Here are some observations based on the offensive snap-count data and personnel groupings from the Chiefs’ 33-27 victory over San Diego in the season opener on Sunday. Snap-count numbers are provided by the NFL, while personnel groupings are charted by The Star.
Dontari Poe – 55 of 73 (75 percent)
Allen Bailey – 52 (71 percent)
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Jaye Howard – 48 (66 percent)
Chris Jones – 12 (16 percent)
Nick Williams – 8 (11 percent)
Analysis: Really nice rotation going up front. Far cry from the days where Poe was playing nearly 90 percent of the snaps. By the way, the NFL sure has changed. On Sunday, the Chiefs were in their base 3-4 defense only 23 percent of the time. That means the Chiefs were in a nickel/dime-oriented defense roughly three-fourths of the time, though they did mix in three plays where they went with three interior linemen and three linebackers with five defensive backs. The Chiefs also went with a 4-4 look (with Jones as the fourth lineman) on three plays against the Chargers’ heavy “23” personnel.
Dee Ford – 54 (74 percent)
Frank Zombo – 50 (68 percent)
Tamba Hali – 42 (58 percent)
Analysis: Another timeshare. Hali is probably going to serve as a pinch-hitter as he works himself back into the mix after missing the entirety of training camp in an effort to save his knees. Rookie Dadi Nicolas did not log any defensive snaps but he did play five snaps on special teams on place-kicking blocks. Chiefs coach Andy Reid praised Dee Ford’s play Monday while Frank Zombo has consistently earned praise from his teammates throughout the preseason for his run defense (it was good again Sunday) but the Chiefs added Dezman Moses back to the mix on Wednesday to give this group additional depth.
Derrick Johnson – 73 (100 percent)
Justin March-Lillard – 51 (70 percent)
Analysis: March-Lillard saw time in plenty of passing situations/nickel packages, as the Chargers used “11” personnel (three-wide) 67 percent of the time and the Chiefs, in turn, used a two-man interior front with four linebackers 42 percent of the time. However, March-Lillard was replaced in certain passing situations by safety Daniel Sorensen, who looks like Bob Sutton’s new safety/dime linebacker when the Chiefs want another defensive back on the field. D.J. Alexander did not play on defense but is a core special-teams player (29 snaps). New linebacker Sam Barrington did not play on defense but he logged 10 special-teams snaps.
Marcus Peters – 72 (99 percent)
Steven Nelson – 70 (96 percent)
Phillip Gaines – 51 (70 percent)
D.J. White – 1 (1 percent)
Analysis: Nelson was the starter at right cornerback in the base 3-4 but shifted inside to cover the slot in nickel, when Gaines entered to play outside. White logged one defensive snap in place of Peters (who needed a moment to cool off after jawing with several Chargers) and 17 special-teams snaps. The fact Nelson logged so many special-teams snaps (24) is rare and really interesting for a starter. He took it in stride, however. “I was in shape for it,” Nelson said. “They expect me to do the task, so I’ve got to do the task. I take care of my body. I can do it. Last year I didn’t play, so I can’t complain now.”
Eric Berry – 73 (100 percent)
Ron Parker – 72 (92 percent)
Daniel Sorensen – 18 (25 percent)
Analysis: Sorensen earned a significant portion of his playing time as a linebacker in the Chiefs’ dime formations (25 percent). The Chiefs went heavy on this personnel grouping late in the fourth quarter, when they guessed (correctly) that Chargers would be throwing out of their “11” personnel (three-wide) sets. Sorensen, who saw the field on the defense’s final seven snaps, is also a core special-teams player (29 snaps), along with rookie safety Eric Murray, who did not play on defense but also logged 29 special-teams snaps.