Last season, the Kansas City Chiefs dazzled the NFL with their explosive offense. During his first full season under center, Patrick Mahomes could do no wrong; whether he was uncorking bombs to Tyreek Hill or flipping left-handed passes, the young quarterback seemed prepared for any situation. The Chiefs defense, however, couldn’t get a stop. During the offseason, the organization tried to retool the unit, and that effort recently continued with the addition of Terrell Suggs.
The rebuilt Kansas City Chiefs defense
Last season, the Kansas City Chiefs defense only needed to be average; they fell well below that low bar. The unit was shredded game in and game out, prompting an offseason clear-out.
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton left town, along with Eric Berry, Justin Houston, and Dee Ford. Steve Spagnuolo took over the defense, and the team brought in Frank Clark, Tyrann Mathieu, and Alex Okafor in order to fit his scheme. The immediate results, however, weren’t great.
When the 2019-20 season began, it looked like Groundhog Day in Kansas City. The defense struggled, especially against the run and allowed teams like the Tennessee Titans to march up and down the field; even when the scoreline was closer, they couldn’t get the big stop. Over the past several weeks, however, things have started to change.
Spagnuolo’s defenses are notably sophisticated and involve hybrid “man match” coverage with a cornerback and safety working together to marshall receivers. While it took a while to work out the kinks, the Chiefs secondary seems to have adjusted; that’s giving their defensive front more time to get to the quarterback and helping the entire unit improve.
Enter Terrell Suggs
That Chiefs defensive front, however, has been slammed by injuries. Emmanuel Ogbah and Alex Okafor are both done for the season, prompting the Chiefs to put in a successful waiver claim for Terrell Suggs.
While Suggs is a natural pass-rushing linebacker, he’ll fill in as a defensive end for the Chiefs. Suggs isn’t the fastest player anymore, but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem; the Chiefs will rely on him to set the edge against the run and pressure the quarterback. Although his age might limit him to sporadic action in specific defensive packages, Spagnuolo said he’s going to get the veteran on the field wherever he can make an impact.
“I think we’ll use him wherever we can,” the defensive coordinator explained. “Initially here, it’s going to be grasping hold of the terminology more than anything — I mean, we’re not that far off from the things he’s been doing — but it’s not going to be, ‘Hey, you’re only going in on third down.’ Where he can help us, he’ll help us.”
Ideally, he’ll also help the franchise get over their playoff curse. “My guess is that our players will lean on him [for his] experience on how to handle [postesaason pressure]—which is tremendous,” Spagnuolo continued. “It’s one thing coming from coaches—to say, ‘Hey, here’s what you’ve got to do. When you get to this part of the season, how much faster the game gets,’ et cetera. It’s a whole different story when a player conveys that to you. And I think he’ll be able to do that. He played in a lot of playoff games.”
Could Terrell Suggs be the Chiefs’ missing piece?
While the Kansas City Chiefs haven’t reached the heights of last season, they still have a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl. While it won’t be easy getting past the Baltimore Ravens, anything’s possible with Patrick Mahomes.
At the end of the day, the Chiefs defense doesn’t have to be great to successful; even in the twilight of his career, Terrell Suggs should be able to help them play at a league-average level. With Frank Clark setting one edge and Suggs on the opposite side, Kansas City’s run defense should improve. If you combine that with an acceptable passing defense—the Chiefs are actually the 11th ranked passing defense in terms of yards allowed per game —you’ll have a decent overall unit.
Suggs himself summed up the situation perfectly. “Hopefully I can come in and contribute right off the bat,” he explained. “This was a team that was a penalty away from the Super Bowl last year, so they’re not missing much. Hopefully I can add that extra addition that we can kind of potentially do something special.”