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Dixon’s AP Mailbag: the terrible secondary, Damien, Darrel and the scout team

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Let’s see what’s on the minds of AP readers going in to Week 5

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Welcome to Dixon’s Arrowhead Pride Mailbag, where I’ll do my best to answer your questions about the Kansas City Chiefs — and anything else that’s on your mind. If you have a question, you can hit my profile page to E-mail me, or ask me on Twitter.

While you’re at it, please follow me on Twitter, too.

Why does everyone think the Chiefs secondary is terrible — even though they’re currently ranked ninth?

— N.B.

That is truly an outstanding question, my friend — so thank you!

You’re exactly right. The Chiefs are currently ranked ninth in pass defense DVOA by FootballOutsiders.com. So why do so many people think the secondary is terrible?

The first reason is that people tend to put things in stark, black-and-white terms. You’re either great or you’re terrible. The best or the worst. There’s nothing in between. And even if there were, average is the enemy. Average doesn’t win Super Bowls. Never mind that Super Bowl winners are routinely average in many statistical categories — sometimes even terrible in one or two. The perception remains: you have to be great at everything to win a Super Bowl.

The second is that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. There’s always another player out there that is perceived as better than the guy your team has at the position.

Have you ever stopped to wonder why free-agent signings so rarely work out? To be sure, sometimes it’s because the new player isn’t as good as he was when he played for the other team. But often it’s because our expectations were just too high. When the free agent was playing for the other guys, we mostly saw him in highlight reels. But when he starts playing for us, we see him as he really is — warts and all. We tend to attribute that to “he got paid” or “he’s in a different system” or any number of other reasons, but sometimes it’s just that we saw him differently than he really was.

Another reason (this one specific to secondary players) is that most fans won’t remember a well-defended pass — not to mention a sack (or a checkdown) that happened because the downfield receivers were all covered. But they’ll never forget that a cornerback gave up a touchdown or a safety was called for pass interference 30 yards downfield (or, God forbid, in the end zone) in a critical situation. They tend to forget that these things happen even to the best cornerbacks and safeties — simply because in football, the offense always has the advantage. If it didn’t, the game would bore us to death.

This isn’t a criticism of how fans view the game. It’s an observation about how humans tend to notice and remember things.

This is exactly why statistics exist — to provide a check on our (entirely normal) human frailties; it’s just hard for most people to count these things in their heads, so stats provide a sort of fact-check on what we see. But these days, stats have a bad name. We all know that statistics can be manipulated, right? So for many people, the answer is to simply ignore them — to trust only their own “eye test.”

But rather than just ignoring them, it’s actually better to understand statistics at least a little, so you can tell when they’re being manipulated. Even the Chiefs’ DVOA pass defense ranking of ninth is a bit deceptive. The actual score is -1.2%. In DVOA, zero is average — and for a defensive score, a negative number is better than a positive one. Most people would think, “Oh, hey! Ninth is pretty good!” But this particular ninth is actually just a hair above average.

The trick is always to find the proper balance between what you’ve observed for yourself and what the numbers say.

Is Damien Williams likely to regain his spot over Darrel Williams when he’s back?

— Jerry

Thanks for the question, Jerry.

If you had asked me this question as a hypothetical back in August, I would have said “yes” without hesitation. Through the offseason, the Chiefs made it pretty clear that they considered Damien Williams to be the bell-cow running back of the offense.

But that was then, and this is now.

Back in August, we didn’t know that LeSean McCoy was going to be available — or that the Chiefs would snap him up. Even after that happened, there was a significant question about whether McCoy would have enough left in the tank to make any kind of impact. And of course... we hadn’t seen a whole lot of Darrel Williams in game situations.

But now we’ve seen that McCoy can still play — and so can Darrel. I’d guess that when he’s 100%, Damien will get his starting job back. But there will now be a lot more pressure on him to perform. If he doesn’t, the Chiefs have quality running backs waiting in the wings.

Is Andy Reid pass-heavy in practice — which in turn makes the defense undisciplined in run defense?

— Bryan

Thanks for asking, Bryan.

I understand where this question comes from. There must be some explanation for why the Chiefs have been so poor against the run... right?

But I don’t think this is it.

It’s important to understand that unlike offseason practices, in the regular season, the team is always focused on the next opponent. They maintain this focus by putting first-team players against “scout teams” made up of reserve and practice squad players that do their best to mimic what the Chiefs think the upcoming team will do; the first-team offense and defense don’t face each other that often.

So it’s not generally going to be the case that the first-team defensive players aren’t getting enough work against the run because the Chiefs offense tends to be pass-heavy; that’s just not the way it works.

Will Morris Claiborne play much against the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday?

— Lee

Good question, Lee. Thank you!

As long as no one is injured, probably not a lot.

As a player facing suspension to begin the season, Claiborne was allowed to participate in practice and other team activities before the season began. But once the season (and his suspension) started, he was prohibited from even being in the team’s facility — much less being part of anything going on inside of it.

So Claiborne will have a basic understanding of what the Chiefs are doing on defense but will have missed four valuable weeks of practice time with the rest of the team. We’ll presume that as a professional football player, he’ll have kept himself in shape during the suspension, but that doesn’t mean there still won’t be a little rust to shake off to be in complete playing shape.

So we might see Claiborne for some snaps on Sunday, but it’s reasonable to expect that it will be a week or two before he gets significant playing time.

Is Joel Thorman a myth? Kinda like Sasquatch?

— G.C.

I’m glad you asked! It’s about time we set the record straight!

Joel — who founded Arrowhead Pride with his brother Chris in 2008 — is hardly a myth. The Blogfather is still around — and very much involved in what we do here.

Besides... the comparisons between Joel and Sasquatch couldn’t be more stark.

  • If he wore shoes, Sasquatch would wear a 38EEEE. In contrast, Joel wears an 11.
  • Joel makes a fashion statement everywhere he goes; his sweatpants are always from the best designers. Sasquatch only wears fur — which is no longer fashionable.
  • Sasquatch has been in a movie with John Lithgow. Joel has been on the radio with the likes of Carrington Harrison and Bob Fescoe.
  • Joel is an accomplished raconteur who is welcome in any conversation. Sasquatch just screeches — albeit loudly — in the woods.
  • Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Sasquatch is presumed to be a Seattle Seahawks fan — while as a Kansas City native, Joel will never be anything but a Chiefs fan.

I’m glad we could clear this up.