Red Zone

Chiefs defensive snap decisions: Not enough production from the linebackers

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry swept around the tackle attempt of Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford in the fourth quarter on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry swept around the tackle attempt of Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford in the fourth quarter on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. deulitt@kcstar.com

Here is the defensive snap-count data from the Chiefs’ 19-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, along with some personal observations, production analysis and advanced stats from Pro Football Focus. Snaps for the entire season are also listed.

(You should also read my snap observations on the offense and special teams.)

KEY: “*” denotes starter. “R” denotes rookie. “C” denotes game captain. “INJ” denotes injury. “N/A” denotes the player was not a Chief at the time. “PS” denotes practice squad. “INA” denotes inactive.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

 
 
PlayerTEN13121110987654321TOTMAXSNPSPCT
Dontari Poe (C)595948146662615463505045495573599374.0%
Chris Jones (R)475443575145442839212616181250199350.5%
Rakeem Nunez-Roches2711385947321395PSPSPSN/AINA24199324.3%
Jarvis Jenkins1315174214N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A10199310.2%
T.J. Barnes131118PSPSPSPSPSPSN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A429934.2%
David King0PSPSPSPS2PSPSPSPSPSPSPSPS29930.2%
Kendall ReyesINJ18205123351232N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A16499316.5%
Jaye HowardIRIRIRINJINJINJ414555423445504836099336.3%
Allen BaileyIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIR123837425218199318.2%
Nick WilliamsN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A486128389933.8%

Analysis: With Kendall Reyes out with a wrist injury, the Chiefs went to a five-man rotation instead of six for the first time since the Denver game. Dontari Poe and Chris Jones again led the way, with Rakeem Nunez-Roches, who is battling back spasms, as the third wheel. Jarvis Jenkins and T.J. Barnes earned spot duty in the rotation.

Jones, meanwhile, continue to harrass quarterbacks. He posted the highest grade of the day on the Chiefs’ defense (according to PFF) and has racked up 36 pressures (by the site’s metrics) since Week 4, the third-most among qualifying 3-4 defensive ends in the entire league. Poe also had a productive day, recording a sack and a forced fumble.

The Chiefs, as whole, did a nice job pressuring quarterback Marcus Mariota; PFF said they pressured him on 10 of his 34 drop backs and forced the second-year quarterback to go 3 of 9 for 46 yards and a sack in those situations.

Mariota, overall, finished the game 19 of 33 for 241 yards, zero touchdowns and an interception. He finished with a 67.9 percent passer rating, but was 16 of 19 with a 102.9 passer rating when he held onto the ball for 2.5 seconds or less.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

 
 
PlayerTEN13121110987654321TOTMAXSNPSPCT
Dee Ford546627INJ3672766269434128625469099369.5%
Justin Houston5168467555INJINJINJINJINJINJINJINJINJ29599329.7%
Tamba Hali251535833027534446262046314252399352.7%
Frank Zombo3141103245241635283853535042999343.2%
Dadi Nicolas (R)0INAINA0INA000027100109931.0%
Dezman MosesN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A880N/A169931.6%

Analysis: The Chiefs continue to lean on Dee Ford, Justin Houston and Tamba Hali as their primary rushers, with Frank Zombo earning only three snaps (and four in two weeks). Perhaps the four-man rotation the Chiefs went with against the Falcons on Dec. 4 was the Chiefs’ way of keeping their players fresh for a quick turnaround four days later against Oakland on “Thursday Night Football.”

Houston’s three-game streak of recording at least one sack came to a close Sunday, as he — and Ford — each finished without a single tackle or stat in 105 combined snaps, according to the official statsheet. PFF does have Houston down for a quarterback pressure, but that’s not nearly enough production for the Chiefs’ starting edge rushers. The good news is that both players are highly competitive, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see each come back with a vengeance on Christmas night against Denver.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

 
 
PlayerTEN13121110987654321TOTMAXSNPSPCT
Ramik Wilson665840514467301828PSPSPSPSPS40299340.5%
D.J. Alexander412030000001000479934.7%
Terrance Smith0000000PSPSPSPSPSPSPS09930.0%
Derrick JohnsonIR2374757754776675545868727384699385.2%
Justin March-LillardIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIR183516325015199315.2%
Sio MooreN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A0INAINAN/AN/AN/AN/A09930.0%
Sam BarringtonN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AINA00INAINJINJ009930.0%

Snap analysis: With Derrick Johnson out, the Chiefs leaned on Ramik Wilson at inside linebacker, as he played every defensive snap in a single game for the first time all season. But while Wilson assumed Johnson’s place in the subpackages — and had a solid-enough day statistically, recording seven tackles and a fumble recovery — D.J. Alexander replaced Johnson in the base defense next to Wilson in what amount to the first extended defensive action of the second-year pro’s career.

Alexander had four tackles, but he was also targeted four times and allowed completions on all four for 37 yards. He also finished with two missed tackles and was PFF’s lowest-graded Chief for the game. These game reps will be good for Alexander, who has a lot of physical ability but is still developing his eyes and instincts. But he will need to come along quickly with the playoffs approaching; the Chiefs need to firm up their interior run defense, as they allowed 42 yards on seven rushes through the “A” gaps (per PFF).

CORNERBACKS

 
 
PlayerTEN13121110987654321TOTMAXSNPSPCT
Marcus Peters63757484INJ70776675445968727289999390.5%
Steven Nelson627473INJ7770766675555368707088999389.5%
Terrance Mitchell4172360PSPSINA0INAPSPSPSPSPS14999315.0%
D.J. White (R)2INA030INJINJINJ60373050113899313.9%
Phillip GainesINJ1INJ8441176454INJ12INJ55585143799344.0%
Kenneth AckerINAINA0417426000INA0INAINAINA14199314.2%

Analysis: Terrance Mitchell continued his three-game run as the starting nickel corner. When Marcus Peters left the game briefly with a groin spasm, Mitchell slid into Peters’ left corner spot while D.J. White — the rookie — earned the nickel reps.

Mitchell was impressive again, as he allowing just one reception on seven targets for 4 yards (according to PFF). He also defended three passes. Over the last two weeks, he’s surrendered just seven catches on 19 targets for 47 yards. Those numbers are outstanding for anyone, let alone a player the Chiefs plucked off the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad in early September.

SAFETIES

 
 
PlayerTEN13121110987654321TOTMAXSNPSPCT
Ron Parker667274847772776675555968727298999399.6%
Eric Berry657574847672776675555968727399199399.8%
Dan Sorensen265434222617444744362137261945399345.6%
Eric Murray (R)012112154114210359933.5%

Analysis: Eric Berry missed only his second snap of the entire season on Sunday. Daniel Sorensen played only 26 of 66 possible snaps — a sharp decline from the previous week — due to the run-oriented Titans’ two-tight end heavy offense. Tennessee’s No. 2 tight end, Anthony Fasano, played 50 percent of the snaps Sunday.

The Chiefs received a ton of production from their safeties, as Berry and Ron Parker teamed up for 19 tackles. Parker also had an impressive one-handed interception (which was largely forgotten due to the way the Chiefs blew a 17-7 lead) while Berry forced a fumble in the first half that Sorensen recovered in the end zone. Sorensen showed tremendous hustle on the play; he was sent as a blitzer on the play but sprinted downfield after a big gain through the air and was there to scoop up the fumble by receiver Rishard Matthews.

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