Earlier this week, I posted grades for the Chiefs’ offense. With a 5-3 record, the Chiefs offense ranks #14 in the NFL in total points, and #21 in total yards per game. Few of their offensive stats stand out, and one of the main reasons for the Chiefs winning record may be their defense.
Currently, the Chiefs’ defense has given up fewer yards than all but 4 teams, allows the fewest pass yards per game, has allowed the second fewest total points and are tied for the fewest touchdowns allowed. They have not allowed a single rushing touchdown all season and are currently third in the NFL with 27 sacks. Below are midseason grades for the Chiefs defense (as well as Special Teams):
Defensive Line: Losing starting DE Mike DeVito and capable backup Mike Catapano to injury had many worried that it could be a long season, but anchored by third year Nose Tackle Dontari Poe, the Chiefs defensive line has played exceptionally well this season. Poe has 3 sacks, and regularly draws double teams. Allen Bailey has taken advantage of those double teams and produced 4 sacks of his own, something he did not produce last year (he only had 1 sack in 2013). Poe and Bailey could probably take on any 3 linemen in the NFL and win. Jaye Howard has been serviceable at Left End with 13 tackles and half a sack, while free agent pickup Vance Walker has been used mostly as a backup and has not produced much other than a sack in the first game of the season. The Chiefs allow 116 rushing yards per game, which ranks #19 in the NFL, and they allow a huge 4.7 yards per attempt, but opposing teams are not able to produce much through the passing game, and that all starts in the trenches. Grade: A-
Linebackers: All of Kansas City let out a collective groan when starting ILB Derrick Johnson went down with an Achilles injury in Week 1. His replacement, Josh Mauga, has been quietly effective and leads the team in tackles with 57. James-Michael Johnson, the other ILB, has 29 tackles (5th best on the team), with OLB’s Justin Houston and Tamba Hali adding 32 and 25 tackles each, respectively. In addition Houston leads the NFL in sacks (12) and is on pace to shatter the Chiefs’ record of 20 (held by Derrick Thomas) and the NFL record of 22 ½ held by the NY Giants’ Michael Strahan. Hali has added another 4 sacks to the Chiefs’ total. This group is playing exceptionally well given the loss of DJ. Grade: A+
Cornerbacks: The Chiefs have been rotating several players at cornerback throughout this season. The list of players includes Ron Parker (who has been cut by 3 NFL teams), Jamell Fleming (former scout team player), Marcus Cooper (a former 7th round draft pick the Chiefs claimed off waivers) and Phillip Gaines (a rookie from the second smallest Division I FBS school). Others who have played corner include Sean Smith and Chris Owens. Cooper has 15 tackles, Gaines and Ownes have 9 tackles each, and Fleming has 8. Parker and Smith each have one interception. While this group has battled injuries and inexperience and they struggle to create turnovers, they allow the fewest pass yards per game in all of the NFL. Not bad for a ragtag group that is seemingly pieced together each week from scratch. Grade: B+
Safeties: All-Pro Strong Safety Eric Berry has only played in 3 games but has 21 tackles, including a career high 15 in Week 1. Despite Berry’s limited playing time, Ron Parker has filled in nicely and is second on the team with 40 tackles. Parker also has one sack. At free safety, Hussain Abdullah has played solidly, and is third on the team with 38 tackles. Abdullah also has one interception returned for a touchdown. The Chiefs have allowed the third fewest explosive plays (plays over 20 yards) in the NFL, and Abdullah, Parker and Berry are a big reason for that. Grade: A-
Punter: Dustin Colquitt has put 18 out of his 32 punts inside the 20, which is tied for most in the NFL. He has landed the most punts inside the 20 in Chiefs history, and ranks #10 in NFL history with 303 punts inside the 20. He only has 2 touchbacks this season. He is as dependable as can be. Grade: A+
Kicker: The Chiefs’ kicking game started the season slowly, with 2 missed FG’s in the first game. Since then, rookie kicker Cairos Santos built some confidence and he has been on fire, making his last 9 field goals including the game-winner at San Diego. He has also made his only attempt from beyond 50 yards, which was a 53-yarder, and is 4 for 5 on kicks from 40-49 yards. Grade: A-
Kicking coverage: The Chiefs are allowing 7.1 yards per punt return and 27.4 yards on kick returns, both below the Chiefs’ averages. The Chiefs have scored on one punt return and have not allowed a punt or kick return for a touchdown yet. However, the Jets’ Percy Harvin might have scored on one kick return had he not been illegally tripped by Cairos Santos. Dave Toub continues to keep the Cheifs prepared on Special Teams. Grade: A-
Overall, the Chiefs are playing above expectations and just finished one of the toughest schedules in the first half of the 2014 season. They still must play Denver, San Diego, Arizona, Seattle and Pittsburgh, but if they continue their mistake-free offense and stingy defense, they should have no problems getting back to the playoffs. What do you think? Will the Chiefs reach the postseason for the second year in a row?