Allen Bailey is an incredible individual who has lived a life most can’t wrap their heads around. He’s a man that has killed an alligator with a shovel and enjoys the taste of snake, raccoon, and possum… but mainly, he’s a physical freak of a defensive lineman who hasn’t quite lived up to his potential in the NFL.
A 2011 3rd round pick, the Chiefs were getting a defensive lineman who was routinely switched between defensive tackle and defensive end in the University of Miami’s 4-3 defense. He had the power and the speed to thrive at both positions, leading the team in sacks and tackles for loss in his Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years. He had some questions about his technique, but his build and athleticism led many to buy stock in his development. Now three years later, the opportunity has arisen to really compete for a starting defensive end position after Tyson Jackson’s departure. Allen Bailey: it’s time to Put Up or Shut Up.
On the last year of his rookie contract, Bailey has primarily played in a nickel/dime lineman role to rush the passer. In 2013, arguably his best year in the NFL, he totaled 30 tackles (25 solo), 1 sack, and two passes defensed in 365 defensive snaps. He closed the year on a high note, logging 9 tackles as the Chiefs backups took San Diego to the wire in Week 17, so there was reason to be positive about him. However, Bailey only manufactured two hurries during the season and no tackles for loss or zero gain. In comparison, Tyson Jackson lodged 34 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 passes defensed, 3 hurries and 3 tackles for loss or zero gain in just 100 more snaps, mostly on running downs. That information is a tough pill to swallow for some. Jackson was far from an excellent pass rusher, yet seemed to get the job done when he saw less snaps in passing situations.
Anybody who has followed my writing over the past three years knows that I’m not the biggest fan of Bailey. When I watch him, I see flaws with his leverage, hand fighting, and his pass rush moves…three things needed as an interior lineman. Many note his pass rushing prowess, but with three career QB hurries, he’s fallen well short of the impact he’s needed to make. I actually suggested that he could be a surprise cut before the start of last season because of these issues. So with the Chiefs adding more depth (Vance Walker) and more development (Mike Catapano), it may surprise you that I’m finally buying what Allen Bailey is selling.
You see, over the past 3 seasons, Bailey has been pushing Tyson Jackson at the base 3-4 role. He’s come close a couple of times, but has always been relegated to the sub packages. In those packages, Bailey found himself often double teamed when the Chiefs rushed three players. His greatest successes came at moments when he did the dirty work, opening holes for other pass rushers around him. He was especially outmatched in the run game, being asked to engage two blockers when the Chiefs had one less man in the box. He was asked to play in space and hold down a side of the line, something that just wasn’t his forte.
However, for the first time in his career Allen Bailey is looking at regular snaps with players lined up on both gaps beside him. In a defense full of top players, Allen Bailey will find himself sandwiched between as many as three Pro Bowlers at any given time. Offenses have to make decisions between double teaming Poe, Hali, Houston, Devito, and Bailey at the line of scrimmage. This is going to lead to more 1-on-1 matchups and the ability to keep the quarterback/running back contained within the pocket – two things that haven’t been afforded to Bailey over the course of his NFL career. Couple that with Bailey putting on muscle to get above 300 pounds, and you’re looking at someone who finds himself in the best situation he’s been in during his young NFL career.
It’s no surprise that Bailey is running with the 1st team defense. Bob Sutton is pushing for a quick, athletic, 1-gapping defensive front, and that suits Bailey’s skillset. If he has gotten stronger this offseason and has worked even harder on his technique, there’s a very good chance that he could force John Dorsey and Andy Reid’s hand into a second contract with the Chiefs. If he hasn’t, he’s likely looking elsewhere next season. One thing is for certain, he’ll have to get out of the blocks quickly this season, because with Walker and Catapano waiting in the wings, a slow start may doom his future in Kansas City.