The offseason review of the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster continues today with a look at the defensive tackle spot. As we’ve done in previous reviews of center, guard, offensive tackle and tight end, we’ll compare Kansas City to other AFC West rivals to get the possible handle on what the team should address in free agency and the draft.
Defensive tackle has to be considered an area of need for the Chiefs. Playing a predominantly 3-4 scheme, KC must have a nose tackle capable of tying up blockers and freeing the linebackers to make big plays. 35-year old Kelly Gregg filled that role well in Baltimore for a long time, but the Ravens released him prior to the 2011 season for a reason—his best years are behind him.
San Diego also runs a 3-4 and as such has only one player handling down lineman duties. 32-year old Antonio Garay is getting up there in years, but according to ESPN’s Scouts Inc., he continues to move well within the narrow area that nose tackles need to have lateral quickness, he can tie up blockers and hold his ground inside, which limits the opportunities for cutbacks.
Denver uses a 4-3 alignment and has two pretty good tackles in Brodrick Bunkley and Marcus Thomas, age 28 & 26 respectively. Bunkley in particular is a solid talent, good at stopping the run and his pass-rush skills have developed during his six years in the league. Thomas isn’t quite as talented, but he’s still a serviceable starter and has room to improve. With his ability to play defensive end as well, he’s more quickness than strength, so you can run at him. Ideally, the Broncos might rotate him in and out at different spots to keep their entire line fresh, but that requires a depth level that isn’t there yet.
Oakland also uses the 4-3 and their combo of Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly is the best in the division. The question is, when both players are the wrong side of 30, how much longer can that sustain itself. Seymour is a classic tackle who ties up blockers, creates a mess in the middle and enables the linebackers to make plays. Kelly is quick off the ball and able to get pressure up the middle, an invaluable commodity for a defense, in that the quarterback can be pressured without blitzing and without losing outside containment. As long as Seymour and Kelly can keep it rolling, the Raiders are a handful in the middle.
The defensive line interior looks like a good position for the Chiefs to address via free agency. Even if an elite defensive lineman is available, he’d be wasted at the nose spot in a 3-4, which values body mass more than athleticism. And they don’t need to get drastically younger. This is an area Scott Pioli would be wise to use free agency to address.