Kansas City Chiefs All-Time Best: The Defense

James Adkins@KCChiefsBlitzCorrespondent IIJune 18, 2009

22 Sep 1996:  Quarterback John Elway #7 of the Denver Broncos attempts to hang onto the football as he is hit and tackled by linebacker Derrick Thomas #58 and Anthony Davis #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs for a sack during a pass play in the Broncos 17-14 l

The Kansas City Chiefs best defensive players have all played a significant role in the team's success through the years.  There are some obvious selections here, but there might be one or two on the list who surprise you...enjoy.

Defensive End—Buck Buchanan and Neil Smith

Both Buchanan and Smith were high first-round picks.  Buchanan was first overall in the 1963 AFL Draft, while Smith was selected second overall in 1988. 

Buck Buchanan was what eventually defined what would become the "prototypical" defensive end in professional football.  At 6'7" and 287 pounds, he was blessed with fantastic speed for a defensive lineman, running the 100-yard dash in college in 10.2 seconds.

His college coach, the famous Eddie Robinson, considered Buchanan the "finest lineman I have ever seen."  Buchanan was voted eight times to pro football's all-star game, and was an integral piece of the Chiefs 1969 Super Bowl Champion team.

Neil Smith starred as a Chiefs pass-rusher during the team's resurgence in the early and mid 1990's.  In his nine years in Kansas City, Smith accounted for 85.5 sacks and forced 28 fumbles.  Smith led the NFL in sacks in 1993 with 15, and was elected to six Pro Bowls as a member of the Chiefs.

Maybe best known as the Robin alongside Derrick Thomas's Batman, he and his close friend spent the better part of their careers together tormenting opposing quarterbacks and leading the Chiefs to their winningest decade in the team's history. 

Defensive Tackle—Jerry Mays and Dan Saleaumua

Jerry Mays joined the Dallas Texans in 1961 as a fifth-round pick out of SMU.  He came into the league and made two All-AFL teams as an offensive tackle.  He became a force, however, as a member of the Texans/Chiefs defensive line for the next 10 seasons. 

Mays was a captain of both Chiefs' Super Bowl teams and was an AFL All-Star six times.  In 1970, Mays was named to the All-Time All-AFL Team. 

Dan Saleaumua played eight seasons with the Chiefs, in between two-year stints with the Lions and Seahawks.  Holding down the middle of the defensive line for the Chiefs' outstanding defense in the early 1990s, Saleaumua played 125 games for the Chiefs and had 28 sacks. 

Saleaumua, in addition to providing a strong motivational presence, was the Chiefs' "Johnny On the Spot."  In his eight seasons, he recovered 17 fumbles, returning two of them for touchdowns. 

Middle Linebacker—Willie Lanier

Chiefs coach Hank Stram, after losing Super Bowl I to the Green Bay Packers, was in need of defensive help.  In the draft prior to the next season, Stram drafted Willie Lanier out of Minnesota

In addition to being a Chiefs second-round pick, Lanier in his rookie season became the first African-American starting middle linebacker in pro football history.  In his 11 seasons as a starter on the Chiefs defense, Lanier had 27 interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries. 

Outside Linebackers—Bobby Bell and Derrick Thomas

Was there any doubt in your mind who the OLBs on this team would be? 

Bobby Bell was the first Kansas City Chief to ever be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and many have considered him the best outside linebacker to ever play the game. 

Bell was a member of both Super Bowl teams for the Chiefs, and was an All-Pro 10 times.  In 168 games, he intercepted 26 passes, recovered 15 fumbles, and scored nine touchdowns. 

Derrick Thomas was one of the most dominant pass-rushers in NFL history.  During his 11 seasons as a member of the Chiefs, he broke several Chiefs and NFL records.  Included on his amazing resume: 126.5 sacks, nine Pro Bowls, 18 fumble recoveries, and 45 forced fumbles.  

Thomas was known for his trademark sack and strip technique, and was at his best on Veteran's Day 1990 against the Seattle Seahawks.  On that day, he turned in the single greatest sack performance in NFL history with seven sacks and dedicated it to his late father, who had died as a pilot in the Vietnam War. 

The Secondary—Kevin Ross, Albert Lewis, Deron Cherry, and Lloyd Burress

While it is possible to break this group into cornerbacks, free safety, and strong safety, why break up the best secondary to ever play for the Chiefs?

From 1984 to 1991, there was no better secondary in professional football.  Lloyd Burress and Deron Cherry provided leadership to Chiefs defenses in the 1980s that endured many tough seasons.  Albert Lewis and Kevin Ross were arguably the best cornerback tandem of the decade as Lewis locked down on other team's No. 1 receivers, while Ross earned his "Rock" nickname with his highlight-reel hits on anyone that came near him with the ball.

During their time with the Chiefs, this group accounted for: 13 Pro Bowls and 18 touchdowns, 14.5 sacks, and 140 interceptions in 499 career starts. 


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