Last week we took a closer look at the Chiefs offense through the worst-case scenario lens. After analyzing and writing about each positional group, it's clear that the Chiefs have very little margin with so few established playmakers on offense and absolutely nothing proven behind Alex Smith at quarterback. For the Chiefs to have a winning record, they could withstand a couple big hits to the roster. To have championship hopes, however, they need a healthy season from every impact player.
Is the same true for the defensive side? After all, this is the Chiefs' dangerous side. Despite some key exits, the Chiefs look like they have both quantity and quality from front to back, but let's take a closer look.
Worst-Case Scenario: Losing Dontari Poe for the year.
It could be argued that Poe is no longer the MVP of this unit, but I'd punch you in the face for saying so. Poe is playing for his first (and maybe only) serious pay day and that contract year should mean serious dividends on the field. Can the Chiefs afford him long-term? Who knows, but for now they should look forward to his best year yet. Unless something poe-tentially breaks down like our scenario here.
The Outcome: An injury to Poe doesn't mean in 2016 what it would have in 2014. Jaye Howard is back for another two seasons and has truly come into his own under this coaching staff. Allen Bailey is a Marvel character in the making. Mike DeVito was lost to retirement, but the Chiefs replaced him with their second round pick, a long, athletic heralded kid named Chris Jones. There are other bodies here competing for spots, including Nick Williams and Rakeem Nunez-Roches, but this front four could be among the NFL's best.
Appropriate Emotion: Sad for Poe. Sad for how dominant this unit could have been. Sad for potential fatigue/bodies come playoff-time. Not too sad in the win-loss column.
Worst-Case Scenario: Justin Houston doesn't return at all in 2016.
In some way, the Chiefs are currently living out the worst-case scenario for this defense and still have title hopes. That tells you much of what you need to know about the talent and depth on this team. In addition to key losses on defense like Sean Smith and Husain Abdullah, the Chiefs lost their best pass rusher in Justin Houston for an undisclosed amount of time. The Chiefs have been positive in their press comments, but it's impossible to know just how soon he will return. And a quick return might not be the wisest solution given he's signed long-term.
The Outcome: The Chiefs went without Houston down the stretch last year and still maintained a decent pass rush. That said, this is simply not an elite unit without their star rusher. Tamba Hali is back, but it's reasonable to question how much will be left in the tank when the Chiefs need it most. Dee Ford is the former first round pick who should make up the difference here, but the team has yet to see dividends on their investment.
Fortunately, Bob Sutton has the guys to get creative in the pass rush if he needs it. Ron Parker had 5 sacks last year. Jaye Howard had 5.5 from the interior. Frank Zombo came on late in the year to cushion the loss of Houston. Poe and Bailey both had several sacks in 2014, and Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry have done the same in 2013. While it's not ideal in any sense, the Chiefs do have experienced personnel who could surprise in blitzing packages.
Appropriate Emotion: Just don't talk to me right now.
Worst-Case Scenario: Marcus Peters is lost for the season due to injury, abduction or suspension.
With the loss of Sean Smith to the Oakland Raiders, the Chiefs secondary is woefully void of experienced cornerbacks. Even Peters only has a single season under his belt, but it was a helluva season that placed him among the NFL's Top 100 players. Insane. The loss of that limited experience and tremendous talent would put the Chiefs in a serious hole heading into the season (or at any point in which it happens).
The Outcome: By season's end, this could be a very good thing. Phillip Gaines looks the part as Peters' colleague on the outside. Steven Nelson is turning heads at OTAs. The team invested several draft picks at the position, including third round pick KeiVarae Russell, fourth round pick Eric Murray and sixth round choice D.J. White. Together with veteran safeties Eric Berry and Ron Parker, the Chiefs have the youth and potential to become something special. That said, quarterbacks will undoubtedly pounce on these players until they prove themselves to be game-ready and without Peters, it would likely become a feast.
Appropriate Emotion: Decapitate a bobblehead.