The Chiefs travel to the desert to take on Kyler Murray and the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. With a new-look defensive line unit, how can the Chiefs contain the Cardinals QB?
1. Use Power to Crush the Pocket
This play does an excellent job of illustrating how effective new signee Carlos Dunlap is as a power rusher from the edge, but it also clues into a weakness of Arizona’s offense. Kelvin Beachum and D.J. Humphries are both mid to low-level tackles in the NFL, and they both have the tendency to struggle against pass rushers who use primary power and strength to win. Dunlap is able to get his hands on Humphries quickly and knocks him back, almost “crushing” the pocket around Murray and giving him no window to throw the ball. Opposite side Beachum also gives up too much ground, constricting the area in which Muarry has to work.
The pass is ultimately batted down by Dunlap, but if Murray chose to stick in the pocket and throw the ball the presence of the pass rushers could have been enough to make him take his eyes away from down the field, and give the defense time to force a sack.
2. Contain the Pocket
Last season Murray had the fewest designed run plays of his career, but he still used his legs to create throws from different platforms, as well as throws on the run. This kind of improvisation can be backbreaking to defenses and makes Murray a threat regardless of the weapons surrounding him. Getting after the passer is always essential, but sometimes a more conservative approach can also be effective.
Teams using spies against mobile quarterbacks is nothing new, but they are often times athletic linebackers, or bigger secondary players. A more recent trend for teams is having a quick edge-type player be the spy, but to help disguise the look they line them up at a traditional defensive line or pass rusher spot. Above Miller looks to be a wide nine, and appears to be ready to come upfield to rush, but he then slows his rush and ends up mirroring Murray through the play. Nobody is there for him to throw to, but he feels Miller shadowing him, and elects to just take the quick check down instead of looking to create with his legs.
For Kansas City, I could envision this being a few different guys, but really Frank Clark and Tershawn Wharton both come to mind. Clark’s dramatic weight loss has him looking more like a linebacker, and quicker to where he would be able to follow Murray hopefully keeping him uncomfortable. Wharton is more interesting, but he is a high-level athlete, and we have seen him drop from a DT spot into pass coverage before so it would not be totally out of the ordinary for him to drop into coverage and spy every once in a while.
3. Finish Plays
It may seem like a simple concept, but finishing plays against creators, and playmakers like Kyler Murray is absolutely key. While he is an accurate in-pocket passer, it is when Murray can throw on the run or make the highlight reel plays that create success for Arizona. The best way to prevent these from happening is to not let them develop at all. If the Chiefs want to blitz or rush the passer this week they need to make sure that they get home and finish plays. It almost feels like a broader theme of the defense for the 2022 season.
The unit did not finish 2021 in good taste after the epic meltdown against the Bengals. They will face a true opening week test with Kyler Murray, a player coming into the year after an offseason with a circus-like atmosphere. He will have plenty to prove, as well as the Chiefs’ defense. If the Chiefs can do the little things and finish plays then they have a tremendous chance to win on Sunday.
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