The Kansas City Chiefs had one goal in mind during the last NFL off-season – build a better defense. The team quickly fired longtime defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and hired Steve Spagnuolo to run a Chiefs defense that has ranked at or near the bottom in almost every category over the last five seasons. In addition, the team moved on from defensive stalwarts Dee Ford, Justin Houston, and Eric Berry. In order to replace the production of these three players, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach signed coveted safety Tyrann Mathieu and made a trade for Frank Clark, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks. It appears during the first two weeks that the defense is improved from last season. However, the Chiefs two biggest acquisitions have not shown up much on the stat sheet. Let’s take a look at how the Chiefs defense is stepping up in other places, even without big impacts from the big-ticket acquisitions.
Kansas City Chiefs Defense Stepping Up In Other Places
Big Ticket Acquisitions
Brett Veach sent a first-round pick, second-round pick, and third-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for Frank Clark and a third-round pick. After the trade was official, the Chiefs signed Clark to a $105.5 million contract, ensuring him $63.5 million guaranteed. Clark was expected to come in and immediately replace the pressure and sacks that left town when Dee Ford and Justin Houston moved on to other teams. In his two weeks as a Chief, Clark has contributed four tackles and an interception off of multiple deflections – hardly anything fire of the earth. Mathieu signed a three-year, $42 million contract with Kansas City at the start of free agency with the expectation to fill the shoes of a departed Berry. Similar to Clark, Mathieu’s impact on the stat sheet is minimal – only five tackles to start the season.
While these two players may not be delivering the game-changing plays that Chiefs Kingdom expects, their contributions to the team show up in other places. The defense noticeably has a “swagger” on the field – something that Clark specializes in. Mathieu is a clear vocal leader of this Chiefs team, firing up his teammates pregame and on the sideline. On the field, Mathieu gets players lined up in the best position to succeed. In time, these two big-ticket players will start paying dividends on the stat sheet – until then, Chiefs Kingdom should be patient and recognize their contributions elsewhere.
The Under the Radar Signings
It has been the signings that were met with less fanfare that have made the largest impact on the stat sheet so far. Bashaud Breeland was signed to start at corner and, despite a couple of rough plays to start the week two game, has had consistently solid coverage and an interception. Emmanuel Ogbah was acquired from the Cleveland Browns before the season and has one sack with a forced fumble. Damien Wilson has 10 tackles and a forced fumble, taking over and shoring up the final linebacker spot on a Chiefs defense that was lacking speed at the second level. It is signings like these that can be building blocks to a better defense.
The Spagnuolo Effect
The biggest change this year appears to be that of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. “Spags,” as he is known to be called, has brought the defense back to basic fundamentals. The biggest change that is obvious from the 2018 season to the 2019 season is the defense’s ability to tackle. While this is not a stat that is measured by any major outlet, it’s apparent to almost all fans and pundits alike that the Chiefs defense has put a major emphasis on tackling. It’s refreshing to see players wrap up and take down a ball carrier on first attempt instead of reaching an arm out or losing grasp of a running back, only to see them gain an extra 10 yards. During the off-season, many of the Chiefs players spoke about how Spagnuolo would take time with each position group’s individual drills and teach the basics. It’s clear that this coaching style has paid off for a defense that has to show improvement in order for this team to reach the Super Bowl. At the end of the day, the coaching staff appears to be the biggest factor in how the Kansas City Chiefs defense is stepping up and performing at a higher level.