KANSAS CITY — There's a not-so-subtle difference between the way the Kansas City Chiefs are operating their defense under new coordinator Bob Sutton, and what they've done the past couple years under former coach Romeo Crennel.
Gone is the bend-but-don't-break style that worked well at times and suffered at others. In its place: Multiple looks, exotic blitzes and constant movement in an attacking scheme that sends players flying around the field, usually with smiles on their faces.
"I love it," cornerback Brandon Flowers said. "We're coming to get the quarterback every play, and as a defensive back, you love that. The more we get back there, the more fun we have."
They've been getting into new quarterback Alex Smith's face quite a bit during the first week of organized team activities, though defenses tend to have an advantage in shorts and jerseys. New coach Andy Reid won't know who's coming out on top for sure until pads come on in training camp.
But at least during three practices under an unseasonably warm May sun, a defense that featured four Pro Bowl players from a year ago showcased a newfound edge.
"The talent level is incredible, and you can tell the guys are smart," said defensive lineman Mike DeVito, who signed with the Chiefs as a free agent this past offseason.
"This defense is so multiple," DeVito said, "and so many things are changing, and these guys are learning it so fast. And then you have the talent — all the pro bowlers and guys who should have gone to the Pro Bowl. It's been incredible."
DeVito should know something about operating within Sutton's defensive system: He played under him last season with the New York Jets. So DeVito has naturally taken on a tutor-type role with the chiefs, helping the rest of his teammates get the hang of the system.
"This defense, I remember when I first came in how difficult it was," DeVito said, sweat dripping off his brow, "and these guys are picking it up fast. So now you have all these Pro Bowl players picking it up quick, it's going to be a dangerous defense."
It's not as if the Chiefs didn't know what they were doing under Crennel, who has long been considered one of the NFL's great defensive minds. They were good enough to send all those players to Hawaii, after all, even with an offense that didn't make their lives any easier.
But the defense of a year ago also lacked aggressiveness, a pin-back-your-ears mentality that became a hallmark of Reid's teams in Philadelphia under the late Jim Johnson.
"That's absolutely the kind of defense you want," Reid said. "You win games in this league on defense — that's what you do. Winning teams normally have the good defenses, so I think Bob Sutton and his staff are doing a nice job with that crew. I think there's good competition."
The Chiefs only made seven interceptions, tied with the Cowboys for the fewest in the league, and recovered just six fumbles, also putting them in the bottom third of the NFL.
It'll be up to Sutton to orchestrate some dramatic improvement.
"That's been Bob's M.O.," Reid said. "When he was with the Jets, he'd been there a long time and we had the opportunity to play them a few times when I was at Philly. So I understand that defense. I know the confusion it can present to offenses. And he has good players to do it with."
Yes, that attacking style wouldn't work unless the Chiefs had the personnel to succeed in it.
They already had Flowers and Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry in the defensive backfield, and a triumvirate of Pro Bowl linebackers in Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Justin Houston. But they still aggressively upgraded in the offseason, signing free-agent cornerbacks Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson — a couple of hard-hitters who fit perfectly within the scheme.
"Everybody is pulling their own weight, or pulling up everyone around them. Everybody wants to make plays," Berry said. "We don't want to just be a good defense. We want to make history."