Scheme is new, but Chiefs defenders are catching on fast
Quick adaptation to new scheme gives Chiefs defense the edge on offense - for now
By SEAN KEELERFS Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For all his street cred as a "drive for show" guy, Andy Reid gets the "putt for dough" part. In Philadelphia, his Eagles teams ranked among the top four in the NFL in points allowed on five different occasions — and averaged 11.2 victories during those campaigns. The three times his defenses ranked 22nd or worse among NFL clubs in terms of points allowed? Four wins, six wins, five wins.
"You win games in this league on defense," Reid, the new
Kansas City Chiefs coach, said Thursday after his squad wrapped up its first May session of organized team activities (OTAs). "That's what you do. Winning teams normally have good defenses."
As the franchise renovation trudges on, the Chiefs' new-look defense is, at first blush, ahead of the new-look offense, for whatever that's worth before Memorial Day. And despite his reputation as an offensive guru, Reid is perfectly fine with that. It's spring. When you're talking about two-hand touch with shorts and helmets combined with brand-new everything, all the way across the board, the process is almost as important as the end result.
"They go back and forth," Reid said. "That's kind of the neat part about this. They're challenging each other and talking a little bit. That's all healthy, and that's how you get better."
Besides, it ain't broke: The Chiefs sent four defenders to the Pro Bowl last winter despite a 2-14 record and a season that alternated between Shakespearean farce and Greek tragedy. While the passing side of the offense needed a demolition crew and an overhaul, the defense just needed a few tweaks.
Enter cornerbacks Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith, and defensive tackle Mike DeVito, who ran coordinator Bob Sutton's schemes with the New York Jets. Plus, a philosophical switch: Attack, attack, attack, a mantra the Romeo Crennel regime seemed reluctant to embrace. Any linebacker or defensive back is a potential blitzer, at any given time. Less give. More take.
"Coming in with playbooks on all phases, there's always a learning curve," said DeVito, who signed with the Chiefs as a free agent after six seasons in the Big Apple. "But you're not really seeing that out there … so now you have these Pro Bowlers learning this new defense that quick, so it's really going to be dangerous."
Safety Eric Berry noted ruefully that Sutton is his fifth different coordinator since his college days at Tennessee, that he has heard promises of constructive (and instructive) change before.
But this staff? So far, he feels, they walk it even better than they talk it. And, brother, they've talked it.
"The fun part is that we're grasping it," Berry said. "You can have a lot of moving parts and not be able to do it. But right now, we're getting it."
Other nuggets before the shop closed for the weekend:
Dwayne Bowe didn't make predictions Thursday — as he did during a Wednesday post-practice interview with reporters in which he vowed that he'd lead the NFL in receptions and touchdown catches. Instead, he limped. A lot. Reid said it was just cramping, and he expects Bowe to be cleared when OTAs resume Tuesday.
All that talk of integrating the option into the run game wasn't just lip service, kids. The first-team offense tried out a handful of zone-read plays, including some that featured running back Jamaal Charles sharing the backfield with Cyrus Gray. One formation had Smith faking a dive by Charles, then cutting wide and pitching to Gray as they turned the corner in tandem. It was very Oregon, and very cool.
Dontari Poe, last year's first-round pick, reminds new defensive line partner DeVito of an old — and pretty darned good — Jets teammate: Kris Jenkins. "Just so big and so athletic," DeVito said. "When he puts his hand down and gets going, there's just no stopping him."
We've heard of Reid's "Fast Food Fridays," but "Thrash Metal Thursdays," now, that was new. Over the final 25 minutes or so, during 11-on-11s, Reid had a music mix of metal, industrial and hip-hop songs pumping through loudspeakers, at Pete Townshend decibels, presumably to simulate crowd noise. Or to get the scribes to boogie.
"Yeah, listen, just to liven it up a little bit," the coach said with a grin. "I wanted to make sure you guys were out here dancing."
We didn't, although Reid's playlist included selections by Metallica ("Enter Sandman") and Kid Rock ("Cowboy").
"Naw, I'm not going to take credit for that," Reid continued. "I told the guys that I put in charge of it, ‘Be creative.' "
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.