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Heartland Health Training Camp Preview: Defensive Ends

Posted Jul 19, 2012

Three questions surrounding the Chiefs defensive end position heading into training camp


1) Will Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey continue to fly under the radar as a run-stopping duo?

Anthony Pleasant needed four years to understand his role in an NFL defense. And in the classroom of Bill Belichick, Pleasant learned that stout run defense, not sacks, was the telltale sign of a quality defensive lineman.

Pleasant stresses that same focus to his players as the Chiefs' defensive line coach. And he can sense that Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey--the Chiefs' starting defensive ends--fully understand their roles as they enter their fourth season together.

"Our guys (Jackson and Dorsey) are the grunt guys," said Pleasant. "It's not a glorified position. In our 3-4, we want guys playing the run."

That may still be a tough pill to swallow for Chiefs fans expecting Dorsey (fifth overall pick in 2008) and Jackson (third overall pick in 2009) to perform like other highly drafted pass rushers. Yet in spite of the NFL's premium on sacks and the defensive lineman that can amass them, Jackson and Dorsey carry out their role as run-stuffers as well as any duo in the NFL.

ProFootballFocus listed Dorsey and Jackson as the two best players for creating "defensive stops" - a measurement of the rate at which a defender causes an offensive failure. According to the website, the Chiefs tandem outranks Justin Smith, Darnell Dockett, J.J. Watt, and other acclaimed 3-4 ends at creating havoc in the opponent's running game.

2) Will a reserve emerge in the base defense behind the starting ends?

Shaun Smith was the next man up.

Tyson Jackson had to be helped off the field after a Chargers player rolled over his knee in the 2010 season opener. Jackson hobbled off the field, and Smith ran to the huddle for the last quarter-and-a-half of play.

Smith admirably started the following 10 games at defensive end for the playoff-bound Chiefs that season. And if the Chiefs want to make another playoff push in 2012, they'll need their reserves to be as game-ready as Smith was to play end in Romeo Crennel's 3-4 defense.

The group of ends vying for a reserve role is fairly unproven, though. Amon Gordon is flexible enough to start at all three slots, but might look to crack the starting roster at nose tackle. 2011 undrafted pickup Brandon Bair is tall, but carries a lighter frame. Bair took the equivalent of a “redshirt” season last year, but he can use training camp to prove he's ready for more snaps in 2012.

New addition Ropati Pitoitua is entering his fourth season after a stint with the New York Jets, but dealt with a calf injury for most of the team's offseason workouts. When healthy, Pitoitua has the size (6-8, 315 lbs) to contribute if called upon.

Moreover, Pitoitua has previous experience with a 3-4 style of defense

3) Can Allen Bailey star as the sub-package defensive end?

Few defensive linemen have a better first-sack story than Allen Bailey.

The rookie player caused an Arrowhead eruption when he shot the gap and took down quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The sack came on third down, and took the ball away from favored Green Bay Packers en route to an upset victory.

Should Bailey continue to improve during this year's training camp, he'll get a shot to sack 30 other NFL QBs as the Chiefs go-to pass rush specialist on the defensive line.

At Miami, Bailey tallied seven sacks with his quick first step and a powerful bull rush move. Both characteristics are vital to counter pass-happy offenses like the Packers. Bailey can either get around blocks quickly, or, in the case of his first career sack, run right through opposing offensive linemen.

The Chiefs also use formations that favor Bailey's skill set. More than half of the team's defensive plays came in a sub-package, tailored to counter the passing game with more than four defensive backs. The defense limits the windows passers have to throw, while giving pass rushers like Bailey more time to end the play with a sack.

Bailey will need to add a few more pass rushing moves to his repertoire this summer. But the prospect of a third down pass rush that features Bailey, Justin Houston, and Tamba Hali should net the defensive end a few more memorable sacks.

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