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2023: Defense


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There was a nice thread last season on the evolution of what became a Super Bowl winning defense. This is one for 2023-2024.

We will start off with a commentary on our secondary or, rather our safety group. This article is of the opinion that we could have the best three deep group in the NFL. NFL's best may be premature but this is a talented trio.

In a similar vein

Edited by onejayhawk
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  • 1 month later...

There are other threads for more detailed roster analysis. This is a quick walk through 2022 and the offseason to set the 2023 stage.

  • DE: Frank Clark played almost 65% of the DE snaps. That's a big hole. Carlos Dunlap's 45% will also be missed. Into the void, we insert Omenihu and FAU plus some extra load on Mike Danna. We could be seeing support from the LB group. Leo Chenal seems suited to the Carlos Dunlap role.
  • DT: Chris Jones played almost 80% of the snaps. We want to ease that load a bit. Nnadi only played about 35% and Kahlen Saunders' 35% is no longer available. Turk Wharton played 60% of the snaps until he was injured. 6th-round pick Keondre Coburn may have an immediate impact, particularly in short-yardage, but this is where I expect Omenihu to pick up a lot of his snaps. 
  • LB: Last season Nick Bolton never came out of the game, of necessity. Willie Gay played about 55% of the snaps and Leo Chenal played about 20%, trending up at the end of the year. He had a sack and a TFL in the SB. Inserting Drue Tranquill will be interesting. He also played over 90% of the defensive snaps for the Chargers. He's easily the best coverage player of the foursome. 
  • S: Adding a ballhawk like Mike Edwards to the already solid pair of Justin Reid and Bryan Cook may have given the Chiefs the best safety trio in the NFL. The draft brings Chamarri Conner who has a reputation as a hitter and enough coverage skills to handle TEs. Call him the SS. 
  • CB: Not much to add here. L'Jarius Sneed and three battle-tested 2nd-year guys. The draft brings Nic Jones, a very young (still 20 )CB who will likely see little action except for ST. 

Compared to 2021, this is a vastly different defense. Chris Jones, at age 28, is senior by almost two full years. They are young, very fast and athletic, and varied. It will be interesting to see what shakes out.

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This article asks an interesting question--Willie Gay: What Will His Role Be In Contract Year? 

Some points

  1. Will Gay take a back seat to Tranquill who is much better in coverage? 
  2. Are Gay's strengths being downplayed by the defensive scheme?
  3. Has the decision already been made?
  4. Don't forget Leo Chenal.
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Going into OTAs, here is one published depth chart. Which of the rookies steps up and takes a starting role and which backslide? Where do the FA play and how much.

Pos.    First    Second    Third    Fourth
LDE    Mike Danna    Felix Anudike-Uzomah    Joshua Kaindoh, BJ Thompson    Truman Jones
RDE    George Karlaftis    Charles Omenihu    Malik Herring    Daniel Wise
LDT    Derrick Nnadi    Keondre Coburn    Danny Shelton    Phil Hoskins
RDT    Chris Jones    Tershawn Wharton    Matt Dickerson    Chris Williams
MLB    Nick Bolton    Cole Christiansen        
WLB    Willie Gay Jr.    Drue Tranquill    Cam Jones    
SLB    Leo Chenal    Jack Cochrane    Isaiah Moore
LCB    L’Jarius Sneed    Joshua Williams    Nic Jones    Ekow Boye-Doe
RCB    Jaylen Watson    Nazeeh Johnson    Anthony Witherstone    Lamar Jackson
SCB    Trent McDuffie    Dicaprio Bootle    Reece Tyler    Kahlef HailassieFS    Justin Reid    Deon Bush, Chamarri Conner    Anthony Cook    
SS    Bryan Cook    Mike Edwards    Isaiah Norman    

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Will the defense take a significant step forward this season? Perhaps. This article gives three reasons why--versatility, pass rush, and the development of young players. It's not a bad place to start.

One thing that makes great sense is the last one, ie young player improvement. Often the biggest improvement is between rookie and sophomore seasons. The team played rookies an astounding 3076 snaps last season. That is over 22% of all defensive snaps.

The defense is losing Frank Clark, Kahlen Saunders, Carlos Dunlap, and Juan Thornhill who totaled 2754 snaps between them. Even bringing in Charles Omenihu, Drue Tranquill, and Mike Edwards there will be opportunities. Competition for playing time among the LBs and the CBs could get intense.

The DL goes at least six deep--Chris Jones, Charles Omenihu, Mike Danna, Tershawn Wharton, George Karlaftis, and Felix Anudike-Uzomah. One of the stories of training camp will be who plays where and how much. Figured into this mix will be rookie DT Keondre Coburn and possibly one or more of the LB, say Leo Chenal. Signing an older veteran, as Carlos Dunlap did last season, remains a possibility.

In any event, don't expect the defense to be vicious early. With all the player movement and role changes, it will probably take all of September to get sorted. What i want to see is the defense from Game #7 onward. It could get nasty. 

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3 hours ago, kingseanjohn said:

Okay, I'll ask. A lot of your posts come off as article like. Are you copying from somewhere? Are you a current or aspiring sports writer?

I was a sports writer for a short period. For example, I was covering college basketball in 2008 when KU beat Memphis for the national championship. 1500 words, once a week. The pay sucked but I did get an autographed Priest Holmes jersey. 

I lot of my posts are triggered by an article I see. If I disagree with the article, I'll put that in the comments.

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We expected it but it's nice to have someone say it--the secondary is much better this year. 

The reasons for expecting it are many--The unit has a year of working together, there are few new faces to fit in, players tend to improve a great deal between their rookie and second season, confidence matters and this unit had a lot of success, and so on. All that is true but it's nice to have confirmation. 

Here is the main quote from DC Spagnuolo:

I sat somewhere with them a week ago, and they’re like light-years ahead, and they feel it, it’s different, they are confident,. The first day we went out there for a walkthrough, the communication — and I’m including Justin Reid in that because last year was all new for him too, even though he was a vet the system was new. And those guys, from a verbal and being kind of tied into that standpoint, they were just gelling.

On Bryan Cook who is the best bet for a big breakout season.

Bryan is one of those guys that is a bold, vocal guy. Even last year, as a young guy a year ago, I was impressed with how bold he was. Some of these guys come in, and they’re in a position where they have to communicate, and they don’t want to make a mistake, so they whisper it. But the guys who blurt it out, whether they are wrong, whether they are right, I like those guys. Cook was like that last year, and he has carried that into this year.

What Spagnuolo is hoping is to find a third slot-coverage man. Both McDuffie and Sneed are superior slot men, but they may both be needed outside. Williams and Watson are outside press guys. Is this the reason the team drafted Chamarri Conner?

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is about the 2nd-year defensive players--McDuffie, Karlaftis, Cook, Chenal, Williams, and Watson. All are poised to contribute to what should be the best Chiefs defense in over a decade, maybe since the Derrick Thomas era. Of course, having each of them improve on their rookie seasons would be a big help with that.

Bryan Cook in particular is set for what could be a big season.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Recapping 2022, this article presents four stats--5th in the NFL QB pressure rate, Sneed led all CB in blitzes and sacks, poor ypc numbers on 1st down, poor red-zone success rate.

  • If anything, the defense should improve the QB pressure rate with the addition of Charles Omenihu and Felix Anudike-Uzomah.
  • Sneed is a superior blitzer, one of the best of his generation, but it would be better if the front seven applied the pressure. LB Willie Gay and Leo Chenal are accomplished pass rushers when needed. 
  • Run defense on 1st-and-10 has been a problem for years. This is an area where DL George Karlaftis and rookie Keondre Coburn could have an impact.
  • The red-zone problems could be a function of the many personnel changes last season. If so, simple continuity should make a difference. 
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  • 2 weeks later...

Bolton was named a top 11 LB. Wagner, Warner, David, and the usual suspects are in the top five but sandwiched between Germaine Pratt and Tremaine Edmunds is good company.

L'Jarius Sneed is #6 slot defender. This might be a bit low. The others don't have Sneed's versatility.

No Chiefs made the lists for CB or S though that may change after this season. The team has invested a lot of draft capital into the defense and it should start to pay off.


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9 hours ago, mayanfootball said:

A good front half will make the back half of the defense better. Here's to hoping that FAU and GK get off to a good start.

Don't sleep on Omenihu. I have a feeling he will emerge as one of the significant pass rushers in the league.

Jones, Omenihu, Danna, and Wharton can all play inside or out so lots of stunts are possible. Gay and Chenal can blitz very well. It has taken time to assemble the pieces but they appear to be in place. I expect a vicious pass rush this season. 

I am looking forward to seeing how we use TRanquill, our only real coverage LB, and how the secondary shakes out. Mike Edwards has a reputation for sticky fingers and Jaylen Watson had two huge interceptions last year. The one against Lawrence in the playoffs was pure art. Pressure up front could turn the back seven into a turnover machine.

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With camp just a week away, I am asking how good the defense is going to be. Positive articles are coming out from all levels of the defense. ESPN put Chris Jones and Nick Bolton in their top 10 list, Jones at #1. Justin Reid is taking on some of the leadership we had from Tyrann Mathieu. Bryan Cook and Charles Omenihu are considered breakout candidates. That is in addition to the expected improvement from George Karlaftis and four DB and the addition of Drue Tranquill and Felix Anudike-Uzomah. 

There is a lot of buzz and many positives to note. a lot of draft capital is beginning to pay off and the FA signings look juicy.

Just how good is this defense going to be?


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