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Dixon’s AP mailbag: Frank Clark, replacing sacks, trading up and tailgating

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Let’s see what our readers want to know this week.

Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/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.

On to your questions:

Do you think the Chiefs will go for Frank Clark from Seattle?

— Joe

No, Joe... I don’t.

We addressed the possibility of a trade for Clark in these pages earlier this week. Clark is a great defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks, who just made a record-setting deal for their quarterback Russell Wilson. The Seahawks have placed the franchise tag on Clark. If he signs it, he’ll make $17 million this season for the Seahawks. That’s a combination of factors that is guaranteed to generate speculation about a trade.

But I don’t the Chiefs will do it.

If the Chiefs had wanted to pay franchise tag money to an edge rusher, they wouldn’t have traded Dee Ford — or they would have kept Justin Houston.

Instead, they have chosen to bring in Alex Okafor and Emmanuel Ogbah — two established veterans who will cost relatively little money — to mix in with Breeland Speaks and Tanoh Kpassagnon, who are listed as linebackers but will probably end up as defensive ends in Steve Spagnuolo’s defense. While neither of the latter two players has made much of a mark thus far, these moves suggest the Chiefs believe they can be effective in the new scheme.

That doesn’t mean the Chiefs won’t be trying to find more edge rushers. They will be seeking them in the draft, and in the moves leading up to the beginning of the season. But with the signing of Tyrann Mathieu — not to mention the near-signing of Earl Thomas — the Chiefs have made it pretty clear that right now, they intend to spend their money on the back end of the defense.

I keep hearing about how the Chiefs are losing so many sacks from Ford/Houston. Is there any way we can see how inflated those sack numbers are because the Chiefs were leading most of the games?

— Jesse

We could do that, Jesse — but it isn’t really necessary.

The Chiefs led the league in sacks last season. But they gave up 421 points, which was 24th in the league. And as you might have heard, they also gave up 6,488 yards, which was 31st in the league.

So maybe getting all those sacks isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Your question relates to the one I just answered from Joe: the Chiefs have made a conscious decision not to devote as many of their resources to the pass rush — at least not to pass rushing from the edge.

Why?

Because the game continues to evolve. Andy Reid often speaks about how defenses react to offensive changes — and vice versa. The league began to depend more on the passing game, so defenses concentrated on finding edge rushers to disrupt it. Offenses reacted to that by concentrating on getting the ball out so quickly that edge rushers couldn’t get to the quarterback in time.

What we saw in 2018 was that the Chiefs pass rush from the edge — that is, from Ford and Houston — racked up a lot of pressure and sacks. But what’s lost in that is what happened when the Chiefs didn’t get a sack: they were getting torched by the running game and the short passing game.

Getting all those sacks from the edge looked good on paper, but it clearly didn’t help the defense do its main job: preventing the other team gaining yards and scoring.

So now the Chiefs are reacting. They have switched to a defensive scheme that should be stouter against the run and the short passing game. By deciding to spend their money on Chris Jones — rather than Dee Ford and Justin Houston — they are committing to bringing their pass rush pressure from the inside rather than the outside. And they’re working on upgrading the secondary to blunt the passing game.

So the question isn’t about replacing the production of Houston and Ford. It’s about making the defense more effective at its main job. If this approach works — and the Chiefs offense continues to prosper — the team is going to be very difficult to beat.

Most likely drafted in first round for the Chiefs: cornerback or edge rusher? Who/why? Pick 29 or trade up/down?

— B.R.

Thanks for your question, B.R. If it isn’t already obvious by the two answers I just gave, I think the overall emphasis of the offseason has been on the secondary. That would lead to thinking the first player the Chiefs will take off the board is a cornerback or safety.

I also think the Chiefs don’t have the capital to trade up far enough to get one of the premier edge rushers — at least not without crippling them for the rest of this draft and/or the next; it looks like those guys are all going to be gone by the middle of the first round. If I’m buying into the arguments I’ve just made — and because I made them, I do — I don’t think trading up past the middle of the first round for an EDGE makes sense.

But by standing pat — or moving up a few spots — the Chiefs could land a player like Greedy Williams, Byron Murphy or Nasir Adderly for the secondary, They’ve hosted a visit with Murphy — whose attitude I really like — and also ones with cornerbacks Amani Oruwariye and Joejuan Williams, who could both be available at 29.

Of course, we can only guess how Veach rates all these players — and whether he believes the moves the Chiefs have been able to make thus far have filled the holes he thinks he needs to fill. If Veach thinks O-and-O — that is, Okafor and Ogbah — are at best rotational players, then he may decide to make a big move up for an EDGE. But if he thinks otherwise, I see secondary as the first move.

And then there’s the dark horse: defensive tackle Jerry Tillery. He might also be available at 29, and he’s also been in for a visit. Again, if I’m buying my own argument — that the Chiefs are committing to inside pass rush — then getting Tillery there could make sense.

Will you tailgate a game and if you do, will I be there?

— Shawn

I don’t know, Shawn. On game days, you’ll find me hunched over a computer, writing about the game as it happens. I attended both of last season’s Arrowhead Pride watch parties and joined friends at local watering holes for several others. But for each one of them, I lugged in my laptop and an extra computer monitor, and after the opening kickoff, spent the whole game doing my thing.

I’m not complaining. I really love my job. It’s just hard to imagine doing all of that in the Arrowhead parking lot.

But I do like going to the games. Before I joined the Arrowhead Pride staff, Terri and I managed to make it to one or two every season, and when we do we always tailgate. Who knows? Maybe we’ll figure out a way to make that happen this season.

And if we do, Shawn... you’re invited.