Red Zone

Defensive snap-count observations: Chiefs have four-man rotation at outside linebacker

Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston celebrated following KC’s 30-0 win over the Texans after Saturday's AFC wild-card game in Houston.
Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston celebrated following KC’s 30-0 win over the Texans after Saturday's AFC wild-card game in Houston.

Here are some observations based on the defensive snap-count data from the Chiefs’ 30-0 win over the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round on Saturday. Numbers are provided by the NFL.

Interior D-line

Dontari Poe — 50 of 64 (78 percent)

Jaye Howard — 40 of 64 (62 percent)

Allen Bailey — 37 of 64 (58 percent)

Mike DeVito — 19 of 64 (30 percent)

Nick Williams — 8 of 64 (12 percent)

The Cheifs have a pretty good rotation going along the defensive line, and this is a positive. Take a look at Poe’s snap percentage — 78 percent is right around the sweet spot for him. These guys are getting plenty of rest, and this allows the guys to go 100 percent when they’re in the game. The interior defensive line was a strength

Outside linebacker

Justin Houston — 44 of 64 (69 percent)

Dee Ford — 35 of 64 (55 percent)

Frank Zombo — 33 of 64 (52 percent)

Tamba Hali — 15 of 64 (23 percent)

This was the position that everyone was keeping a close eye on. Houston had been out for five games with a hyperextended knee, while Hali had been limited in the season-finale against Oakland with thumb and knee injuries. Houston is typically an every-play guy, so that he got some snaps off is either an indication he’s not quite 100 percent or his coaches wanted to ease him back into the mix. Hali, meanwhile, only played in passing situations. Zombo and Ford have proven to be capable replacements, so this was a good, healthy rotation this week, but it will be interesting to see the Chiefs lean on Houston and Hali this week against a good New England Patriots team.

Inside linebacker

Derrick Johnson — 61 of 64 (95 percent)

Josh Mauga — 28 of 64 (44 percent)

D.J. Alexander — 1 of 64 (2 percent)

No big shock here. Mauga continues to see most of his work in the base defense while Alexander got a single snap in the nickel subpackage late in the fourth quarter.


Sean Smith — 60 of 64 (94 percent)

Marcus Peters — 59 of 64 (92 percent)

Steven Nelson — 5 of 64 (8 percent)

Jamell Fleming — 3 of 64 (5 percent)

Fleming and Nelson each got three snaps apiece on the Texans’ final drive, when the game was for all practical purposes over. Both played on the outside. Nelson also logged a few snaps in the second quarter at Marcus Peters’ left cornerback position. Peters was later shown on the sideline getting his shoes tied, but Nelson held his own, as he covered star receiver DeAndre Hopkins on an overthrown fade that landed out of the end zone.


Ron Parker — 64 of 64 (100 percent)

Eric Berry — 61 of 64 (95 percent)

Tyvon Branch — 47 of 64 (73 percent)

Husain Abdullah — 31 of 64 (49 percent)

Daniel Sorensen — 3 of 64 (5 percent)

Abdullah returned to the field after a five-game absence and gobbled up his usual snaps as as a box linebacker in subpackages. He replaced Daniel Sorensen, who saw his playing time dwindle with Abdullah’s return. Branch continues to see a ton of work as a versatile third safety who basically a starter.