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How new NT Xavier Williams will be used by the Kansas City Chiefs

I’ve done a good bit of howling about the Chiefs defense over the last week. So the Chiefs, because they clearly value my opinion, looked to address at least one of my concerns by signing restricted free agent Xavier Williams.

We’ve looked at Williams’ film and seen that he’s at his best as a run defender, which is good news considering where we’re currently at with the defensive line.

Williams was interviewed today by the KC media, and during that interview he dropped a couple of nuggets that I found interesting (besides the fact that he’s completely psyched to be a Chief, which is nice to hear).

First, Terez Paylor asked him about his reputation as a run stopper. Xavier replied that that’s been his main job in the league as a “pure nose guard” (interesting to hear that term) whose job is to stop the run, but that he feels he can help with the pass rush. He talked about the importance of keeping centers and guards off the linebackers.

Where things got really interesting, though, was when Terez asked him point-blank “did you 2 gap in Arizona?” and then asked how much 2-gapping he’s done in his career.

Terez is the best. Here’s the response Williams gave:

“No, I was a penetrator. I did (2-gap) back in college, We ran a multiple defense when I was a college, that’s when you penetrate and 2-gap it, but I haven’t done it since.”

When asked if Williams expected it to be much an adjustment coming to Kansas City and whether “they” (the coaches) told him he’d be “doing some of that.” Williams’ response made me think:

“From what I understand it’s an attack defense. I don’t know anything about 2-gapping, but if they need me to... I’m not too worried about it.”

Williams also mentioned that he’s been working on his pass rushing this offseason, specifically his flexibility.

He also addressed his weight, as it was pointed out that his weight listing varies from 309 to 325. He indicated he was 325 when he came into the league, but played last season at 295. He said he’s comfortable at any of those weights, but he anticipates playing at about 305-310 this season.

In response to a question as to whether he was better against the run at a heavier weight, he again made it sound like he expects the defense to be aggressive this season.

“... in a defense like this where you’re attacking, I don’t think you have to be very big ... if you’re quick enough.”

He went on to say he has no problem putting on weight and playing bigger as well.

Finally, to pull all this together, Terez asked what Williams was told about the defense coming in.

“I talked to Coach Britt Reid and Coach Sutton and we were going through the philosophy and schemes of the defense and I think that it really matched ... (it’s) really similar to what I was doing in Phoenix, in Arizona, and I had success with that so I kind of want to stick as close to that as possible.”

Anyways, all this is a long road to a short thought ... the way that Williams is describing his own use and comfort, as well as the way he’s talking about his conversations with Britt Reid and Bob Sutton, is very interesting to me.

The reason for that is the Chiefs defensive line was not generally an “attacking” defensive line last season, particularly when you’re talking about Logan’s role (which is where I’m assuming Williams is being plugged in). In fact, a pretty large complaint from many fans last season is that the Chiefs should switch to more of a 1-gap attacking strategy rather than asking their defensive linemen to 2-gap (if you’re not familiar with the differences are, this is a quick primer, though hardly exhaustive. Please note that plenty of 3-4 defenses 1-gap).

As the year went along and the run defense struggled, I noticed a bit of a shift towards (from what I could see) fewer 2-gap principles and more of a focus on attacking a single gap from the defensive line. With that seeming shift, there was also a drop in snaps that Bennie Logan was on the field (see here for the snap counts).

Now, it’s obviously silly to make too much of anything at this point. But IF the Chiefs are planning on using Williams to replace Logan (which seems to be the plan), given his quotes there’s at least some reason to hope that the Chiefs are making a pretty radical shift in philosophy from what we saw last season along the line, asking players to attack a single gap rather than mind multiple gaps while the linebackers “clean up.”

If that’s the route the Chiefs are choosing to go, it will be music to my ears. Chris Jones, Allen Bailey, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, and now Williams (as well as Jarvis Jenkins, if we’re going to name everyone) are all at their best when asked to attack a single gap rather than 2-gap. Every single one of them.

Further, the Chiefs altering their philosophy up front to a more attacking style would signify that Sutton realizes that his personnel didn’t match his scheme last season and is adjusting it accordingly. Whatever you think about Sutton, that’s a good sign.

On a final note, my personal hope is that the entire defensive philosophy is about to revert back to a more aggressive, attacking defense like the ones we had in Sutton’s first few seasons. That would, from all appearances, match up more closely with the video-game-track-meet offense they are appearing to build.

We’ll see how this all plays out, but right now I’m signing up as cautiously optimistic that the Chiefs are finally adjusting their scheme to fit their players up front.

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