Chiefs Defensive Review: Jacksonville Jaguars

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Nate hits the film room and gives his reactions to the first game for the Chiefs new defense under Steve Spagnuolo.

1-0 baby! The Chiefs traveled to Jacksonville and pulled out a victory, winning 40-26. Sammy Watkins looked the best he ever has, Patrick Mahomes is well, Patrick Mahomes, and LeSean McCoy was awesome.

But this isn’t an offensive review, unfortunately. This is about the defense, which showed some positive signs, but looked rough from the broadcast view. What does the all-22 say though? Where do the Chiefs look better? Where do they need to improve?

Some Good Plays

If the Chiefs are going to be really good at one thing on defense in 2019, it’s going to be at stopping the run. When covering the Jaguars this week in my preview of their offense, I said that it was crucial for the Chiefs to close holes in their counter blocking scheme, and not give Leonard Fournette a big hole to run through. On this snap, they are effective at stopping the counter play.

First, Frank Clark sets a great edge against the seal from the left guard, which already makes this play go nowhere. Derrick Nnadi makes sure it doesn’t go anywhere as well, by destroying the zone block of the right guard, and pushing him back into the pile, closing the hole. Finally, Anthony Hitchens has a quick read downhill and takes a fantastic angle to the ball, collecting the tackle by getting low and wrapping up Fournette.

The run defense did exactly what I hoped they would do, and Fournette was pretty ineffective for most of the day. The reason? The defensive line and linebackers did a great job constricting space. Even though Fournette had 5 yards per carry, a lot of them came in garbage time, so overall this was a great start for the run defense.

In case you’re wondering, Derrick Nnadi is a monster. Against 21 personnel, Nnadi gets single-teamed, and he takes advantage. He pushes the center back, anchors, and fills both A gaps. When Fournette sees the left A gap is closed, Nnadi disengages to the other side, sheds the tackle, and finishes the play. This play is blown up by Nnadi being able to hold both gaps.

Nnadi wasn’t the only player who did well on this play. Darron Lee also helped make this play possible. He looks noticeably quicker reading plays. He sees that the play is 24 power, and recognizes that he needs to get downhill to fill the A gap. When the left guard climbs to block Lee, he sheds by using his hands to push off, and wraps up well.

There is much better cohesion in the run defense in the 4-3 scheme, and it already is showing immediate results. I was very impressed with the run defense today.

On 3rd and 2, Spagnuolo dials up a Cover 0 blitz. This puts every player in man coverage on each receiver, leaving Damien Wilson on the running back out of the backfield. He sticks with the running back well, and Wilson forces the fumble by timing the strip well, changing the momentum of this game.

I really like Wilson. His speed, aggressiveness, and tackling all impress me in a linebacker. If he can stick with running backs in man coverage, this should help Spagnuolo be more aggressive with his blitzes. I wasn’t super impressed by the blitzes that were called against Jacksonville, but this one was well-timed to force the turnover.

Needs Improvement

Miscommunication in the secondary, mainly between Thornhill and Breeland/Ward, really bit us hard this week. This is Cover 3, and the reason why Westbrook is this wide open is bad communication. Ward is responsible for carrying the cornerback upfield, while reading his break. If he breaks short inside, he passes to the linebackers. When the receiver gets to the deep middle, he tries to pass off to Thornhill, but they miscommunicate, leaving Dede Westbrook WIDE open, since they didn’t include that route switch. Ward’s mental and physical recovery speed is slow, and this is a busted coverage.

With 3 brand-new starters in the secondary, there will be an adjustment period for their communication. I was disappointed to see so many errors this week, so Spagnuolo needs to work more on their communication.

The Chiefs are in Cover 1 on this play, and Jacksonville attacks them for that. Simple play action makes Tyrann Mathieu bite for the run, and the Jaguars run a simple high-low play action post and crosser, with the free safety, Juan Thornhill, biting on the short crosser when he sees that Breeland doesn’t change directions well.

This opens up the deep post, where D.J. Chark destroys Ward out of the top of his break, and Ward can’t recover. This turns into a 69 yard play, since Ward bit hard on that post route and Breeland couldn’t recover, either. I won’t lie. I’ve been majorly disappointed in the front office’s inability to get corners. It’s obvious Ward isn’t the answer, so I still hope we will find one at the deadline, but it’s obvious Ward isn’t a starting NFL cornerback. Let’s hope Veach has something in mind.

Oh look, another miscommunication between players. This is Cover 4 coverage, where the defense splits the field into four, with each guy responsible for covering each of their boundary. This play all falls on Breeland and Fuller’s terrible communication.

First of all, Breeland should be carrying the #1 receiver, especially when he stems vertically. He’s always responsible for his man deep, but he doesn’t realize that, and tries to pass him off to Fuller. Clearly, they both didn’t realize they were switching, so when Breeland takes the #2 receiver, Fuller can’t recover quick enough to contest.

It’s annoying that two players with this much experience and chemistry are communicating so poorly. This can’t happen again next week. They need to work this out all this week. Regardless of scheme, these are NFL players, they should be able to execute simple coverage assignments.

Game Ball

This is my favorite section of the week, where I give a game ball to the best player of the defense during the week. This week, my game ball was given to Emmanuel Ogbah.

Let’s start with his very impressive sack. Ogbah starts by having perfect timing on the snap, and getting a very explosive get-off. After setting up rookie Jawaan Taylor with bull rushes and spins all-day, Ogbah shows a very impressive two-hand club to get around the tackle. He bends around the edge, and pursues well for the sack.

Last year, Ogbah didn’t get to play defensive end much in the dirt. If he was playing outside, he was most likely in a two-point stance, which isn’t his strong suit. But with his hand in a three-point stance all the time now, he should be much better this season as a pass rusher. I’m excited.

Ogbah is very good, if not elite against the run. His play recognition, power, and shedding are all very good for a defensive end. Aligned as a 4i technique, Ogbah works the inside shoulder of the tackle, holds his gap, disengages and wraps up well. His strength to anchor is really good, and he knows how to shed well.

He got a lot of time playing on 1st and 2nd down this week and he made great advantage of his snaps. With his impressive tape today, Spagnuolo should continue to give him some more opportunities to play and see if he can remain consistent.

Conclusion

I get why everyone is panicking. The pass defense was really bad this game, the blitzes called weren’t effective, and Chris Jones and Frank Clark made zero pass rush impact. But I’m not freaking out. At least, not right now. People forget the defense had seven new starters from last year. Spagnuolo’s defenses have always generally struggled at the start of seasons. This is going to take time to jell. The reason why I’m excited is because the run defense already looks really good. The fact that the immediate returns on the run defense are mostly positive should be a great sign for the future.

I will say again that we need to replace Charvarius Ward. He looked awful on Sunday. I still believe we will. Claiborne is coming back in just 3 short weeks, and I truly believe we will trade for a cornerback at the deadline. A.J. Bouye and Xavien Howard both come to mind as potential candidates. Communication in the secondary must get better soon, or we are looking at 2018 all over again.

For now, I would say the defense lost this week, but it doesn’t mean we should panic. This will take some time. With Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid on offense, they can afford some time. Let’s hope for some more progression next week from the defense.

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Iowaskcchiefsfan
Iowaskcchiefsfan

Spags is known for running an aggressive attacking Defense. He likes to run games with his Front 4, stunts, twists, and shifts. He likes to run a lot of blitz packages and mix up his coverages with off-man, zones, and some press-man.

I don’t believe that Spags, Daly, House, and Merritt, opened up the Defensive Playbook, because they didn’t feel the need. Game was never in danger, especially, when Foles got hurt. I think the Defense was very vanilla, similar to the pre-season. IMO, they felt that they didn’t need to show their cards.

RamX21
RamX21

Last gif is an over front, not under

Team Player
Team Player

How much base (4-2-5) zone did they play during Minshew’s snaps? I think Spags used this as a preseason game – hiding the good stuff and working on fundamentals

zulu trader
zulu trader

I get the same sense. Combined with what I read and what I thought I saw on the field, in a way, we might be saving up a little for the bigger dances

Iowaskcchiefsfan
Iowaskcchiefsfan

Join the discussion…I felt the same thing. IMO, the Defensive Coaches didn’t feel the need to open the Defensive Playbook.

zulu trader
zulu trader

welcome

StramtoReid
StramtoReid

Nice post, I guess I should have read your post before I commented on the power rankings where I blamed the lack of pass rush for some of the problems with the secondary. Both Jags QB looked comfortable yesterday, and caused the corners to cover longer than they should.

I believe we need to keep it real, your post shows were kidding ourself if we believe Ward is a starting CB. It’s dangerous for the Chiefs not to have a pass rush and have a weak link at CB.

Maybe the defense will improve in a couple weeks and the pass rush will get better, we have a window to win a Super bowl, we have to quit being so arrogant and cocky and stop believing as long as we have Patrick Mahomes were going to win the Super Bowl this year, we need to improvements on defense.

I look forward to your future post on defense, to see if were making improvements.

oof46
tsv0728
tsv0728

That is positive at least. The offense did run ~8 more plays than they averaged last year. That is a pretty decent bump, but it might be completely due to Pat being dinged. I’m not sure how many drives the Jags had. They still had 50% 3rd down conversion though. That isn’t good enough.

CHIEFSandSABRES

I’ll green this for sure.

Nasrani
Nasrani

The communication will come. Two of our guys in the secondary are young guys. It will take a couple weeks to iron out the kinks, but we’ll get there.

venturachief
venturachief

Great write up. I’m not sure about Bouye. Maybe it’s having to play against the Chiefs but he looked really bad on Sunday.

go_saleaumua
go_saleaumua

Hmm. Lot of panic about a guy who might be our 4th/5th corner after week 6 or so (depending on what kind of development Fenton has, & how quickly Claiborne gets up to speed once he returns).

Ward’s got NFL size and speed, but very poor lateral agility and a tick-slow mental clock (might be due to his inexperience). We’re running him while Claiborne’s out, but I don’t think that’s a forever thing.

I want to point out – do we want a FO who goes out, grabs the first shiny free agent object we see every year, & lacks planning and process? or one that takes time to see if players it likes develop, or not, & goes from there? I’m fine with Veach letting Ward compete – esp. since we snagged Mo, who is decent, as a replacement when it became obvious that the kid wasn’t growing up as fast as we needed to.

Draft. Develop. Supplement. Repeat.

venturachief
venturachief

They have missed the draft part. The issue I have with the wait for Claiborne is…..what happens if there is an injury to Fuller or Breeland? Also, Ward may end of costing us a game or two while waiting for Claiborne.

Leaf
Leaf

No they haven’t. They just focused on things you didn’t find as important as they did.

venturachief
venturachief

Yes,, you are right that they didn’t find it as important as I did. So my point stands that they didn’t draft for the position. Grabbing one guy in the 6th round in back to back years isn’t a plan to develop the position. Under contract for 2020 – Ward and Fenton.

Leaf
Leaf

When you consider the amount of holes we had, something was going to be ignored. Obviously BV believes in developing the front seven first. It’s not a bad philosophy.

CHIEFSandSABRES

Draft. Develop. Don’t trade away (Peters).

APtransplant25
APtransplant25

Nice article Nate, I think having Claiborne along will have Cb’s but the communication issues will be resolved come week 6 I guess.

starry1

Does the All-22 have the last 5 minutes of the game?

Tony Sommer

Yes it does.

Slim
Slim

Wilson looked good to my extremely untrained eye, nice to hear some actual analysis supporting it.

zulu trader
zulu trader

no doubt. We are real lucky to have Nate.

Thanks for your time, Nate, and I really appreciate having you be our defensive analyst. We are lucky, and I look forward to your D reviews in the coming weeks.

zulu trader
zulu trader

I thought of you as soon as Ogbah made that terrific sack.

you failed to mention that Ogbah only got 21 snaps, or a light 31% of the defensive snaps! With the other DE’s, including Kpass, got a minimum 35+ snaps.

the Man should get more snaps next week.

zulu trader
zulu trader

And Ogbah is kind of like McCoy, in a way. Ogbah was a high draft pick with big expectations and lots of physical abilities. But he was buried in a pile of shit ( Cleveland Browns ). He started for the Browns, but like Shady, his personal production was buried by the shitiness of the Browns organization. Here in KC with new team and new coaches, this guy might really come on.

CHIEFSandSABRES

The reason why I’m excited is because the run defense already looks really good.

Won’t matter later on when teams are playing catch-up and tossing the ball against us. I hope you are correct and Ward gets replaced and continues to learn how to grow.

Texas Chief
Texas Chief

The ‘game-plan’ of most teams that play against us will not be to throw the ball 60 times.
As evidenced last season, especially near the end of the season and the playoffs, teams will do everything they can do to run the ball and control the clock vs. the Chiefs. The name of their game will be to keep the ball out of the hands of Mahomes and our potent offense.

Meaning, opponents will focus on running the ball and dominating time of possession. The Chiefs D’s ability to stop the run effectively is the exact right plan to counter this strategy. With the personnel and speed we have on offense, and the QB we have under center, we have the advantage in shoot out games vs. almost any other teams. They want to control the clock and keep the ball. We want to stop the run and force them into our style of play.

tsv0728
tsv0728

I agree with this. Still, having that infinitely exploitable CB means run/run/pass/1st down. That is a recipe that works really well when you have a guy at CB that just flat out can’t play. We’ve seen that song and dance already. The moves w/ Fish and Hitch are likely to address this. They didn’t need to make those moves to sign CJ, and the notion that they will roll it over doesn’t make any sense. If you weren’t going to use it, why with the restructures? Rolling it creates the same circumstance. The downside is, it probably means Veach is going to trade some draft capitol.

We are IMO getting into dangerous territory having so few starting youngsters on cost controlled contracts. You should have at least 6-7 starters on rookie deals at any given time. How many do we have? Pat, CJ, Fuller (both final year) Nnadi, Juan. They gave up big capitol to get Fuller too. So going into the draft next year we’ll have 2 starters on rookie contracts. Maybe 3 if they don’t extend Pat. That is not a good position to be in w/ your rookies.

oof46
oof46

Beats the offense getting limited drives because the defense allows long, grinded out possessions by the opponent.

Icemanx44
Icemanx44

No but that run d can help get opponents tothe point they need to get pass happy. A couple of early stops to let Pat get a decent lead, then a turn over or two… that’s what we NEED fromthe D, anything more isbeautiful gravy.

smafret77
smafret77

We restructured two contracts today to free up cap space. I’m hoping for a new CB.