.
Heading into the 2009 season our schedule was a monster. Particularly because of the smash mouth football we were about to face. Everybody is soooo down on our defense because they couldn't stop the run last year. There are two reasons for that, one gets mentioned all the time and one hasn't been talked about much.
The one that is known and discussed is the fact that our defense changed schemes last year and arguably did not have the right players for the roles necessary to make that defense work.
Now, the argument that our players WILL get better at their jobs with time played notwithstanding, you have to believe that this switch was devastating to our defensive ability to control the game. Combine that with having a DC that was just OK in terms of teaching and schemeing and what we saw last year is more understandable. The Chiefs defense was a jumble of very odd stats last year. They gave up huge amounts of yardage on the ground and in the air, yet they were near the top of the list in three and outs forced. What in Carrie Nation does that mean?
I think it means that our defense, even with all it's challenges, was learning to do the right thing. They simply had about one play in 10 when somebody misfired badly enough to give up the big gains. Many fans are upset that DJ didn't start all year. I think that was because of his unpredictiblility. How many misfires have you seen him author? I have seen him miss tackles because he was running so fast to cover space when he blew reading the play that he couldn't slow down enough to grab the opposing player. He usually looked like a tornado, glancing off the opposing players pads and creating havoc and devastation on the sidelines where he ended up in a heap. Even a few pick sixes won't totally make up for not being where he should be on a regular basis. I believe that Haley was finally able to get through DJs thick skull towards the end of the season. I give you the final game of the year and DJs performance in it for validation.
The second reason that our defense couldn't stop the run last year that doesn't get mentioned much is that we played some teams that were damn good at running the ball. Eight of the teams we played last year were in the top 15 of running teams from 2008. What's more, only 4 were in the bottom 10 teams and only 1 was in the bottom 5. On average, the teams we played against last year ran the ball for 117.15 yards per game in 2008.
So what is different about 2010? The quality of the running games we face takes a huge nose dive. Of the teams that we face this coming year, only three are top 15 running teams from last year. Five of the teams we face are in the bottom 10 running teams from last year and of those, four are in the bottom five. Many of these teams THROW the ball to make their living. That is the genious of Pioli.
What goes around comes around, as it were. The teams we face in 2010 only averaged 84.11 yards rushing per game in 2009. That is 33 yards per game less on average than the previous schedule. That comes to 528 yards less over a 16 game season. Nine of the teams that we face this year were in the BOTTOM 15 rushing teams from 2009. That's right sports fans, that is over half of our games.
If Pioli had spent his draft picks shoring up the middle of the defense to crush teams that are better at throwing the ball, I surmize that we would have had a long year watching Page, McGraw and the flavor of the day line backer running behind the opposing WR into the end zone.
Instead, he did EXACTLY what was necessary with the limited choices he had. He shored up the secondary to force those teams to put the ball on the ground and rely on Romeo to slow those poor running games down just enough to keep us in the game in the last four minutes. He also added reinforcements to the o-line and brought in another RB of our own to take the heat off our passing game. Then, just to confusticate the defensive coordinators that have to game plan for us this year he added a slot reciever/running back/wild cat thingy named McCluster. Brillance is often lost on those who are blinded by it.
The defense will NOT be as bad as it was last year. Take that to the bank.