From the FanPosts -Joel
The recent story linking free agent S Danieal Manning to the Chiefs has caused a lot of confusion for many Chiefs fans. Why would the Chiefs bring in a guy who is more of a SS? Is Eric Berry being moved to FS? Are the Chiefs thinking about trading or releasing Berry? What does this mean for Sanders Commings and Husain Abdullah? Will the Chiefs still look to draft a S?
A lot of questions that are difficult to answer ... unless you start looking at the Chiefs defense in a different light. In KC, the Chiefs don't play a traditional style of defense. Though it had its hiccups, Bob Sutton has really brought a revolutionary idea to the Chiefs defense, and if it works, we could finally start seeing teams try to copy the Chiefs for a change.
The primary difference between the Chiefs and everyone else is that we play a three safety system. Now, this is not our base defense. It is one of our primary sub packages, and when provided with the right personnel, it can be a very difficult package for opposing offenses to contend with. It breaks down into these three parts...
The Single-High FS
2013 - Kendrick Lewis
2014 - Sanders Commings (?)
There is no secret here as using a single-high safety has been around for a long time. This was a sore spot for the Chiefs last year. Kendrick Lewis simply was not fast enough to play this role. There are high hopes for Sanders Commings in the upcoming season, but Chiefs fans should still make note of this position. The single-high is your center fielder.
He has two primary jobs in our defense. The first is to take away the Option A deep route. Kendrick Lewis was actually pretty good at this. Making the pre-snap read and being in the right place so that the QB has to go to a different option. This part of the job is designed to work hand in hand with the pass rush so as to break the play down before it can get rolling. The second part of the job, and where Lewis failed miserably, is in the recovery to stop Option B. Here is where Lewis' lack of speed killed us. He simply was not able to recover to the next target. And when the pass rush did not get to the QB, as we saw towards the end of the year, there is more emphasis on this role.
2013 - Eric Berry
2014 - Eric Berry
Here is where things get interesting. The SPUR position is nothing new. An undersized LB who can help out in coverage is a relatively common thing for an NFL team to employ ... except, that's not how we use our SPUR. Instead, the Chiefs have an amazing advantage here because of Eric Berry. The Chiefs never have to take our SPUR off the field. He can play a S or LB role on any given down. And that is why Berry does not get moved to FS. DCs have seen the advantage that he supplies. He allows us to pull one of our ILBs without sacrificing our ability to stop the run. That is a great advantage for the defense to have. And this is what teams will be looking to try and copy from the Chiefs. It is also the major reason why Eric Berry should not be released or traded any time soon.
The Third Safety
2013 - Quintin Demps
2014 - ???
The final piece of the puzzle, and the role that would have been filled by Danieal Manning, is the third Safety. Most teams utilize a third or fourth CB in their sub packages, but for several reasons, the Chiefs often utilized a third S to counter the offense instead. The first reason is the aforementioned SPUR position. Because Berry serves a dual role of coverage and run stuffer, the Chiefs need to have another option available for coverage, especially against TEs.
And, speaking of TEs, that's the other major reason to have the third S sub package. The NFL has seen an infusion of very athletic TEs who are essentially just large WRs. They are too fast for LBs and too big and strong for most slot CBs. This puts a new emphasis on the importance of a S, which means teams need more and better players at that position. This third S is not confined to any particular role on the defense, which is why we saw so much of Quintin Demps.
Whoever is playing that position can be lined up virtually anywhere. He can be sent deep, used to press TEs, or kicked into the flat against the screen or short slants. Because it is a sub-package position, it is extremely versatile. It is also the spot on the roster that is currently vacant right now, though Husain Abdullah is certainly not a bad option to have there.
Speaking of Abdullah, I'm sure many of you are wondering how he fits into our scheme. Well, the answer to that is ... perfectly. Husain Abdullah is a jack of all trades / master of none type safety. He has starting experience as both a SS and FS. And Chiefs fans have seen just how effective he can be in that third S role after his brilliant performance against Andrew Luck. If the Chiefs had signed Danieal Manning, then Husain Abdullah would have essentially become the primary S backup across the board. He would be capable of doing every job we ask of the three safeties, though there would be a drop off in ability for certain aspects. And adding a player of Manning's capabilities to this role would have also allowed us to utilize this sub-package even more, which would take some pressure off of our CB depth.
However, now that Manning is off the board, the Chiefs will have to look for another option. I don't see anyone in free agency right now that would be able to fill the role, but there are several players in the draft that might be able to do the job. Front and center in this would be Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor. Neither are ideally set for that single-high role, and neither would be able to play that SPUR position like Berry does, which leaves the third safety role.
Now, a first round pick is a steep price for a sub-package player, but with the increased usage of nickel and dime formations in the NFL, the price may be worth it. From your middle to late rounds, Jimmie Ward, Deone Buchannon, Dion Bailey, and Jonathan Dowling are all prospects that could slide into this spot and make early contributions (though growing pains should be expected). These players would also be able to provide depth at our other S positions, making them very versatile for the Chiefs defense.
The evolution of how safeties are being used in the NFL is actually pretty amazing. And, during my research, I was pleased to find out that my hypothesis here isn't so far-fetched. Andy Benoit of MMQB also sees safety as a position that is gaining more and more emphasis because of the different things it allows a defensive coordinator to do. In this regard, it seems that Bob Sutton might just be ahead of the curve ... thanks in large part to the presence of the most versatile S in the NFL today, Eric Berry.