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Chiefs defensive trends and tabulation, preseason Week 1

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Craig looks at the defense for the first half of the Chiefs preseason game against the Texans and the good and bad.

NFL: Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Week 1 is in the books!

The Kansas City Chiefs lined up against the Houston Texans in preseason Week 1, and we got a hint of what we might see in the regular season. Yes, the defense wasn’t exactly what we’ll see in Week 1. Yes, there’s plenty of depth chart battles still on the horizon.

But the Chiefs played a game, and Bob Sutton lined up the defense. So you bet your ass I’m gonna talk about it.

Each week during the season, I’ll be charting the Chiefs defense. I’ll be tabulating just about everything that I can short of the playcall from the sideline and definite individual player responsibility. I want to provide you, the Arrowhead Pride reader, with the most comprehensive defensive coverage for the most bang for your buck. We’re gonna give you the knowledge you need to discuss the Chiefs defense like you want to.

Because why don’t you want to be the smartest guy in your section at Arrowhead?

This week, we got a very small glimpse into the Chiefs defense for the 2018 defense. We don’t have All-22, so (very unfortunately) we can’t look hard into the secondary accurately. We can take a few things here and there from Sutton’s tendencies that we may have seen from 2017 and how they might have changed in 2018.

And I think we all want change in 2018.

With that in mind, let look at some of the first half stats (starters and second-teamers) before we dive into the good and the bad for the Chiefs defense in preseason Week 1.


  • The Chiefs lined up in a 3-4 defense exactly 50 percent of the time in the first half, exclusively against heavy personnel (12, 13, 20, 21, 22).
  • The Chiefs lined up in their 3-3-5 defense 21.88 percent of the time in the first half, against a mix of 11 and 12-personnel. The Chiefs rarely utilized it against 11-personnel last season.
  • The Chiefs lined up in my preferred 2-4-5 defense 28.12 percent of the time in the first half against a mix of 11 and 20-personnel (three wide receivers for both). This is above the mark from the 2017 season.
  • The Chiefs never lined up in a 2-3-6 in the first half against the Texans. The Chiefs ran that defense over 60 percent of the time in 2017, so if you weren’t already on board with the idea that the team was experimenting with some looks, that should be a major indicator.
  • The Chiefs dropped an outside linebacker into coverage 3.12 percent of the time in the first half, well below their 33 percent threshold from last season.
  • The Chiefs were lined up press across the board 15.6 percent of the first half and a mix of press and off 15.6 percent of the first half. That leaves 68.8 percent of the snaps in off-man. Sutton ran press 85 percent of the snaps in 2017 for one of his corners, and David Amerson’s comments about “playing 90 percent press” line up with that. The Chiefs were obviously working on some off man looks last night, so no need to panic.

Each week of the season, I’m also going to take a look at some good plays, some bad plays, and some plays you might have missed.

Hopefully, we’ll provide a good yin/yang and alert the casual fan to some schematic tendencies or some techniques that they may not have spotted on the initial watch.

Something good

Let’s talk about the game Xavier Williams (YOU DON’T RUN AT THE X) had last night. Williams showed the ability to be a very stout nose tackle, holding up strong at the point of attack. In the above GIF, Williams engages both the center and the guard and annihilates an attempted combo block by carrying them from one hash to the other. That’s something the Chiefs didn’t get routinely out of their NT position last year, and combined with Jones’ penetration and Dee Ford’s edge, he was able to humiliate the center by tossing him into the running back on third down and short. An absolutely incredible play for Williams amongst a sea of really good plays last night.

I’m tellin’ you guys, YOU DON’T RUN AT THE X. This time, Sutton overloads the strong side of the line opposite the running back, then has each defensive lineman work across the face of their blocker to get to their gap. Both Chris Jones and Williams are able to beat their blockers with bull rushes, and Breeland Speaks sets a hard edge, forcing the running back back to Williams. Good overall work up front by the defensive line last night, and that’s a situation we can actually take a little bit from the preseason. The arrow’s pointing up with this group.

Something bad

Sutton isn’t going to like this one on the rewatch. Dee Ford gets matched up against a tight end, and while he’s able to turn the RB back to the teeth of the defense, you’d expect him to be able to shed that block better to make the play. Allen Bailey does well to get into the backfield, but neither inside linebacker really attacks the gap, and Terrence Smith gets swallowed up by the climbing offensive tackle due to his hesitancy. The starting ILBs should play this better when they get back.

The running joke since midway through the Texans’ second drive last night has been Sutton’s off-man coverage on third-and-short. Yes, it’s a dumb call. No, they’re not going to do this in the red zone in season. Sutton spent the majority of the drive in off-man coverage and purposely worked on having the ILBs cover more (which would mean the OLBs don’t). Sutton runs press-man coverage as often as he can, and this was definitely just taking a look at some off-man techniques. I filed this one under “something bad” due to the doom and gloom Chiefs fans had over a preseason evaluation snap.

Something you may have missed

I wanted to highlight Arrion Springs this week. He flashed well in coverage, but this is the type of snap that will get a player on a roster. After T.Y. McGill does excellent work to beat his blocker and force the stretch by the RB, Arrion Springs sheds his blocker, takes a great angle, and closes quickly to beat the RB to the boundary. The willingness to shed and close out of a rookie corner playing in the slot has to be very encouraging for Sutton and Brett Veach.

Just because it’s preseason doesn’t mean the Chiefs can’t work on their banjo technique. Fantastic communication by Robert Golden (taking the out route on the tight end), Arrion Springs and Tremon Smith to navigate and switch on the stacked wide receivers.

Springs gets credit for a pass breakup here, but the other two players helped to communicate well and execute their responsibilities well so there wasn’t an open receiver to convert a first down. The team struggled with communicating these switches at times last year, so seeing two rookie corners and a new safety having that kind of rapport already is a huge positive for the Chiefs.

So that’s preseason Week 1 in the books. There were some good performances by a few players on the defensive side of the ball, and definitely a good foundation to build from.

And yes, I’m sure your Sutton takes are still white hot right now, but there’s not a whole lot schematically to take from this game outside of the Chiefs doing pretty much the polar opposite of 2017’s regular season. So tuck that hot take into your back pocket for Week 1. It’s coming soon enough.