The Kansas City Chiefs faced some challenging offensive lines in 2014, which gave them a good barometer of where they are in the trenches. The loss of Mike DeVito on the defensive line illustrated the amount of depth they had and where they need to get better in 2015.
Here's what we saw from the Chiefs defensive line last season:
The first round pick in 2012 has blossomed into a force along the defensive line. Poe has impressive strength, a quick first step and can maintain his gap. The problem the past two seasons is that he wears down in the second half of the year. Poe saw 1,003 snaps in 2013 versus 1,030 in 2014. The combination of double teams and lack of rest took away his effectiveness at times.
When Mike DeVito sustained his Achilles injury in Week 1, it impacted Poe more than any other player on the roster. DeVito's strength demands the opponent's combo blocks to his side, which allowed Poe to see more single teams. Or if he saw a double team another player was free to make the play.
Run fits are much easier when Poe and DeVito are in the lineup together. Poe got the brunt of the double teams this season, which took away his explosion and wore him down. Poe is a capable three down lineman. His athletic ability demands he be on the field. So the coaching staff must do a better job of giving him breaks throughout the season so he doesn't lose his effectiveness down the stretch.
The homegrown defensive end continued to rise in the 2014 season as Bailey continued to put a complete game together. The biggest obstacle that stood in his way was his strength and size but the fourth year veteran bulked up during the offseason and became a factor in the starting rotation. He improved in pass rush with his quickness, bull rush and swim move. He was better at shedding blocks this season but needs to continually improve in his run fits and diagnosing the run. Bailey has found himself a home in the starting rotation.
The waiver wire pickup from Seattle showed plenty of growth this season after DeVito went down. Howard went from 48 snaps in 2013 to 436 in 2014. He showed a knack for shooting the gap and disrupting handoffs in the backfield. He needs to improve his ability to fight through blocks and his run fits and diagnosing blocks. The strength and talent are there. It is just a matter of Howard seeing more reps to improve.
The Chiefs signed Walker to a three-year deal in the offseason but he did not have the impact many expected. The coaching staff had him learn all three positions along the defensive line. It took a while for him to see the field but he showed some promise along the pass rush as the season went on. It will be interesting to see how the Chiefs use him in 2015 because he needs to provide reps along the line to keep everyone fresh.
The former Bronco brought a presence to the locker room very quickly. Vickerson had the right kind of mindset and attitude to play a certain way on the defensive line. He was a vocal member of the locker room. On the field, Vickerson was a solid run defender but limited pass rusher. He could fight through blocks and provide a solid bull rush but wasn't going to get to the quarterback. Vickerson could rotate into the nose tackle position and provide solid depth for Poe if he returns in 2015.
He joined the Chiefs during the middle of the season from Pittsburgh. Williams saw a total of 10 snaps this season. There isn't enough to grade him on a pass rusher or run defender. His signing was likely with 2015 in mind. Let him learn the system, coach him up and see what he has in 2015.
The eight-year veteran was missed this season. DeVito is one of the strongest players on the team. He can set the edge on most running plays and force the run back inside. He allows Poe to play freely over the middle and creates headaches for the line in blocking him. DeVito looked quicker in training camp and showed promise until his Achilles injury in Week 1. His recovery has looked encouraging from the times I have seen him around in the locker room.
Catapano bulked up in the offseason and looked the part during spring practices. He suffered a concussion and then a gastro intestinal virus during training camp, which ended his season before it really started.
The Chiefs defensive line has good depth that fits the scheme. The team needs to get stronger so it can dominate the line of scrimmage. DeVito can be a tremendous help in this department. Nose tackle depth will be the biggest addition the Chiefs need to make. Poe needs to get some breaks in snaps. Th Chiefs also need to increase its intensity when November and December roll around.