Not the kind of experience Bob Sutton is looking for, but the Chiefs have had to deal with replacing star power in the past.
That’s what Sutton, the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator, is confident they can absorb the loss of inside linebacker Derrick Johnson, who was lost for the season after injuring his Achilles against the Raiders last week.
“We’re not going to replace Derrick,” Sutton said. “He’s a Pro Bowl player, a veteran guy, a great voice in locker room, a guy with great energy. We hate to lose him.
“But we’ve been through this before with different guys.”
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Sutton started to name them as examples from the past few years: Eric Berry and Justin Houston. He could have named others on the defensive side to have missed time this season, like linemen Jaye Howard and Allen Bailey. Cornerback Marcus Peters missed a game with an injury. Phillip Gaines has missed several.
“The other guys,” Sutton said, “if they’ve done a great job of preparing for these first 12 weeks, even though you’re not playing, then things work out OK. It doesn’t mean there won’t be some bumps in the road.”
The Chiefs haven’t named a replacement in the starting lineup for Johnson but it increasingly appears the solution, at least for Sunday’s home game against the Titans, will come from in-house.
The team’s depth chart lists D.J. Alexander as Johnson’s backup, but he played only two defensive snaps against the Raiders after Johnson’s injury. Safety Daniel Sorensen, the nickle/dime linebacker, got most of the snaps against the Raiders’ three-wide offense.
Whatever the Chiefs decide, Johnson won’t disappear from the team meetings and will continue to have an influence on the team.
“We’re not going to let him get away free here,” Sutton said. “He can add. His voice is well-respected in this organization, in the locker room with the players. He can provide a lot of things.
“He wants to stay part of this.”