During our last episode of AHPKC, I shat my shot of explaining a new defensive alignment that I’ve been fantasizing over since the Chiefs announced Breeland Speaks would be line up as an EDGE LB. But I did not shoot my shat very well, my friends. Some things are better left written.
New Chiefs Defensive Alignment: Who, What, When, Where, Why, How
I know that’s the conventional order of the Five W’s but I gotta get you thinking on a whole ‘nother level for this article. So we’ll be doing it in this order:
- JJ What
- Who Bledsoe
- Dre Why
- Peter Boulwhere
- Mark Rypwhen
- How Ming (would’ve made a great TE)
Ok, now we’re feeling good.
An early down nickel. A base dime. Or, for the ladies out there, a big subpackage. Take your outdated 3-4 and 4-3 defensive alignments back to the Mesozoic Era where they belong!
I’m talking 2-5-4. Or is it a 2-4-5? Or maybe it’s actually a 4-3. Or a 4-2-5. The whole idea is that it can change in an instant and the offense can’t tell exactly what it is.
Let’s take a look at how the defense I have in mind would look against both a 2 WR and 3 WR offensive set…
Now, this defense isn’t all that different from the nickel the Chiefs have used for years under Bob Sutton. The biggest change schematically is utilizing both ILBs, which the Chiefs have said they plan to do, which should help their ability to defend the run in the subpackage, a problem the Chiefs have had dating back to the Mesozoic Era Romeo Crennel era and, more importantly, the greatest overall challenge in playing a nickel subpackage defense on early downs.
Maybe you think I’m overstating the impact one player has on the success of a play in the NFL. I mean, how is swapping out one DL from your base defense for one LB/Safety in your subpackage enough to improve a defense?
Well, before the play, quarterbacks routinely have the option of calling a run or pass based on the numbers in the box (which is typically decided by the presence or absence of one player).
And with the rise of RPOs (and Nick Foles winning Super Bowls), we now see the QB deciding between a run or pass based on the read of one player DURING the play. What’s next, a random episode button on Netflix?!?
Offenses take what the defense gives them and make the correct read, accordingly. It’s innovative, smart, and effective. Defenses have to find a way to counter that to succeed in today’s NFL.
Because NFL offenses thrive on mismatches. And versatility breeds mismatches. The Patriots have the best QB of all time and the best coach of all time. And yet, it’s not them that I necessarily fear.
It’s their ability to use James White that I fear. It’s Danny Amendola matched up on a LB. It’s Shane Vereen split out wide. It’s Julian Edelman against Ron Parker in the slot. It’s Kevin Faulk ... mmm, I don’t remember what Faulk did best, but he was a beast dammit.
So how do you defend it?
You need guys like Dorian O’Daniel, who can line up in the box and defend the run, man up on a TE or RB lined up inside or outside, defend the flats, play deep safety and maybe possibly even moonlight as a slot CB at times (you could say I’m excited about DOD).
You need guys like Anthony Hitchens, who can play on all three downs and not miss a tackle for an entire season.
You need guys like Justin Houston, who is a plus defender against the run and pass (hey, he wasn’t THAT far behind Antonio Brown in coverage).
You need guys like Eric Berry, who can defeat cancer.
You need to match the offense’s versatility with your own versatility, which the Chiefs have tried to accomplish by adding various hybrid type defenders over the past couple drafts.
I would say there are eight players on the Chiefs defense I’d want in the game on any given snap. Either because they are #good or they seem like the best option at their position right now.
- These eight players are: Jones, Bailey, Houston, Ragland, Hitchens, Fuller, Nelson, and Berry.
- Now choose your second EDGE rusher: Ford, Tanoh, Speaks (For me: Speaks on early downs, Ford on passing downs and Tanoh...uh, somewhere in between).
- Now choose two wildcards to round out your defense: Amerson, Watts, Sorensen, O’Daniel (I’m playing all four but O’Daniel is the key to me).
Amerson probably has to come in for 3 WR sets. Watts is the next best option at deep safety if you want to free up Berry. Sorensen thrives in the box as a blitzer. And O’Daniel might be the jack of all trades here (think LB/Safety hybrid types like Shaq Thompson, Mark Barron and Deone Buchannon).
This is my defense. Nine players lined up traditionally with Eric Berry and Dorian O’Daniel transitioning back and forth from LB-Safety, changing the math on the QB, and generally wreaking havoc.
Uhh, a football field.
More than the typical 50 percent of plays that most NFL teams use their subpackage nowadays. I see what the Chiefs could do as more of a full time defense that is flexible against both run and pass, heavy and spread formations alike.
There is a line of thinking that all passes are superior to runs based on a simple look at yards per play metrics (in 2017, the Chiefs led the NFL at 4.7 yards per rush attempt, while the Ravens were last in the NFL at 5.3 yards per pass attempt).
I know, I know, an oversimplification. But the NFL is trending more and more in this direction because of the improvement of QB play across the NFL (don’t listen to Twitter), the rise of the quick pass (the new running game), and the spread of the, well, spread offense (INT numbers dropping rapidly).
NFL offenses are getting smarter. It’s time for defenses to start evolving along with it.
One strategy could be to trick the offensive coordinator and/or QB into running the ball more because you’re in a traditional “nickel” defense.
To pull this off, you need players who can stop the run in a “light” box, which the Chiefs seem to have specifically attacked this offseason, adding run stuffers in Xavier Williams and Derrick Nnadi by Nature along the DL, Anthony Hitchens (and Reggie Ragland last year) at ILB, a box safety type in Dorian O’Daniel and the return of Eric Berry in the secondary.
If you squint hard enough, the Chiefs personnel moves this offseason have kinda sorta maybe possibly point toward a change like this...
- Why spend two high draft picks on EDGE LB’s listed over 285 pounds when the NFL is evolving towards a faster game? (seem more like 4-3 DE’s to me).
- Why release RNR when they were already thin up front? (only use 2 DL per play).
- Why announce you plan to play both ILBs in the nickel? (increases your ability to stop the run in the nickel).
- Why trade cut Dadi Nicolas? (bit of a stretch, but I liked Dadi -- he doesn’t fit this type of defense).
- Why is Dee Ford on the trade market?
Ok, I may have made that last one up, but Dee Ford is the one player on the roster who really doesn’t fit into this new scheme. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.
With Bob Sutton, you have a defensive coordinator who has been, how can I say this, less than imaginative when it comes to his defensive concepts (enough so that some yahoo on Twitter continually refers to him as Bob STUBBORN, wow hope that guy never hands out another nickname).
But a lot can change in a year. Never forget: The entire plot of Breaking Bad takes place over the course of one year. Which leaves just enough time for Sutton to return to find his true self...