The Kansas City Chiefs’ various solutions to their current injury woes could cause some unpleasant flashbacks for the New England Patriots and their fans Sunday night.
With Eric Berry still nursing a heel injury that has kept him out all season, his replacement, Eric Murray, out with an ankle injury and Daniel Sorensen and Armani Watts on injured reserve, the Chiefs’ emergency fourth safety is wide receiver Marcus Kemp. The Patriots forced wide receivers to switch sides in 2004 — remember Troy Brown playing cornerback? — and 2011 with Julian Edelman in the slot and Matthew Slater at safety.
Even if Kemp doesn’t enter Sunday night’s game at safety, New England still could exploit the position. Jordan Lucas, one of Kansas City’s prospective starters, was acquired in a trade with the Miami Dolphins on Aug. 31. Josh Shaw, the Chiefs’ current top backup at the position, was released by the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 6 and signed Oct. 2.
The Chiefs’ top safety, Ron Parker, was released by Kansas City on March 12 and spent the summer with the Atlanta Falcons before being cut Aug. 31. He re-joined the Chiefs on Sept. 2.
Who on the Patriots could take advantage of a shallow safety corps? Tight end Rob Gronkowski, wide receivers Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman and running back James White come to mind.
Through a New England lens, Kansas City’s situation at right guard might be even more dire. With Laurent Duvernay-Tardif on injured reserve, former Patriots offensive lineman Jordan Devey is projected to start. No, really. Look it up.
Devey, he of tuba fame, started four games for the Patriots at right guard in 2014 when Dave DeGuglielmo was coaching the offensive line. He’s one of the worst players New England has voluntarily started in recent history. The Patriots only settled their offensive line woes that season when Devey was removed from the starting lineup. It’s a small sample size, but the Chiefs are averaging 2.25 fewer yards per carry with Devey on the field this season.
Defensive tackles Lawrence Guy, Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton should be able to overpower Devey in the run game. Defensive linemen Adam Butler, Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise and linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy could abuse Devey as pass rushers.
Perhaps the Chiefs’ biggest injury is to outside linebacker Justin Houston’s hamstring, however. Houston, along with defensive tackle Chris Jones and edge rusher Dee Ford, is one of the team’s top defenders.
Rookie Breeland Speaks is expected to step in for Houston. But at 6-foot-3, 285 pounds, Speaks is less versatile in the passing game than Houston, who’s tasked to drop back into coverage more than most top-tier pass rushers.
Houston’s injury might force Ford to drop into coverage more. Kansas City’s No. 4 outside linebacker, Tanoh Kpassagnon, is questionable to play with an ankle injury. Kpassagnon, like Speaks, is a bigger player at 6-foot-7, 289 pounds. The Chiefs also have Frank Zombo and Nate Orchard at outside linebacker. Both players were added off the street this week.
Opposing teams average .22 more yards per carry and .29 more yards per pass when Houston is off the field.
The Chiefs’ pass rush potential is capped with Houston out. The more time Brady has to throw, the more he can exploit that weakened safety position.
Yes the undefeated Chiefs are hot right now. But injuries could slow them down at Gillette Stadium on “Sunday Night Football.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
Powered by WordPress.com VIP