Today's installment of The Star’s Chiefs mailbag covers a wide swath of topics, ranging from the Marcus Cooper vs. Dunta Robinson debate to the reasons for the declining pass rush. These are some leftover questions from my live chat on Wednesday, so if you missed that, be sure to read the transcript here.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Frank: Is it time to sit down Marcus Cooper and try Dunta Robinson? Cooper has had some horrible games as of late.
JayB: Will Dunta Robinson play this week?
Scott: Why isn't Dunta Robinson getting snaps at either a nickel corner or extra safety?
Well, this proves that time certainly heals all wounds. People (including myself) forget that before he was benched in October, Dunta wasn't playing all that great. His Pro Football Focus grade (negative-5.5) is still worse than Cooper's (negative-3.0), despite the fact Cooper has played more than three times as many snaps. Robinson has been a good teammate so he brings value there, but Cooper clearly has more upside and his overall performance has still been better, despite his recent struggles.
I think that’s why defensive coordinator Bob Sutton was willing to say Thursday that Cooper will remain the third corner. Part of being a professional is learning to perform and play through adversity, so I'm not sure a short-term benching would do Cooper any good, though you do risk ruining him if he keeps getting picked on. It's a delicate situation, for sure, but the NFL is a man's league. If Cooper is really destined to make it, he'll emerge from this stretch a better player.
Tatum: Who/what is to blame for the defensive woes over the past three weeks?
It's a combination of factors. They've faced two high-quality quarterbacks who have exploited their weaknesses better than most can. The injuries to Justin Houston and Tamba Hali absolutely killed them in that San Diego game — no way those guys score 41 points if they don't get hurt. Also, the secondary has not been working cohesively at times. When the corners have good coverage, the safeties are out of position. When the safeties are in position, the corners have been getting beat. Teams have schemed them up and exploited the technique of every prominent member of the secondary, whether it be in zone or man coverage. It's up to those players to fix that stuff.
MICHAELSHAW: Although the offense is performing much better, there still seems to be a lack of chemistry and determination, especially with receivers not executing. Can you comment on the receivers’ inability to get to the first down marker and their failure to catch the ball?
DMM: How is the team feeling about some of the crucial dropped passes from the game?
The drops are just a talent thing, guys. I don't know what else to say. Either you have good hands or you don't. But when Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said Wednesday that drops don't affect the trust he has in his receivers because he knows how hard they work on catching the ball, I kind of believe him. As an NFL quarterback, I can't imagine you can focus on anything other than making the right read in the pocket. The game moves too fast to avoid a guy because you don't trust him. That said, I doubt one bad game is enough to get a guy like Donnie Avery — who was the main culprit for the drops Sunday — benched, even though his overall body of work this season (34 catches, 52 yards, two touchdowns and a PFF grade of negative-9.4) leaves plenty to be desired.
Trevor: Do you see the Chiefs bringing the house on some blitzes this weekend, considering the lack of blocking by Washington's offensive line?
I'm not certain their pass-blocking is all that bad. Washington has the ninth-best pass-blocking grade in the league according to PFF, and Griffin is being pressured about as often as he was last season, when he tore it up on a weekly basis. Also, Griffin currently ranks in the middle of the pack among NFL quarterbacks when it comes to sack percentage and completion percentage under pressure. So while I can see the Chiefs throwing some blitzes Griffin's way — they do that against everybody — I'm not sure they'll necessarily be going out of their way to do so. But keep an eye on the showdown between Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali and Washington left tackle Trent Williams. Williams is a stud — he was voted one of the league’s top 100 players last offseason — and if he neutralizes Hali, the Chiefs may not have a choice but to bring a little more pressure than normal on passing downs.
Dean: OK, if the lack of sacks is due to schemes, and teams are keeping extra blockers in, why did Peyton Manning have all day long to pick and choose where to pass the ball? Why can't we adjust to their schemes for at least one sack on Manning?
Sacking Peyton Manning is easier said than done. He's been sacked and pressured the least of any quarterback in the league. The thing that made the Chiefs' pass-rush devastating was the triangle of Dontari Poe, Justin Houston and Hali. Take any of those guys out of the equation and it doesn’t quite work. Add Houston's absence to the fact Kansas City willingly gave up the deep ball to stop the crossing routes the Broncos tortured them with in the first game, and you get what happened Sunday — lots of passing yards with zero sacks and only three quarterback hits.
Guest: Any chance Houston or Branden Albert play this week?
It seems unlikely. Neither guy has practiced this week, and Albert has a slight hitch in his walk when I've seen him this recently. We'll find out more today, when Reid addresses the media at 1 p.m.
SB: Why didn't they use Eric Fisher at left tackle when the opportunity presented itself?
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said it was because Donald Stephenson has gotten more practice there. He's the older player and has looked good the last few weeks. Fisher has been up-and-down all season ... I doubt they feel comfortable asking him to protect Alex Smith’s blindside at this point.
Randal: The Chiefs seem to lose their edge after halftime. Why are they unable to come up with the proper readjustments at halftime to counter what the other team is doing and maintain their advantage to win the game?
I assume you're talking about the defense. Well, as always, it's a combination of playcalling and personnel. Sometimes a team doesn't have an answer for something that is giving them problems. Once Manning figured out what they were doing on Sunday, they were toast. Keep in mind, we're only one year into the John Dorsey-Andy Reid regime. They haven't gotten all their guys yet. Barring injury (or a sudden/unexpected drop off in performance from older guys like linebacker Derrick Johnson), the Chiefs should be much more cohesive and complete on defense next season. It’s fair to expect them to upgrade their talent at certain positions this offseason, particularly in the secondary.
To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor.