Chiefs hope pass-rush package will pay off
AUG 13, 2014 9:15p ET
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs offered a preview during recent 11-on-11 training camp practices of what could be in store for unsuspecting quarterbacks this season.
Pro Bowl linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, first-round draft pick Dee Ford and fellow pass-rusher Josh Martin all trotted onto the field at the same time, leaving defensive tackle Dontari Poe as the lone down lineman in a unique scheme designed to create pressure.
Elsewhere in the NFL, similar personnel groups are known as "NASCAR packages" -- the idea is that they overwhelm the opposing offense with their speed.
"We call it the 'dog front,'" Hali said. "A bunch of dogs going after (the quarterback)."
Hali and Houston are known commodities, combining for 22 sacks despite injury issues last season. Ford was expected to be a part of the sub package. But Martin's presence is intriguing considering he's not yet well known.
That could change in the Chiefs' "dog front."
"He's very fast," Hali said. "He's very quick off the ball. He's very strong, much stronger than I am, and he can change direction. When you see a guy who can flip his hips back and forth, change direction and run, that's huge. That's a freak."
The Chiefs signed Martin as an undrafted free agent out of Columbia last year, and he spent eight weeks on the practice squad last season before appearing in five games.
With a 40-yard time of 4.57 seconds, the Chiefs are hoping to utilize Martin's quickness.
"That's the one thing they worry about is that speed," Martin said of opposing offensive linemen. "I try to use that to my advantage, and make that an every-down thing."
Martin worked out with Hali in March and July on Hermosa Beach in Los Angeles, joined by Bears defensive end Lamarr Houston and martial arts expert Ryron Gracie of the world-renowned Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy.
Together, they did sprint drills in the sand to improve their speed and strength, and Gracie helped all of the players with using their hands at close range.
"The sand allows you to make cuts at full speed," Martin said. "In order to use that speed on the edge, you have to be able to change directions and the sand really helps that."
The second-year pro's dedication to spend the offseason improving left an impression on Hali, who is one of the longest-tenured members of the Chiefs.
"It just shows he's willing to learn," Hali said. "He's young in the game and he wants to be around a person who has been around and doing it. I haven't always had success throughout my career, but I eventually learned how to do it. That says a lot about him."
Chiefs linebackers coach Gary Gibbs agreed.
"He's worked hard in the weight room," he said. "He's worked hard in the offseason. He's learning his way and we expect he'll have a chance to help us this year."
Martin is aware the coaching staff has high expectations of him. And while Gibbs said there's room for Martin to grow, repetitions will help him to learn to play faster and with more power.
"There's a learning curve and process he needs to go through," Gibbs said. "These preseason games will be part of the process, and as we get into the regular season that will continue the process. But we're all glad he's here and he's doing a good job for us."
While the Chiefs didn't unleash their "dog front" during their preseason opener against Cincinnati last week, there are signs that it could be used during the regular season.
And that prospect has Martin excited about what offensive linemen will have to face.
"Hopefully it makes them work a little bit and they really can't do much about it," Martin said. "But we'll see what happens."
NOTES: S Eric Berry (right heel), DEs Mike DeVito (hand), Mike Catapano (illness) and Kona Schwenke (shoulder), LB Josh Mauga (groin), CB Damond Smith (abductor strain) and TE Richard Gordon (excused) did not practice Wednesday. ... FB Anthony Sherman missed practice for the birth of his son. ... K Ryan Succop (groin) returned to practice after missing four straight days.