That's the phrase I've heard most often when it comes to the Kansas City Chiefs new starting defensive end. The idea seems to be that the Chiefs basically acquired a run-stuffing DE who will contribute nothing to the pass rush, so the Chiefs are exactly where they were at when they had Dorsey lined up at RDE.
Of course, I've been of the opinion for several years that Dorsey's run-stuffing ability was vastly overrated. So I have quite a bit of concern when I hear those comparisons. Now a regular (or sane) person would just say, "Well, I guess we'll have to see what the season brings." But I'm not regular (or sane). I don't have that kind of patience. I want to know what Mike DeVito brings to the table.
The only option, of course, becomes to watch over 400 of DeVito's snaps from last year and try to get some handle on who he is as a player. What are his strengths? What are his weaknesses? And do I think we've upgraded from Dorsey (Spoiler alert: I do. That said, for the last few years I've been one of Dorsey's biggest detractors, so that's not to say DeVito is going to be great.)
Rather than breaking this down into "strengths" and weaknesses," I'm just going to discuss what I think I saw and see where it takes us. Fair warning: I'm in no way a DL expert (or an expert on anything, really). I'm a layman who has watched a ton of football. That's it. If you really want to know what to think about a player, watch the film yourself or talk to an expert who has. I don't have a readily available expert, so I watch the film and take what I can out of it.
The first thing I looked for with DeVito was strength. People were comparing him to Kelly Gregg and saying he's a guy who doesn't get moved. When I think strong, I think Tyson Jackson strong. That dude does not move when he's got individual blockers, and many times doesn't move (even if he gets zero push) against two blockers. Naturally, given DeVito's rep as a brick wall had me with high hopes to see the same from him.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. I was actually surprised at DeVito as a player. He isn't as strong at the point of attack as I expected, given the things I'd heard about him. Now let me clarify ... he's not necessarily a weak spot in this area. It depends on the matchup. Some guards he would be overpowering all day, some guards he would battle to a standstill, and some guards were consistently overpowering him. The best example of this was the Patriots game. When matched up against the RG, DeVito got zero push and was often moved one-on-one. When matched up against the LG or C, DeVito consistently was moving the OL around.
That's different from Dorsey, but in a weird way. Whenever I watched Dorsey, I was always stunned at his complete lack of ability to move offensive lineman. However, he almost never got moved himself, regardless of matchup. So with DeVito comes a strange combination of upgrade/downgrade. On one hand he's better at getting push and overpowering offensive lineman one-on-one. On the other hand, he's going to lose some of those battles in a way Dorsey didn't. Very surprising, given DeVito's rep as a bull.
A strange twist to this story is the way DeVito handles double teams. Now, since he's shown that he can be moved individually by single teams, one would imagine he handles double teams worse than Dorsey. Except... that's not what I saw. Almost every time I ever saw Dorsey get double teamed, he was completely manhandled. Not so with DeVito. He's more likely to stand firm against a double team than Dorsey ever was. Does that make any sense at all? No. But it's what I saw, so apparently it's possible. It's also worth noting that DeVito was double teamed MUCH more often than Dorsey ever was while he was here. He was definitely a block eater. It didn't always go well, though.
So are the Chiefs upgrading or downgrading in this department? The answer, as frustrating as it is, appears (at least to me) to be... yes. I hate ambiguity.
Speed / Athleticism / Quickness
OK, this is where things got weird. As I mentioned above, I was expecting to see some version of Tyson Jackson when I started reviewing these snaps and was definitely let down in the strength department. What's stranger, though, was the the more pleasant surprise I received while watching DeVito's film ... the guy can move. And no, I don't mean that he is literally capable of movement (although even that would put him above what I usually saw from Dorsey). He's kinda, like, quick. Seriously.
The first time I saw DeVito get off the line and get his hands on an OL before the guy could get out of his stance, I figured it was a fluke. Then I saw it again. And again. And again. After awhile I started to expect it, and it was weird to me when he DIDN'T get off the line faster than every other defensive lineman. And it wasn't just limited to plays like that. The man shoots gaps. I swear this actually happens. He had more than a few plays where he was past the guard before the guy was upright. He's not Warren Sapp, but he can move. I was stunned, as no one warned me of this possibility.
This ability to get off the line quickly is how he wins a lot of his battles against individual OL. He gets the first shot in there and uses that leverage to work them back. And the times when he is outmatched strength-wise (which again, happens a little more than I'd like) he's able to (at least some of the time) make up for it by being the first guy to make contact. In fact, I'd say he relies on this ability more so than raw strength. On plays where he lands the first "punch" he does well. When he doesn't he struggles against more powerful linemen. The good news is he gets a great jump a majority of the time.
When it's time to move from "quick" to "fast," DeVito is definitely a big, lumbering dude. He's got good backside pursuit and doesn't give up on plays, but he's not someone who is going to chase a ton of ball carriers down from behind (or any, really. Unless they stop and wait for him. Which seems unlikely). He's not as much of a stiff as TJax is in this area, but he's more "phone booth" than "40 yard dash."
In this particular area, I see DeVito as a HUGE upgrade over Dorsey. DeVito manages to gain penetration much, much, much more frequently than Dorsey ever did, and it's largely because of his ability to get inside an OL's pads or to his side before the guy is even upright. It's fun to watch. Dorsey was more of a traditional brick wall, at least against single-teams. He wouldn't move, but he wasn't going to make a play outside of his immediate zone. Our defense was built to get him individual matchups and he never capitalized on them. Now we're supposedly changing scheme so it's impossible to say what they'll be trying to do, but in if opposing teams leave DeVito singled the way they did with Dorsey, he's going to make them pay MUCH more often.
It's worth noting that while DeVito had only 1 sack throughout 2012, he DID have 11 "hurries." Considering he was only in on 248 pass plays and virtually none of them were obvious passing downs, that's worth at least piquing curiosity as to whether he can impact the game in that area. I noticed a great deal more of two things with DeVito than I ever did with Dorsey regarding pass rush.
1) Getting push or penetration to create some pressure up the middle.
2) Being double-teamed on those downs where the offense passed.
With the Chiefs, DeVito isn't going to be double teamed when opposing offenses pass against our base D. It's almost certain to be TJax, Poe, or both (when only three are rushing). DeVito will have a chance to make an impact on passing downs (first and second, at least), and I think he's got a shot at doing something there for the Chiefs that Dorsey never could.
One thing that stood out to me watching the snaps was how DeVito seemed to be aware of where the ball was almost all the time. On screens he was almost always the first DL to break off from rushing and move toward the receiver. In fact, on a couple plays he busted up screens by recognizing them BEFORE the running back could leave the backfield and knocking him off course. Reverses, counters, and the like told the same story. DeVito usually has his head up and knows what's going on with the play. If he were 50 pounds lighter and twice as fast I think he'd be a killer MLB. His ability to follow the ball seems to help him recognize passing plays more quickly as well, and you can see him shift gears to get to the QB once he sees "pass."
You can also tell the guy has been around (and been well coached) by how he takes advantage of what physical skills he has. He has a half-decent spin move that he'll execute when getting moved out of a running lane by the power guards that give him problems. That spin will put him square in the lane the OG was trying to clear. It's a clear "I know what I can do and what I can't do" type of move, and one that usually sees success when he performs it. He also possesses a solid "push/pull" move that he uses to get OL off-balance. He's not a "bull rush and when that doesn't work just stand there pushing" kind of player.
A final thing to note with regards to the mental aspect of the game is how little DeVito is taken off his feet. I'm not saying it never happens (it most certainly does), but he generally is good at stepping back and avoiding cut blocks as well as keeping on his feet in the tangle that is the line of scrimmage. So think Jerrell Powe, but the exact opposite.
First, let's hear from AP defensive expert KaloPhoenix, who was kind enough to respond to a Tweet and emailed me some thoughts on DeVito based on four games of film study. (If you don't know Kalo, check old columns here of follow the man on Twitter. Dude knows defense).
So, yeah...I did the breakdowns on him, but unfortunately, they weren't really relevant for the comparison I was trying to make, which was comparing Devito's performance to the Chiefs DL from last year. I will say that he's awful quick off the line, pretty good lateral movement, and good strength. I think the improved linebacker play around him will help highlight his execution...and vice versa.Okay, of the 4 games that I did the breakdowns (best performance against the run, worst performance against the run, and two median performances against the run), Devito had an average Yards Per Play Toward (YPPT) of 4.21, and an average Yards Per Play Away (YPPA) of 4.86. To put that in perspective, that YPPT is just under two yards worse than Poe and TJax's YPPT numbers from last year, and was about half a yard worse than Ro'Po's numbers. Clearly, he's inferior, right? Wrong.With the Jets running a 1-gap scheme, Devito's job is to shoot the gap and disrupt the play. His first step is really, really quick. He got in the gap and would force an occasional double team, or drive his blocker backwards. His problem: the Jets ILB's last year were not good at reading and reacting...and tackling. Runners would shoot through the gap next to Devito's, and there would be nobody there...for 3-5 yards. That's no fault to Devito. He's shooting the gap he's assigned and trying to make the play himself. He just didn't get much help from the guys behind him.
I'm always thrilled when what I see matches up with what Kalo sees. My overall takeaway from DeVito is that in most situations the Chiefs have upgraded on Dorsey by no small amount. The times that will concern me is when the Chiefs are up against power-blocking teams with LGs that DeVito can't handle one-on-one. Other than that specific situation (which certainly is concerning and will hopefully be schemed to help protect us), DeVito > Dorsey. He's a surprisingly quick player with decent strength and a ton of that veteran "know-how" we all love to see. It's good to have him on board
Q: How much do you guys have to accomplish to get ready for the season?
DeVito: "Yeah, training camp is used for that, that’s why it’s so important. That’s why it’s good to get away and get together as a team and, like you said, you have to be focused toward where you’re going when regular season starts. That’s what this is all about from today on, building and fine tuning and getting ready to play the first game."
Q: How much do you guys as a group have to prove?
DeVito: "Everybody has got to come out and want to prove they want to be the best. That’s what we wan to be, the best. That’s what we’re here for. We’re going to work every day to get better, work on our craft, our techniques and learn this playbook and get out there and be the best."
Q: How different is it for you heading into training camp as a veteran instead of a rookie?
DeVito: "There are similarities. I mean, I’ve been in New York for six years, so it’s different in a new place, a new college. These are beautiful facilities over here, but it’s the same thing. It’s a grind, but you appreciate it and you get better. That’s what you’re here for."
(Email mailbag questions to MNchiefsfan@hotmail.com or tweet to @RealMNchiefsfan)