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New arrival Vance Walker can make a positive impact as a pass-rusher.
Depth Chart: Vance Walker, Mike Catapano, Jermelle Cudjo, Dominique Hamilton
DeVito is certainly limited as a pass-rusher, but Sutton may not need him to offer more in that area now that new signing Vance Walker is on board.
Acquired from the AFC West rival Oakland Raiders, Walker has the skill to split gaps inside and pressure the pocket.
That's just what he'll do for the Chiefs. Walker makes sense as a more versatile and athletic alternative to Tyson Jackson, a pedestrian pass-rusher. ESPN.com's Adam Teicher referenced Pro Football Focus statistics to emphasize the difference between the two players:
Pro Football Focus rated him a better pass-rusher than run defender. He had three sacks and 32 quarterback hurries, defined as plays where pressure forced the passer to get rid of the ball.
In comparison, Jackson had several games last season in which he played fewer than half the snaps. He had four sacks for a better pass-rushing team than Walker played, but just eight hurries. PFF had him rated as a much better run defender than pass-rusher.
The Chiefs need greater pressure up front. This scheme needs a player who can consistently puncture the inside of the pocket, while Hali and Houston collapse its edges.
Walker can be that player.
As well as complementing Houston and Hali, Walker will also support the efforts of nose tackle Dontari Poe.
Just as important as his ability to generate pressure, Walker brings a level of flexibility that a creative coordinator like Sutton can use. His agent, Tommy Sims, described Walker's experience playing anywhere along the line to Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star:
He felt like he could play alongside Dontari Poe and contribute and be productive in that defense. He played up and down the line (in Oakland), and had he stayed at the three-technique (defensive tackle), he felt like he could have doubled his stats total. He’s got some ability to rush the passer, so I think in the end, they realized they’re getting a guy who’s a three-down player.
Sutton can use Walker to deploy multiple fronts or simply mix one- and two-gap alignments along his three-man base line.
Walker's chief deputy is likely to be 2013 seventh-round pick Mike Catapano. A flexible pass-rusher who starred for Princeton at the collegiate level, Catapano is still learning the transition to 5-technique end.
According to Paylor, part of the process involves bulking up:
When he arrived in Kansas City last May, the 6-foot-4 Catapano weighed about 270 pounds because he figured he might still play outside linebacker. Catapano thrived at the position at Princeton, where he was named the Ivy League’s defensive player of the year as a senior.
But once it became clear to Catapano that the Chiefs saw him as an inside player in their 3-4 scheme, he set about adding muscle to better hold up against the run. He gained 10 pounds and played last season at 281. And he’s gained more weight for the upcoming season. He says he checked in at 291 pounds when organized training began in May.
A beefier Catapano should be able to handle double-teams better than he did as a rookie. If he can, he'll be able to make it onto the field more often on base downs, while still being a factor in sub-packages.
One other player to consider at this position is Jermelle Cudjo. The ex-St. Louis Rams rotational lineman is certainly stout enough to play inside or outside in Kansas City's 3-4 front.
That level of versatility should let the 27-year-old see off Dominique Hamilton and Jaye Howard to provide depth along with Catapano and Bailey.