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Sutton on Chiefs’ defense: ‘You don’t have to junk the system’

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, at 6:17 p.m.

New defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said the way the Chiefs go about their business next season probably won’t be much different than last year. They’re just hoping to do things better.

“One of the most important things in coaching is really to figure out who you are and not who you want to be,” said Sutton, who will retain the 3-4 defense used in recent seasons by former coordinator Romeo Crennel. “There’s a difference there. We’ve got to talk advantage of the talent in place and try to use that as the starting point of this whole thing. You don’t have to junk the system but you have to tilt it or slant it or move it in the direction of your strengths. That’s really what we’re doing right now.

“We’re not going to be tied to anything but the way I envision it speaking to Coach Reid when I came in here … it’s got to be tailored a little bit to the personnel here.”

Meanwhile, the Chiefs filled the last remaining hole in their coaching staff Tuesday by hiring Andy Heck as their offensive line coach. Heck, 46, spent the last nine seasons coaching the offensive line for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

A former first-round draft pick from Notre Dame, Heck played 12 seasons in the NFL as an offensive lineman for Seattle, Chicago and Washington.

Heck replaces Jack Bicknell Jr., who spent one season as the Chiefs offensive line coach. The Chiefs spoke with at least two other candidates, veteran offensive line coaches George Warhop and Tony Sparano.

The Chiefs also hired Kevin O’Dea as assistant special teams coach. O’Dea, who worked under Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub with the Bears last season, has also been a special teams coach for the Jets and Cardinals.

The Chiefs may make an additional coaching hire in former Vikings head coach Brad Childress, who would be a senior offensive assistant.

One of Sutton’s first jobs after being hired last week was to sort through the defensive talent. Linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali and safety Eric Berry are Pro Bowlers and linebacker Justin Houston and cornerback Brandon Flowers are first alternates, meaning they could be going to Hawaii as well.

“We’ve got some good football players here,” Sutton said. “It’s a good group, played hard, played physical. Those two attributes are ones that everybody in our league wants to have when you’re coaching on defense.

“We’ve got some pieces in place and really, no different than any of the other 31 teams, we probably have some areas where we probably need to improve on.”

Sutton inherits a defense with three Pro Bowlers in outside linebacker Tamba Hali and inside linebacker Derrick Johnson and safety Eric Berry.

“We’ve got some good football players here and guys who played well … played hard … were physical, those two attributes are ones everyone in our league wants to have on defense,” Sutton said. “If you’re physical, tough-minded, serve you well for a long time. Those parts are here. That’s encouraging and exciting.”

Sutton said he was familiar with the Chiefs’ defense under former coach Romeo Crennel from working with Jets head coach Rex Ryan.

“It’s a great system of defense, the true 3-4. When Rex came into the Jets, it had many similarities to this, but has a little more multiple and more schematically how we lined up,” Sutton said. “A lot of the principles stayed the same in how our up-front players attacked blockers. …

“A lot of the players have the characteristics we’re looking for.”

Two of those are pass rushers like Justin Houston, who finished with 10 sacks, and Hali, who finished with nine.

“They’re exciting guys coming off the edge,” Sutton said. “One of the things I learned from Rex is it’s great to have sacks, but the key thing is to hit the quarterback. You’re trying to affect the quarterback and not let him feel comfortable. The bottom line is we don’t want that guy standing back there and feeling comfortable.

“You need guys whether it’s coming through pressure or unconventional means to get there, you still need people to defeat a blocker and get to that quarterback. We’ve got two guys who have proven they are capable of doing that.”

The Star’s Randy Covitz contributed to this report

To reach Adam Teicher, call 816-234-4875 or send email to ateicher@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/adamteicher.

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