While the state of the Chiefs offense seems to be in good shape going into 2018, General Manager Brett Veach still has a lot of work to do as the same can’t be said on the defensive side of the ball.
The Chiefs ability to stop the run, defend the pass and rush the passer all suffered greatly in 2017, woes that led to Veach making the ultimate decision to let some long time Chiefs walk out the door and do some serious reloading by making way for younger talent to hopefully rebuild the 28th defense from a year ago.
The following is the state of the Chiefs defense:
Defensive Line – The Chiefs felt the absence of nose tackle Dontari Poe in 2017, resulting in the inability to stop opponent’s run game. KC ranked 25th in rushing defense, giving up 1890 yards on the ground.
With a serious hole at nose tackle, the Chiefs bring in Xavier Williams, the Kansas City native formally from the Arizona Cardinals (2015 – 2017) to replace last year’s starter, Bennie Logan, who Veach decided to let walk in free agency.
While it’s a mere assumption to say Williams will be the starter between Allan Bailey and Chris Jones in 2018, he’s the only nose tackle the Chiefs have as of yet and depending who they pick up in the draft, nose tackle will surely be a position of need that will be addressed sooner or later regardless if Williams winds up being the starter or a quality backup.
Defensive end depth could also be a position the Chiefs address at some point this off-season, Allan Bailey and Chris Jones return as the starters, they re-signed Jarvis Jenkins, Rakeem Nunez-Roaches received a restricted free agent tender from the Chiefs earlier this off-season, which allows him to speak with other teams however, the Chiefs are allowed to match any offer if they want or they get a 6th round pick as compensation if they decide not to.
Linebackers – While not fully, linebacker is a position the Chiefs quickly addressed earlier this off-season. Brett Veach got the defensive youth movement started by making the decision to release long-time chief Derrick Johnson.
Drafted back in 2005, Johnson has familiarized himself as a fan favorite and a vocal leader in the locker room for many years. There are many fans that felt D.J. had plenty left in the tank for a 35 year old linebacker.
Enter Anthony Hitchens, Johnson’s replacement, who was picked up by the Chiefs at the start of free agency.
The 25 year old linebacker spent the previous 4 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys where he made 55 tackles in 2017, 199 in his career with Dallas. Hitchens will likely start beside Reggie Ragland, who was very solid for the Chiefs with 31 solo tackles in 2017.
However, while the Chiefs are set at inside linebacker, outside linebacker is a different conversation.
Bottom line; the Chiefs need pass rushers, getting to the quarterback is something the Chiefs struggled at in 2017.
They released vocal leader and legendary sack man, Tamba Hali, who’s best days were clearly behind him after three lack lustering seasons where he finished with 16 sacks combined. Hali has been contemplating retirement for a while and with a new music album set to be released soon, Hali seems to have found his niche after football.
Justin Houston has also been unimpressive after leading the league in sacks (22) following the end of the 2014 campaign which earned him a six year $101 million contract he signed shortly after. Houston has since then failed to register 10 or more sacks a given season and has 21 sacks in the previous three seasons combined (2015-2017), a sack short of his entire total in 2014.
Dee Ford has also struggled to live up to expectations since being drafted out of Auburn in 2014. Ford returns from being put on injured reserve last year due to lingering back issues. While he’s had a few good performances in his four year career thus far, Ford as been far too inconsistent to be the next generation pass rushers the Chiefs hoped he would become.
Dadi Nicolas and Tanoh Kpassagnon are two youngsters that have shown they have a lot of potential from they’re college days but are still an unknown and have yet to receive a real opportunity to show what they can do in the pros.
Frank Zombo, Ukeme Eligwe, Terrance Smith and Tyrone Holmes serve as decent depth assuming they make the 2018 roster.
With the huge hole at outside linebacker, it’ll be a position to keep an eye on for the rest of this off-season as Brett Veach continues to make moves in free agency and as the Chiefs get closer towards the draft.
Defensive back – The Chiefs ranked 29th in pass defense a year ago, making defensive back arguably their biggest need. Brett Veach and the Chiefs kicked off their off-season by trading quarterback Alex Smith to the Redskins in exchange for cornerback Kendall Fuller.
The trade turned a lot of heads not just in Kansas City, but the rest of the league as well, and the excitement that not only were the Chiefs committed to Pat Mahomes as their signal caller but also the dynamic duo they were going to have in the secondary with Fuller on one side and Marcus Peters on the other.
That is, until the Chiefs announced they have traded Peters to the L.A. Rams in exchange for low quality draft picks.
Free safety Ron Parker was also released shortly after.
The two moves seemingly put the Chiefs back at square one, with holes at starting corner opposite Fuller and strong safety beside Eric Berry, who returns after missing the entire 2017 season due to a ruptured achilles.
The Chiefs added former Pittsburgh defensive back, Robert Golden, a few days ago. He’ll join the young depth the Chiefs have in Daniel Sorensen, Steven Nelson, David Amerson, Eric Murray, and Leon McQuay III who’ll all likely be competing for the nickel and dime roles in the secondary, as well as special teams.
The Chiefs have many needs on defense that need to be addressed; however, the younger the defense gets, the more growing pains there are sure to be, and with the Chiefs’ offense turning into what could be a juggernaut, the old Dick Virmiel days could be coming back to Kansas City.