After getting pummeled for three second-half touchdowns in a stunning home playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans, changes to the Chiefs' defense were imminent.
But instead of coordinator Bob Sutton taking the fall, the Chiefs overhauled their defensive personnel. Newcomers on defense were getting acquainted with the playbook, their coaches and each other as OTAs continued Thursday.
“We have a lot of new dudes,” Sutton said. “I counted one time, I think it was 19, 20 new ones in the group. We’re getting as much out of it as we possibly can.”
Every position group on defense lost at least one familiar face, from outside linebacker Tamba Hali to Bennie Logan and Rakeem Nunez-Roches on the interior. Linebacker Derrick Johnson and cornerback Marcus Peters also are gone.
The Chiefs are welcoming such newcomers as nose tackle Xavier Williams, linebacker Anthony Hitchens and cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and David Amerson. Not to mention their first five selections — all defensive players — in the recent NFL draft.
“It’s new, but it gives you a chance to go back to basics,” Sutton said.
Sutton, who joined the Chiefs with coach Andy Reid in 2013, said he spent the offseason reflecting on how to improve a defense that finished 28th in the league in average yards allowed per game at 365.1 ... and couldn't come up with a second-half stop against the Titans.
He wondered what he could do, personally, to improve.
“The first thing you do is look at what you did as an individual coach, whether you’re a position coach or coordinator and ask, 'Is there anything you can do better?' ” Sutton said. “ 'Can I teach better, can I explain this better?' ”
General manager Brett Veach got more specific, saying after the draft that the Chiefs sought personnel that would bring a growl to the defense.
“I knew we had to get better on the defensive end and I knew we had to get tougher,” Veach said.
The Chiefs did make at least one staff change that affects the defense. With the retirement of Gary Gibbs, who oversaw the linebackers, that coaching position has become a two-man job with Mark DeLeone promoted from assistant linebackers coach to inside linebackers coach and Mike Smith taking over the outside linebackers.
Outside linebacker Justin Houston lauded that move.
“It’s think it’s great to have an outside linebackers coach,” Houston said. “There’s so much we get to do now just focusing on ourselves and the little things we need to work on. I think last year we had a lot going on. You (had) to coach a lot of guys inside and out. It is hard to do that in the little bit of time you have. Now you have a separate coach and we can just focus on one thing.”
With the overriding objective of improving enough to not end the season in such heartbreaking fashion.
“When you lose a game like that, you just don’t want to go into that catastrophic thinking, like everything is wrong,” Sutton said. “It’s not like that. You have to fix certain things whether you won that game or lost.
“When you win, you have to do the same thing.”
After the types of season-ending losses the Chiefs have had recently, they would love to try the post-victory fix.
Hunt injury: Running back Kareem Hunt was among five Chiefs who didn’t practice because of an injury on Thursday. He was held out with a hamstring strain.