One week they can’t stop the run but hold quarterbacks to limited success. The next week the focus turns to the run and quarterbacks turn into superstars.
Balance. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and his unit must return balance to the defence.
The players have to play to their assignments. No defense can succeed if players over-play, over-pursue and try to make the “big play” instead of the sure tackle. Injuries and inexperience don’t explain away poor technique and fundamentals.
Lean on the new guy
The news that the Dallas Cowboys have Ezekiel Elliott available Sunday doesn’t change the defensive game plan but reveals the need for a new emphasis. Elliott’s available does not alter the Cowboy’s run scheme, but it does change how often they choose to run and their commitment level to the run game.
“A lot of different backs, so that probably speaks well to the offensive line, well coached and they’re well coordinated. There’s a strong commitment to run the ball there.” – Bob Sutton on Dallas’ offensive scheme
That means the Chiefs need to keep at least six run defenders in the box for the majority of the game. The Chiefs need a more physical presence in the run defense, and that means more Reggie Ragland than we’ve seen in recent games.
Against the Denver Broncos Ragland only played 27 percent of the snaps. He played 42 percent of the snaps against the Pittsburgh Steelers, his high-water mark for the season. When Ragland isn’t on the field, that means the Chiefs are using dime personnel. The Chiefs must avoid deploying the dime against the Cowboys.
Attacking the run
Kansas City needs to play in its base defense on first and second down. Sutton should use a true big nickel with Ragland and Derrick Johnson behind a four-man front in passing situations. Keeping six run defenders on the field allows them to attack the run when they see it.
That means no dime packages. Nickel will suffice in defending the three-wideout sets. It allows them to use a cover-2 man-under shell but still be able to defend the run with six in the box. It also allows flexibility to use the cover-1 robber shell Sutton employs so often. The defense can play man or zone without sacrificing the ability to stop the run when quarterback Dak Prescott audibles to a handoff, just as Trevor Siemian did with effectiveness for the Broncos last week.
If the Chiefs coaches choose to use only one true linebacker, then they need to have five defenders in front of him.
Defend the obvious
The Chiefs defense ranks 31st in the league defending the run over the last three weeks. Using the base defense and big nickel will counter the Cowboys plan to run at the Chiefs defense. That in turn will force adjustments in the passing game.
Ragland has shown competent, albeit not spectacular, when covering potential receivers. Putting six run stoppers on the field requires Ragland working against running backs and tight ends more often in pass coverage. Until the Cowboys begin motioning to empty backfields and going with four wide receiver packages, the defense can play the better overall defense with more traditional defensive schemes. Adjustments defending the pass will come as the game proceeds. Starting the game ready to stop the run, however, allows the defense to play with more balance. That plan finds more success if Ragland remains on the field.