Chiefs defenders enjoying simplicity of new defensive scheme
One of the criticisms of former Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s scheme was that it was too complex for it’s own good. It asked the players to do too much, when it could have simplified responsibilities and made things easier for everyone.
After Sutton’s scheme failed the Chiefs for the last time, they chose to bring on Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator. Spagnuolo brings with him a 4-3 scheme that is entirely different from what the Chiefs ran under Bob Sutton. For linebacker Anthony Hitchens the scheme change is a return to familiar grounds.
“It’s very similar to what I had been playing in my first four years in Dallas,” Hitchens said of the new defense. “A lot of over, a little bit of under, 4-3 defense. Very similar situation, just different terminology and different names and different coverages. But for the most part it’s a 4-3 under/over that I’m very comfortable with.”
Hitchens played in a 3-4 scheme in the NFL for the first time in 2018. By most accounts he didn’t live up to expectations in that defensive scheme. With the change to the 4-3 defense there is an expectation that a more simple and familiar scheme could turn the tides for Hitchens and his performance.
“It’s simple. It’s good for a lot of players, good for a lot of coaches,” Hitchens said. “You know exactly who’s right and who’s wrong. There is no ‘Well he could’ve done this or that’. It’s like okay, if you have the A gap then you have the A gap. It’s simplified so when we go to watch film and we go to get better I don’t need the coach behind me watching film with me. I know I had the A gap and I didn’t have the A gap on that play. So, it’s very simple in that way and we can correct our self on the field and we can correct our self by watching film on our own. It’s not too complicated. I just think that right there will make us improve so much more as a defense to not have to go back and watch film as a group. You can just do it on your own on your own time and then just ask questions when you get in the next day.”
The changes to the scheme don’t only extend to responsibilities on the football field, but they extend to the classroom for the Chiefs. We don’t often get to see how players learn and how coaches do things behind the scenes, but those are equally important to having a successful defense.
For other defenders, like Kendall Fuller, the scheme change isn’t quite as profound. It’s a similar process with some minor differences.
“It’s not too difficult,” Fuller said. “At the end of the day it’s football. You do a lot of the same things. (There are) definitely different techniques and different things that coach might ask you to do, but you just work on it every day, try not to make the same mistake twice and day after day, keep on getting better, keep on getting a better feel for it. As a group, we’re getting better.”
The most important part of this scheme change for the Chiefs is the defense improving as a unit. The players appear to be taking to the changes well, and there’s a good chance that we’ll be seeing marked improvements as early as the opening week. Keeping things simple could potentially turn out to be the best decision made on the defensive side of the ball.