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Kansas City Chiefs Front Seven Evaluation: Preseason Week 1

As always, Chris Sembower rocks. Three years, and I never get tired of posting this banner.

It's finally football season, and finally time to get rolling with my breakdowns! Last week, the Chiefs played the Arizona Cardinals in a first and second team beatdown by our Kansas City boys. There were lots of positives, a few negatives, and a massive amount of jumping to conclusions. Today, I'm going through the first and second team front seven and looking at the guys that could be working their way into some contributing roles during the regular season.

Alright, LET'S GET TO IT!

First, a disclaimer: NFL Preseason Live does NOT do the All-22 tape. During the regular season, that will make this a LOT easier (and a lot more fun), but for now, I'm still limited somewhat by the camera angle.

This season, I cranked out some software to help me do these quicker, easier, and also give me more information and statistics about each player in their individual roles. So, while the Chiefs were "beta testing" some new players, I was beta testing my software. I've found some things I'd like to tweak a bit, so these might change slightly as the preseason goes along, but I'll have it nailed down prior to Week 1. Thus far, I've changed the "double team" and "free man" designations to "effective double team" and "destructive free man". An "effective double team" (EDT) is one that allows the linebacker to make a play, or one that provides a wall when the running back is coming to their side of the field. Before, I was keeping track of meaningless double teams far away from the play that didn't accomplish anything. A "destructive free man" (DFM) is one where an offensive lineman gets to the second level and blocks a linebacker without a positive result from the defensive lineman. This accounts for plays where the lineman may not get a double team, but makes a big play that makes up for it.

As always, if you have any suggestions/questions/comments on this, feel free to get after it in the comments.

  • 64% of the time, the Chiefs lined up in the base 3-4 defense.
  • 28% of the time, the Chiefs lined up in the dime defense, removing a linebacker and a defensive lineman.
  • 8% of the time, the Chiefs lined up in the quarter defense, removing a linebacker, and two defensive linemen.
  • DJ is lining up behind Tyson Jackson more than usual. Last year, he was shifted behind Dorsey more often than not. It seems that Belcher is taking to running to the TE side if there's only one. Implies confidence behind all of the linemen. Good to see the defensive shift.
  • Anthony Toribio is so much better than I've ever seen him play that I wouldn't be surprised if someone else was wearing his jersey. Night and day difference in his play. Technique is better, hands are better, leverage is better, and anchor is better.
  • Very defined holes in the run game for Belcher and DJ to step up into. Not a whole lot of positive yardage to be had unless the running back funnels into the linebackers. This is evidenced by the Cardinals running 8 plays through the "A" gap in the first half. That's 80% of the run plays.
  • Beautiful stunt and weakside blitz combo by Dorsey/Belcher. Arizona was lucky to get just enough on Jovan to stop the sack.
  • 3rd and 1 on the first drive, Torbio takes two guys into the left A gap, leaving DJ all alone to run blitz the right A gap. Fantastic stop by the defense.
  • Toribio again coming up big to start the next drive. Lets a free man go, but tosses the center aside and eats the running back alive in the backfield. That's an indestructive free man right there.
  • Pressure everywhere on the second drive. The defense is in the quarterback's face, the coverage is good, and the team sack on third down was perfect. When the quarterback is ready to throw, he can't because of solid coverage, and then he's got to move because he's got someone bearing down on him. Great stuff.
  • Next drive, the run play goes B gap, and both DJ and Belcher shift, step up, and make a nice play through the fullback for only a 2 yard gain. If this team does little things like this on a routine basis, it's going to be tough to beat.
  • Slip up by DJ just before the end of the first quarter. Good wall by the defensive line, Belcher shoots the gap and gets frozen by the fullback...but DJ's in no man's land on the weak side. Play goes for 9 yards up the middle when it should have been an easy stop.
  • Does someone want to explain to me why DJ's in man coverage against Larry Fitzgerald? I mean, I like that Romeo can trust our linebackers to drop into coverage, but there are just some guys who shouldn't be single covered by a linebacker. Even one that is as good in coverage as DJ. Big gain by the Cards to start the second quarter.
  • There are very few things that make me happier than seeing a flag thrown for a holding call on the guy blocking Tamba. Have to hope we'll see more of those this year.
  • Second string defense in the game. Ropati, Poe, Gordon on the defensive line; Studebaker, Siler, Greenwood, Sheffield as the linebackers.
  • Ropati gets after the quarterback on his first play. Good explosion through his man results in a quarterback pressure.
  • The dropoff in the aggressiveness of the inside linebackers is pretty huge. Neither Siler nor Greenwood act like they want to attack the line of scrimmage, and their waiting means that the second or second and a half that the defensive lineman can grab a double team goes completely out the window. The result is what looks like a messy job by the linemen, with the linebackers still 4-5 yards behind the play.
  • Cameron Sheffield makes me feel better about the depth behind Tamba and Houston. The guy can definitely rush the passer. Made Levi Brown look silly by just blowing around him.
  • Very little push up the gut from the second team defensive line in the 3-4 against the pass. They're too focused on anchoring and not seeing the pass quickly enough.
  • In this game, Belcher is a first choice starter over Siler by a WIDE margin. Siler doesn't want to shoot the gap. Greenwood is okay in coverage, but is slow in run support. I'm much more worried about inside linebacker depth than I was prior to this game.
  • Allen Bailey has picked up right where he left off in the sub packages. Good pressure.
  • With 4:26 left in the half, Dontari Poe gets absolutely shoved out of the A gaps by his double team. He never loses his engagement with the double, and the linebackers don't step up into the vacant spot. Poe has to anchor better, and well, I've said my piece about the inside linebackers.
  • Siler with good coverage after Ropati about wraps up a sack on second down. Pretty good stuff, there.
  • Defense starts the last drive in the Quarter defense, with Gordon the lone down linemen in the 0-tech position. It gets quickly abandoned after getting burnt a couple times with no pressure on the quarterback.



As you can see from the chart, Toribio leads the pack with a 1.83 YPP Towards stat. That's with 6 plays run at him. Siler tops the chart with an 8.5 YPP on 2 plays run at him. The starting defense was strong, with Tamba being the high mark at 6 YPP...but that was only 1 play, since Arizona was sticking to the middle of the field. Houston didn't have anything come to the C or D gaps while he was on the field, so he doesn't register on the chart. Poe's 6.5 YPP on 4 plays is a little troubling, but with Siler and Greenwood not committing forward, he's not getting a whole lot of help.


Here's where it's going to get interesting as the year goes along...we can see the yardage when teams DON'T run at specific players, and how successful it is. You can see a much more complementary defense with the first team, with only Toribio exceeding the 3 YPP mark. This tells us that it's better for the team to run away from the center of the defense, but it's still not likely you'll get much.


This chart doesn't give us much here in the early going, as each player only faced one pass. DJ's was obviously the one I criticized above, and it was a big one. During the regular season, these guys will see more passes thrown at them and it'll (hopefully) even out. Still, I wanted you to see that I was tracking it.

Other Items of Note

Both Dontari Poe and Tyson Jackson obtained the most effective double teams in the first half of this game. They put the linebackers in an advantageous position, or created a wall to force the back elsewhere. As you can see from the yardage stats, Poe's double teams were not rewarded with low yardage stops. Toribio, the YPP leader in the "towards" category, achieved two EDT's, while Dorsey achieved one.

Tyson Jackson, Dontari Poe, and Amon Gordon were the only players to allow a destructive free man, and each only allowed one.

Tamba Hali tied with Cameron Sheffield for the lead in Quarterback Pressures with two. Five other players registered at least one.


The Final Word

That was pretty. The first and second team defense absolutely stymied the Arizona offense, only allowing three points in the first half. The first team had their way with blockers, funneling the runner inside, and not allowing the quarterback to move in the pocket. The second team had their struggles, but were able to hold strong enough to keep it to a late in the half field goal.

Overachiever of the Week - Anthony Toribio. He put on a clinic in keeping the linebackers clean and disrupted the backfield. How about that 1.83 YPP? That's pretty impressive, big man. It means you're doing things right up front.

Underachiever of the Week - Amon Gordon. He was on the field for 13 plays in the first half, recording no EDT's, no pressures, one DFM, and a scary 4.5 YPP towards him. For a guy that some thought might be a starting NT until Poe got his legs under him, that's not a good start.

Well, there it is, guys. New and improved, with all the same stats, hopefully. Let me know what you guys think, and I'll see you next week!

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