Kansas City Chiefs: Biggest Weaknesses on the Defense in 2012

Jeremy SickelContributor IIIJuly 27, 2012

Kansas City Chiefs: Biggest Weaknesses on the Defense in 2012

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    Long gone are the days of Derrick Thomas, Neil Smith and Dale Carter spearheading the Marty-Ball revolution as the Kansas City Chiefs defense terrorized opposing offenses during the 1990s.

    However, new head coach Romeo Crennel looks to further instill his defensive pedigree into the current brand of Chiefs football.

    The defense only gave up a combined 33 points in the final three games of the season (2-1 record) after Crennel took over for Todd Haley, so the transformation has already started to take place.

    While the players seem inspired under Crennel, the Chiefs defense still has a few things that need to be tweaked to endure that sort of success over an entire season.

    Here are the biggest weaknesses on the Chiefs defense in 2012.

The Defensive Line Must Turn the Corner

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    The defensive line of the Kansas City Chiefs is filled with plenty of familiar names and, as a result, should also be filled with plenty of talent. However, the 3-4 scheme that the team converted to prior to the 2009 season makes it tough for trench players to emerge due to streamlined roles that push the sexier sack stat to the edge rush.

    Defensive ends Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson have taken gradual steps toward living up to the lofty expectations of being top five draft picks. But to finally reach that point, rookie nose tackle Dontari Poe must come in and be the dominant force that he was drafted to be.

    Poe's presence in the middle should allow the rest of the Chiefs defense to easily make plays, all starting with Dorsey and Jackson further collapsing the pocket or blowing up the opposing running back.

    The entire defensive line rotation is young, including projected backups Amon Gordon, Allen Bailey and Jerrell Powe. But if the Chiefs defense is to continue its success from the end of last season, this group must step up.

Overall Depth

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    From the draft to actually proving it on the field, the Kansas City Chiefs defense has star power written all over it.

    Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Brandon Flowers and Eric Berry are believed to be some of the best players at their respective positions in the entire league. And Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson, Dontari Poe and Justin Houston were all considered premium talents coming out of college. However, there isn't much depth behind the starters.

    While depth is only a concern if injuries or poor play are present, most teams suffer from not having an infinite throng of talent. But as the results proved last season, the absences of Berry and linebacker Brandon Siler played a huge part in how poorly the Chiefs defense played at times.

    Replacing trouble spots on the roster with better players will certainly help, and so will better coaching. But the drop-off in talent from the starting 11 on the Chiefs defense could be considered the worst in the league.

    If the defense remains healthy and certain players continue to progress, the Chiefs should see plenty of success on defense. If not, they could be in for a long year.

Pressuring the Quarterback

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    While their 29 sacks in 2011 is a huge improvement over their putrid total of 10 during the 2008 season, it was actually down from their 2010 total of 38. The Kansas City Chiefs must be more consistent in pressuring the quarterback if their defense is to be considered one of the best in the NFL.

    Disrupting the quarterback causes a ripple effect for the entire defense. Sacks obviously push back the line of scrimmage, but consistent pressure causes the offense to get out of sync and increases the chance at turnovers.

    Tamba Hali is one of the best in the NFL at getting to the quarterback, and Justin Houston finished last year strong with 5.5 sacks over the final five games. But the Chiefs must get pressure from other sources to make this a strength for this team.

    Rookie nose tackle Dontari Poe's contributions will be key in freeing up Hali, Houston, Allen Bailey and also Derrick Johnson, Eric Berry and others coming off the blitz.

Other Question Marks

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    Safety Eric Berry will be returning from a torn ACL that he suffered in a 41-7 loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 1 of last season. Although given a clean bill of health, we won't know how quickly he can return to Pro Bowl form until he steps onto the field.

    With the opening of training camp for the Kansas City Chiefs today, the answers should come soon on any lingering effects of the injury both physically and mentally.

    Some thought that middle linebacker (opposite of Derrick Johnson) was the biggest offseason need for the Chiefs. Apparently general manager Scott Pioli didn't agree.

    Instead, the Chiefs come into the season with returning starter Jovan Belcher and Brandon Siler (returning from a torn Achilles) competing for the job. While not the ideal situation, middle linebacker may be the one spot on the field where a lack of talent can be hidden, at least on this defense.

     

    Contact Jeremy at jeremy@popflyboys.com, on Twitter @KCPopFlyBoy and at popflyboys.com.