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Bennie Logan: A Chiefs run defense solution

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In case you never heard, the Kansas City Chiefs run defense wasn’t good last season.

Wait, who am I kidding? Of COURSE you heard that. it was impossible to follow the Chiefs down the stretch last season without hearing it. And once the season ended? I bet I read a thousand different versions (in comments, on Twitter, and in articles both local and national) of “the run defense really struggled.”

As the offseason went along, the narrative went from “the run defense struggled in 2016” to “the Chiefs didn’t do enough to address the run defense to keep it from hurting them again in 2017.” In fact, may people (especially on a national level) made it sound like the run defense would be even worse, given the fact that Dontari Poe left in free agency.

Of course, it seemed like people were ignoring the fact that Allen Bailey missed most of last year due to injury, and that Derrick Johnson’s injury was what sent the run defense from statistically average to terrible. They also ignored the fact that Dontari Poe didn’t have a good year against the run and that Chris Jones and Rakeem Nunez-Roches were young players pressed into duty sooner than expected.

And they ignored that the Chiefs went out and got Bennie Logan. They really should not have.

Logan went largely under the radar as a signing for the Chiefs, despite the fact that he was solid in Philadelphia last season and considerably more than solid in 2015, when he played nose tackle in a 3-4 defense (as opposed to the 4-3 they shifted to last season). Based on what I saw in his 2016 film, I’ve been expecting him to come in and immediately help with the run defense in a noticeable way.

The Bengals game was our first chance to see him in action, as he’s been a bit nicked up. I was curious if he’d look a little rusty, and in my opinion he definitely had a few snaps where he looked like a guy who was playing in live action for the first time all year. But by and large, I saw exactly what I wanted to see from Logan: a guy who can single-handedly make the run defense better.

This play is a particular favorite of mine. I was wrong initially when I said it was a pulling guard and TE. It was actually a guard and right tackle, which makes what Logan does here all the more impressive.

Logan, after going right by his initial blocker recognizes where the pulling blockers (and thus the run) are going), then does the most logical thing: lowers his head and rams into the pulling guard, which in turn runs the guard into the pulling tackle. They all hit the ground in a heap of bodies. There’s a weird moment of stillness as the other Chief defenders hesitate (probably surprised that all of a sudden there aren’t any more blockers in the way), which the RB smartly takes advantage of to plunge forward for a few yards.

What I love here is that Logan, by himself, removed any option for the runner to use the designed blocking on the play. And that’s not the only time in the game Logan did so. He seems to have, in addition to formidable strength, a good idea as to where runners are going and how to close off their intended lanes. Part of this is simply that he usually keeps his head up and watches the runner, but some of it seems like veteran instincts as well (reading his blocker).

I charted Logan’s snaps to get a quick look at what he accomplished. He had a rough game rushing the passer (again, he looked a tad rusty at times), but was everything we’d hoped he could be as a run defender.

Something I’d like to say regarding these numbers ... Logan presented a weird dilemma for me this game, in that several of his pass rushing “losses” were really, really close to neutral plays in my eyes and several of his “neutral” plays were quite close to wins. So I found myself in a situation where the numbers aren’t quite as impressive as his film. I thought that was worth mentioning, because while Logan, by the numbers, appears to be a very bad pass rusher, I actually saw some push from him that makes me think he might provide a little juice in that department.

Interestingly enough, the Chiefs didn’t play Logan exclusively at NT. He saw a couple of snaps at defensive end (with Rakeem Nunez-Roches playing NT), as well as multiple snaps as one of two down linemen lined up in more of a 3-tech spot (meaning he was lined up across from one of the guards, basically). So I believe Sutton sees something in Logan as a potential pass rusher, or at least is willing to give him a shot. Of course, all of this could just be an effort to fill a spot that Chris Jones is clearly going to take back once he’s healthy.

The real thing Logan brings to the defense, though, is strength at the point of attack against the run. This was something the defensive line was sorely lacking last season. Logan has it in spades.

This is a very good snap for Allen Bailey and Justin Houston (who will be big upgrades against the run from what we saw for most of last year too, while we’re on the subject), but the key to this play going almost nowhere is Logan. He manages to sidestep both the center and the right guard, demonstrating surprising quickness for a big man and some serious strength to just shrug off the contact from the right guard.

By completely discarding his blockers, Logan plants himself squarely in the path of the runner, who was SUPPOSED to have a clear lane ahead of him created by the planned (I assume) combo block on Logan. Instead, he’s got 320 pounds of nose tackle standing in his way.

To the runner’s credit, he makes a nice cut and manages to find a little room to shoot forward for a yard or two (there wasn’t much space, as Houston casually tossed aside the tight end and Bailey gave absolutely zero ground to his blocker). But the point is that this run, like the others I’ve gif’d here, didn’t really have a chance at success outside some kind of miraculous play by the runner.

The Bengals first team offense ran the ball 10 times for 36 yards against the Chiefs first team defense, for a paltry average of 3.6 yards per carry. Of those 36 yards, 11 of them came on a run outside the right tackle when Logan was the left defensive end (in other words, one he had almost no chance of affecting.

Of the 10 rushing plays the Bengals ran when the first stringers squared off, 6 of them went for 3 yards or less. Only 3 went for 5 or more yards (5, 5 and 11). In short, the Bengals had a very difficult time generating any sort of ground game against the Chiefs, despite boasting a pair of solid backs. That’s very encouraging for a run defense that struggled last year. Logan was a major factor in that success.

The return of Bailey, Derrick Johnson and Houston will be a major boost for the run defense this season, as could be the development of Nunez-Roches. But the addition of Bennie Logan is what will, in my opinion, by key in the run defense being more than just competent. With him, the run defense has a shot at being very good.