So ... apparently when I lambasted D.J. Alexander’s start against the Titans on the podcast, I set into motion a series of events that revealed my power within the Chiefs organization. That’s clearly the only explanation for the fact that Alexander has been traded to the Seahawks. So that’s my bad, D.J., I thought you were a great special teamer and will always remember the time you laid out that Denver running back.
But, can’t dwell forever, right? So let’s talk about who the Chiefs got in return, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis.
Make that lead blocker PAY for his insolence, Kevin! pic.twitter.com/WjcMX7TpIh— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) July 28, 2017
Now let’s ignore the fact that KPL (much easier than typing out a hyphenated name over and over) was just really mean to Pancakes DiMarco, one of my favorite former Chiefs. We can look past that because it’s nice to see a guy willing to hit and who did his job rather than trying to do too much. So that’s a nice start, right?
Let’s be clear ... there’s really not much to review about KPL, for a few reasons. First, the fact of the matter is that KPL played 71 snaps last season. The only game in which he played a significant percentage of the Seattle’s defensive snaps came against the Falcons. So outside of that, it’s tough to really take much away from a few snaps here and there.
Another issue is that KPL played a role in Seattle that, um, doesn’t really exist in Kansas City. KPL often lined up as an OLB in a 4-3 defense but was aligned at the edge to be a coverage ‘backer almost exclusively. Seattle had so many varied fronts that I’d hesitate to give his position any sort of name, though he’d be closest to a “Sam” outside linebacker on most snaps that I watched (at least with regards to coverage responsibilities).
So really, we can’t say “KPL will do X in Bob Sutton’s defense” because the responsibilities he had (generally in coverage) were different from almost anything you ever see our linebackers do. Quite often the jobs he was taking on in coverage were closer to what the Chiefs often ask Daniel Sorensen or Eric Berry to do on obvious passing downs (TE responsibilities or flat zone), but even THAT’S not really analogous.
In short, what I’m saying is I was looking for TRAITS, not really trying to track production. And even then, it’s limited because we’re talking about 50-60 snaps reviewed. So bear with me.
For starters, KPL is definitely a good athlete. He’s got exceptional acceleration and closing speed and doesn’t look uncomfortable in space.
This is either a fantastic drop to take away the 1st down route or Kevin missed the FB. Depends on Wagner's assignment. Kevin can move tho. pic.twitter.com/K0yWj0JpiW— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) July 28, 2017
Without knowing the specific assignments of that play it’s impossible to say whether that was a “good” snap or not. What it does show is that ability to close quickly.
KPL also seems to be able to change direction well, and doesn’t have too much of a problem keeping up with players in man coverage. This isn’t a perfect coverage snap, but you can see that KPL is comfortable moving around with a running back who is quite tough to cover in the flat.
Welp, we know based off this one snap that Kevin Pierre-Louis is a lockdown coverage 'backer. That's how this works. pic.twitter.com/V3pnMRm7Sn— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) July 28, 2017
Of course, a better throw and that’s an OK gain for the offense, but again, we’re looking for traits here.
With regards to his ability against the run, KPL was so rarely in a position to be a traditional run defender in the way we’d see him used in Sutton’s defense (barring a MASSIVE shift in scheme) that there wasn’t much to see. The first GIF of this article did show that he’s not afraid to take on lead blockers, which was a pretty consistent thing for him. That bodes well for anyone looking to try and break the lineup as a SILB.
Additionally, KPL’s athleticism seems to translate when closing in on a ball carrier. Of all the snaps I reviewed, this one is probably my favorite.
Kidding aside, I like this snap. Waits for RB to commit and just EXPLODES into him. That's not bad. Looks like he's got quickness/speed. pic.twitter.com/YDax7Tu4qA— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) July 28, 2017
While this isn’t a “stuff” of the run, I view it as a decent play by KPL. Given the way the blockers were set up and the lack of push from his defensive line, I don’t think stuffing this run was ever an option for KPL. What WAS an option was being patient and waiting for the runner to commit to a lane, which he did here. Had he attempted to shoot through any of the gaps there the runner would have been able to simply change direction and go.
KPL waits for the runner to stop hesitating and pick a direction, then shows off that burst we’ve talked about, meeting the runner quickly and delivering a nice hit. So, yay on him?
Regarding traits I didn’t like, it appeared to me that KPL at times is guessing what he thinks the offense will do rather than reading and reacting to what the offense DOES do. He also seems to at times get caught up in what he can see that he forgets about the other stuff happening that isn’t right in front of him.
You forgot about the tight end, Kevin!!!! pic.twitter.com/JYH4CMtFKW— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) July 28, 2017
When you guess in the NFL, or when you only react to what’s right in front of you, it’s going to end badly at times. Offenses are designed to trick you into committing to one route over another, and that’s exactly what happens here. KPL sees the deeper route and completely forgets about the tight end, who then gets into the flat and is ridiculously wide open.
In KPL’s defense, that was a really nice play design to beat that exact coverage, but had he stayed aware of the TE and not committed to the deeper route, he could have prevented a good-sized gain by the offense. That’ll be something to watch out for as he tries to acclimate to the defense.
The real value with KPL will quite likely be on special teams. Of course we traded a Pro Bowl special teams player to get him, so that seems a bit weird. But it’s worth noting that KPL really is a very special athlete.
His SPARQ ranking amongst his peers confirms he's a freak athlete pic.twitter.com/vgQH47BD8H— Chiefs Vs The (@jjackson_chiefs) July 28, 2017
KPL was a top performer in virtually every measurement of athleticism, which is a positive sign. D.J. Alexander’s best trait was his athleticism, and Dave Toub was able to harness that into a very good special teams contributor.
The key name there is “Dave Toub.” During his time as the Chiefs’ special teams coach, Toub has repeatedly created stars on special teams that, when the Chiefs moved on from them, we feared would be irreplaceable in that aspect. And every time Toub has gotten someone new to play just as well or better.
I would be willing to bet anything that Toub had some input on this trade, given that KPL’s main contributions were on special teams and that it cost a player who has been valuable for Toub’s group. And given KPL’s impressive athleticism, I have no doubt whatsoever Toub will make good use of him.
I doubt KPL makes much of an impact at all on the defense, but one never knows how a player will respond to a change in scheme. What I DO know is that Alexander demonstrated against the Titans that he should not see the field as a SILB and that KPL shows some raw materials taking on blockers, closing and in coverage. And so, if you trust Dave Toub to replace the production on special teams, it makes sense to trade for an unknown with raw materials when what you’ve got is a guy you know can’t contribute on defense.
Again, I doubt this moves the needle at all for the defense, but it’ll at least be interesting to see how KPL responds to the massive change in scheme and responsibilities. Here’s hoping he surprises us all and pushes everyone at one of the few positions of uncertainty on the roster.