KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Every week heading into a game, Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo spends the first part of his game planning looking at the opposing offensive lines’ protection schemes.
That’s something he learned while coaching under 9-year (1999-2008) Philadelphia Eagles DC Jim Johnson.
“He always began with looking at protections, kind of began the week there, and I do the same thing,” Spagnuolo said.
But a big difference in the NFL between then and now is the number of protection schemes that Spagnuolo has to game plan for.
“Back then there was one or two. Now they’ve got a plethora of them,” Spagnuolo said. “So you’re trying to find something that’ll give you a heads up on, ‘You should do this when you think they’re gonna be in that protection.'”
Defensive lineman Chris Jones, linebacker Melvin Ingram III and corners L’Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton have been the moving chess pieces in the Chiefs defense all season (of course, Ingram for only two games).
Jones and Ingram helped the Chiefs pass rush gain 11 pressures and 2 sacks against the Las Vegas Raiders and are looking to do even more against the Dallas Cowboys.
“It’s been pretty impressive. The amount of information he’s been able to digest and then also go out and execute, so I’ve been impressed with his work ethic in that regard,” Chiefs defensive line coach Brendan Daly said about Ingram.
Sneed has shown up big in several games this season, including six key tackles and a tackle for loss against the Raiders, and an interception vs. the Green Bay Packers.
“You just gotta be able to go out there and make that play and know that you’ve had throughout the course of the week, throughout the course of training camp and know when that play comes up, you have to go out there and be able to do it,” defensive backs coach Sam Madison said.
“He shows and displays the capability to do it every single play, so it’s just fun being able to watch him grow and to see him process things but yet and still when it comes time and it’s in live bullets, he goes out there and he gets it done.”
Fenton is one of the top corners in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.
“We’ve tried to get him a lot more reps outside,” Spagnuolo said.
“He’s played a lot of nickel, he has started as the nickel. He’s been the backup to [L’Jarius Sneed] all year long so he gets a lot of reps in there and the nickel and then we finally been able to get him reps… with him outside, and I think that’s showing in his play.”
As the Chiefs get ready to face the no. 1 offense in the league, Spagnuolo said having everybody practice and play together is the key to sustaining success on that side of the ball.
“It always feels better or seems to come together when you can have some consecutive weeks of the same guys,” Spagnuolo said.
“It’s not doing the same thing all the time but the gist of what we do, the 70, 75%, and when you can get a volume of reps underneath your belt with the same guys talking to the same guys, to me that would be the biggest thing.”
Since the Chiefs’ last loss to the Tennessee Titans, the defense has allowed an average of 300 yards per game.
They hope to do the same to America’s Team on Sunday.