This is by far the most difficult time of the year to do posts. Not because there's nothing to talk about, but because there's a ton to talk about and it all relates to "what should the Chiefs do in the offseason?" Which leads to tons of repetition and lots of comments to the effect of, "oh great, another post like this." (Apparently people miss the irony of making a comment that's overused when complaining about topics that are overused, but I digress).
Anyways, if I had it my way I'd be breaking down why the Chiefs have a snowball's chance in Hell at winning in the playoffs. Sadly, though, the Chiefs decided to let Richard Seymour block two FGs (a mystifying strategic decision, no?) and that dream is not a reality.
So instead... to the offseason!
I happen to be one of those who tries (and generally fails) to walk the fine line between optimism and homerism. And the optimist in me tells me we're (kind of) close. But to figure out where we're going, we need to figure out where we're AT right now. Thus, any talk about the future is meaningless without figuring out who we have right now, and how they've performed up until now.
So I'm starting the first of many breakdowns in which I'm going to put every position group under the microscope, starting with the defensive line.
In case you're curious (or perhaps to establish at least SOME credibility), here's how I do this type of post... I start with basic stats. Then, after reminding myself that stats tell roughly half of the story(and in many cases less than that), I move onto ProFootballFocus stats (where they do unbelievably detailed breakdowns of every player in every snap), which are much more of a clear picture as to how a player has done (although still not infallible by any stretch). Then I spend at least an hour watching snaps in which the player was in (which is how I form the majority of my opinion).
That said, let's talk about defensive linemen... (by the way, I'll end all of my discussions with a 1-10 rating of the need to upgrade the position, with 1 being, "this guy is a guy I'd rather cut my arm off than replace" and 10 being "I'd give my arm to have this guy upgraded by even an AVERAGE player")
*****Final Late note. In trying to be as in depth as possible, I realized that there is simply no way to cover the entire defensive line in one post. So we're going to look at Glenn Dorsey and Allen Bailey today. Seriously, I'm getting WAY in depth here. ProFootballFocus and a few hours of staring at the games tends to make that happen. So know in advance you're looking at over 2500 words on two players here. This is for diehards only*****Glenn Dorsey
I may as well start with a guy who was, in my opinion, one of our disappointments this year. Dorsey had improved significantly every year until now, and he's at best been the same guy as last year. In all honesty, he seemed more regressed than anything else to me.
Now I could talk about putting a square peg into a round hole, but this isn't the place for your filthy dirty-talk. Suffice it to say that I really don't care WHAT position Dorsey "is most suited for." I care about how he's playing here, now, as a 3-4 DE. And the answer is.... "meh."
Not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it? Well, it's about as honest as I can get. Here's the good news on Dorsey: he's still very solid against the run. PFF gives him a high rating (2nd in the NFL, actually), and after watching a great deal of game tape, I partially agree. He's a good run stopper and doesn't give a lot of ground. He's also not bad at detaching himself from his blocker and making a play as the runner tries to get by him. Both good things. I don't think he's the second best run stopper in the league at his position, but he's good.
There is, however, bad news on several fronts. The fist bit of bad news: Dorsey does not draw many double teams. Now, this is in part due to our scheme. However, given the number of times I saw him singled up, he should be more of an impact player than he is. It's well known here that the DE in a 3-4 is supposed to eat blocks and let LBs make plays. If you're a DE and you're getting singled 80 percent of the time and NOT beating those single blockers? That's bad news.
The other bad news is worse: Glenn Dorsey cannot rush the passer. The man is epically bad at it. PFF says this in its stats, and game tape review confirms it. Honestly, when he's trying to rush the passer he basically looks like a fat dude waddling around out there being stonewalled by a single blocker. And yes, I KNOW that it's not the primary responsibility for a 3-4 DE to rush the passer. But again, he's not eating up double teams on those downs either. Which means all he's doing is occupying one guy while not applying any pressure at all.
So here's the dilemma: Dorsey's good at one aspect of his job and EPICALLY bad at the other aspect. And this while being single teamed much more than Kelly Gregg or Tyson Jackson on the snaps I viewed. That second part worries me more than the first. For guy facing one blocker much of the time, he's not doing as much as the ideal guy would. When you throw that in with his utter lack of ability to rush the passer, and you're looking at a guy who isn't exactly a position of strength for our D.
And before you use the argument that it doesn't matter whether he can rush the passer or eat double teams when trying to pass rush, since he gets subbed out on clear passing downs, consider this... Dorsey rushed the passer on 244 downs last year. That's 244 downs in which we had an absolutely horrible pass rusher providing 2 hits, 2 pressures, and no batted passes. In other words, Dorsey was asked to rush the passer almost a quarter of our defensive snaps last year, and only even scared the QB 4 times. It's a BIG DEAL that he's terrible at it, and how terrible he is.
"Need to Upgrade Level": 5
I was one of Dorsey's most staunch defenders for the last several years. Heck, I even did an "arguing with idiots" segment talking about why trading him was a stupid idea. However, in his fourth year, with more talent around him on defense, he regressed rather than progressed. He failed to take advantage of seeing fewer double teams than the rest of our linemen, which basically means he's not winning the matchups that our scheme is designed to give him (talk to Kalo about this, he explains the "scheme" stuff better)
On the other side of that, he's still good against the run, and good run stoppers are something you don't want to throw away without a clear upgrade. He has value for our team, even if it's just situational value. The biggest issue is the lack of an ability to either rush the passer OR occupy a double team when offenses pass against our 3-4. He needs to be able to do at least one of these things in order to be considered a "good" starter in a 3-4, and he does neither.
Hence, the "meh." He's all right, but doesn't do enough to even qualify as anything better than average. Yes, he's an impressive run stopper, but that's about it. And even as a run stopper, he struggles against double teams. Now, maybe he's been playing injured or something this year, but at this point we have to ask if his deficiencies rushing the passer (or occupying a double team when it's time to rush the passer) are worth putting up with.
LONG story short, based on deep stats and game film, Dorsey a guy who CAN be a part of a great defense, but only if there are multiple other pass rushers on the team. He simply cannot do it. Four years into his career, this is unlikely to change. Frankly, I'm not all that comfortable with one of our starting players being so limited and would like to see the position upgraded. That said, it's not enough of a need to waste valuable picks that are needed elsewhere, especially when we have...
All right, let's get a few things out of the way. I know he's a rookie. I know he was just a rotational player last year. And I know that many will think I'm GUZZLING Kool-Aid if I think Bailey is our long term solution. But hear me out! Seriously, the man killed an alligator with a shovel and looks like he was assembled in a factory where they create men to fight an imminent alien invasion, but escaped by killing his guards with sheer masculinity as his sole weapon. He deserves a fair shake. And even if he doesn't, he's scary. So hear me out, because he probably still has that shovel and will find you if you don't...
We'll start off with his base stats. He's given credit for 8 solo tackles, 2 assists, and 1 sack. It should be 2 sacks, but apparently the rule is that if Tim Tebow is hit behind the line of scrimmage after he takes off, it must be a run play (which really says everything about his style of quarterbacking, but I again digress). Those stats don't pop out much, but let's delve to the next step, shall we?
Looking at PFF's advanced statistics, we see a little more about Bailey's rookie year (again, these stats are by no means infallible, just more detailed than standard stats). First, we see that Bailey was rushing that passer 226 of his snaps, as opposed to defending the run on 68 of his snaps. This should come as no surprise, seeing as he was usually subbed in on passing downs to rush the passer.
Next, when looking ONLY at PFF's stats, a pattern emerges. Through the first 8 games of the season, Bailey's "ratings" both as a pass rusher and a run defender are consistently below average, if only slightly. Through the second half of the year, however, a different pattern emerges as he gets above average grades as a pass rusher and a run defender in the majority of games. He ends the season with a positive grade in both categories, something only 8 other 3-4 DE's in the entire NFL accomplish.
All well and good, but what the crap does that really MEAN? Even advanced statistics tell only part of the story. So what does the most important aspect of judging a player (game tape) say?
Well, for starters, his early game tape (I watched every snap he played the first 3 games) is not impressive. Early in the season he showed some push when rushing the passer (some, not much), but was stonewalled or ridden out of the play against the run. he also was able to get zero push when doubled. So in other words... bleh (I'm getting technical on you now!).
Fast forward to the middle of the season. The very first snap he plays against the Raiders (also known as the Kendrick Lewis pick-six). Bailey gets OAK's center one-on-one and just SHOVES the guy back toward the Kyle Boller. The pressure he helped provide was a big reason for the pick. Nice start to the "middle of the season" tape.
That play does not represent how Bailey played in much of midseason. He was by no means as strong or dominant for many of the snaps as we see on that play. However, there is a noticeable difference when he's being blocked by one guy. He's getting some push now and not getting completely rolled over on running plays. The improvement is more noticeable if one looks at tape from Week 1 and then tape from Week 7 or Week 8. It's not large, but it's there. He is, however, still getting completely blown out of the water when double teamed, and is nowhere near as good as one would like against the run.
Fast forward again to Weeks 11 and 12, the Patriots and Steelers games. Here you's see Bailey getting a little more push when matched up against individual linemen. He also is noticeably better at using his speed to get to one side or the other of a blocking lineman and push towards the QB. He's still failing to recognize running plays, though, and as a result at times gets washed completely out of the play. The biggest difference I see when watching these games is that he's not getting physically pushed off the line when the offense runs. He's still not holding as firmly as T-Jax or Dorsey, but he's not getting pushed around the way he was at the beginning of the year either.
Looking at tape to end the season, I saw more of the same. Bailey showed the capability to beat single linemen when rushing the passer, and to hold his ground on rushing plays when he doesn't over-commit to the pass. Overall, his improvement from the beginning of the season to the end is pretty remarkable (although it's not at an Eric Berry rate of improvement).
"Need to Upgrade Level": 2
I'm not just on the Allen Bailey bandwagon, I'm leading his parade. I'm passing out pamphlets. I'm hiring planes to make smoke signals in the sky that say, "I think Allen Bailey is going to be a stud!" I'll give my reasons, then add a few cautionary notes.
First of all, I like the fact that Bailey improved at a pretty rapid rate throughout the season. You could see the difference Week 1 to Week 8, and again in Week 17. He seemed stronger, his technique was improved, and he was making decent plays more often than bad plays.
Second of all, Bailey is a physical freak. The difference in speed/quickness between him and Wallace Gilberry is insane, especially considering that Gilberry is listed as TWENTY POUNDS LIGHTER than Bailey. That's just crazy. Bailey is one of the fastest players I've ever seen at nearly 290 pounds. He's also, in case you didn't notice, an absolute Adonis. He looks like his body fat percentage is in the negatives. You just don't see guys his size built like that. That physical "freakness" flashed at times this season when he was matched up individually against linemen who weren't quick enough to handle his first step or strong enough to recover when he got leverage on them. His only downfall was really technique. Tons of potential here, and it was beginning to be realized as the year went on.
Third, I like the fact that despite being put in there to rush the passer on most downs he played, he still was able to do decently against the run as the year went along. Now, a warning; there aren't enough snaps of him playing the run to make a final judgment one way or the other here. But based on what I saw, he looks like a guy who can handle the run when he sees it coming and isn't in "pass rush" mode. I really wish he'd have seen more snaps on running downs.
So what to do with Bailey? Where he stands right now, he's not as good against the run as Dorsey (again, keep in mind that Bailey was in to rush the passer, which puts him at a disadvantage when the other team runs the ball), but he's better at it than Wallace Gilberry. And from what I saw, he developed into just as good a pass rusher as GIlberry by the end of the season, if not better. And he's LIGHT YEARS ahead of Dorsey in that department. What that means to me is we have in Bailey a potential 3 down 3-4 DE, and a guy who can provide some pass rush out of or base 3-4 (where we're really not getting any pass rush other than Hali unless we blitz Houston as well).
In my opinion, and based on what I saw over about 150 or so snaps, Bailey needs to do two things this offseason: work on technique and gain a little weight. His technique is still sloppy, despite being improved, and it results in him getting handled by linemen who he physically outmatches. The "getting bigger" part is crucial as well, and I don't necessarily mean just go to the weight room. I honestly don't know if he could get much more muscle on him. However, he could easily throw on 15 extra pounds. I wouldn't have a problem with this even if most of it was fat, for the simple reason that he's SO quick/fast for his size that losing a little of it wouldn't hurt him. On the flip side of that, if he puts on some extra weight he'll be able to handle double teams better, and be able to hold up more firmly on rushing downs.
Finally, right? End game on these two is that I see Bailey as a replacement for Dorsey in the not-too-distant future. He's already a better pass rusher by a mile, and he clearly (from what I saw) has the potential to be a good run defender as well. As far as Dorsey goes... After years of saying it'd be stupid to trade him, I've gotten on board with that train. His contract will be up soon, he stopped improving last year at a level unacceptable to me for a starting DE, and I just can't swallow having a player who is a liability on hundreds of plays a year.
I held out hope that Dorsey would continue improving in our scheme this year, and he didn't. Instead, he regressed a little. Given how close he is to walking anyways, and the fact that we have a guy who I believe (with an offseason adding a little more bulk and a full training camp to work on technique) can replace him, it's time to get something for him before it's too late.