NFL roundup: Chiefs' D could improve in Sutton's second season
With a year of experience under their belt, veterans on Kansas City's defense believe they could be even better in 2014.
Bob Sutton coached with the Jets for 13 seasons before joining the Chiefs last season.
John Rieger / USA TODAY Sports
By Ross Jones
Signs of a steep learning curve weren’t apparent last year in Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s system.
While Kansas City finished among the best in turnover differential (2nd: +18), sacks (6th: 47.0) and interceptions (3rd: 21), Sutton’s defense took some time to install. With a year under their belt, Chiefs veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson says the experience could help make the unit get even better.
“I feel very comfortable,” Johnson said, via the team’s website. “Last year we were putting this crazy system in. I call it crazy because it’s exotic and blitzes coming from everywhere. I have a lot of responsibility in this defense, but it’s fun. This year it’s different because I know it. The first part of our install, I’m not even writing anything down because I know it already. It helps me move out here faster on the field during this time.”
Despite the added comfort, the team added former Auburn defensive end Dee Ford, via the draft.
"If anybody reminds you of Derrick Thomas, that kid should pretty much remind you of Derrick Thomas with his first step," linebacker Tamba Hali said last week, per The Huntsville Times. "He gets off the ball so fast it’s scary. I just kept rewinding (the video) yesterday just looking at his first step. I don't know if he times it, but his first step is incredible."
Linebacker Joe Mays, who played with the Broncos in 2010-12, compared Ford to former All-Pro linebacker Von Miller.
"That guys is explosive,” Mays said Tuesday, via the team’s website. “He's quick off the ball. He kind of reminds me of Von Miller with the way that he gets off the ball and gets around the offensive linemen. He's a freak. He knows how to work angles and uses his hands real well. He can bend and do all types of stuff you don't see in the everyday pass rushers. Definitely ‘as-advertised’.”
With linebacker Justin Houston and cornerback Brandon Flowers not currently attending organized team activities, it hasn’t deterred the team from building on last season’s postseason appearance.
“This year it’s 'family' that is the word that is getting thrown around,” Johnson said. “That camaraderie we need. That chemistry we need. That’s the vision this year.”
Much has been made this offseason of the quarterback situation in New York. With the acquisition of Michael Vick, some think the cards are stacked against second-year quarterback Geno Smith.
Smith, however, has received assurance from the coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Marty Morhinweg and head coach Rex Ryan have both suggested that Smith has the inside track to win the job out of training camp. The confidence has spilled over onto the practice field as he’s taking more of a leadership role within the offense.
“He’s a very mature kid at the age he’s at,” wide receiver Eric Decker said, via the team’s transcript. “We’re all out there busting our butts and he’s a guy that’s leading the charge. I think he’s done a good job of getting guys on the same page (and) making sure we’re coming to work and we’re motivated every day.”
Smith’s turbulent rookie season was eased the last four weeks of the season when he the led the team to three wins against the Raiders, Browns and Dolphins. Over that period the Jets averaged 25.3 points, while he threw seven touchdowns against just two interceptions.
Colts’ Purifoy a pleasant surprise?
One of the most talented players to go undrafted this year was former Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy.
Purifoy’s off-the-field issues have been well-documented. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound cornerback didn’t help himself with a disappointing performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, either. Despite being projected as a mid-round pick, no team took a flyer on him until the Colts signed him as an undrafted free agent.
Since then, Purifoy has been learning the concepts of different schemes including quarters coverage and Cover 2.
“He’s doing a great job right now with what he’s been able to do coming in as a rookie, as a young guy,” Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said, via the team’s transcript. “He’s talented and we want to see him keep on making the plays that he has been over the last couple of days.”
The Colts secondary, which dealt with injuries to Vontae Davis and Greg Toler last season, are looking for another cornerback to step up and make his presence felt.
While it’s important to not put too much stock into OTAs in June, Bears rookie safety Brock Vereen could be making a run at starting this season.
Vereen, a fourth-round pick from Minnesota, reportedly took all the first-team reps at safety alongside Ryan Mundy on Wednesday.
"I wouldn't say [I'm] shocked [by the starters reps], but I know nothing is set," Vereen said, via ESPN.com’s Jeff Dickerson. "I'm just coming in and working hard. If that gets me on the field, then so be it.