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Husain Abdullah's Versatility is Key to Chiefs Defense

Posted Sep 4, 2015

Heading into his third season with the Chiefs, Abdullah’s value couldn’t be overstated

The Kansas City Chiefs defense finished as one of the best in the NFL a season ago.

This year’s squad looks to match or surpass that same level of production, which won’t be easy.  

The 2014 Chiefs defense finished with the second-fewest points surrendered in the NFL, zero 300-yard passers or 50-yard completions and a Defensive Player of the Year candidate who almost broke the record we most associate with individual defensive success—sacks.

There’s one key player central to this challenge that doesn’t often get the credit he truly deserves in veteran safety Husain Abdullah.

As one of the five players who played more 1,000 snaps for the Chiefs defense last season, Abdullah, through his versatility, allows the Chiefs defense to do so many different things.

Trying to find Abdullah on the field could turn into a strange game of “Where’s 39?” on any given play because he’s seemingly always in a different spot from one play to the next.

On first down, he may be lined up over the A-gap on the line of scrimmage between the center and guard. Just a play later, he could be 15 yards deep in a traditional safety look, and then on third down, he might move into the box like a linebacker would normally be positioned.

"I think it's unique,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said of Abdullah’s versatility. “I think it's a real tribute to one, his ability as a football player, and two, his diligence.

“Over the last three years, he's allowed us to do a lot of different things.

“Like I always tell the guys, the more you can do and not just get cubby-holed, where an offense can't put the license plate on you and say, 'Hey, that's who this guy is,' I think is really beneficial to us."

Abdullah’s versatility allows Sutton to be creative with his defensive schemes and game plans, and that makes the Chiefs defense unpredictable, which is a key for the success of any unit.

“We have a couple guys who fall in this category,” Sutton said, “but he's probably been our lead guy in the past three years. It just makes it much more difficult to know what we're doing, who's doing it, why we are doing it.

“And he doesn't just line up, he can function there. That's the great part.”

Because he’s lined up in so many different spots from one play to the next, Abdullah has been given a lot of responsibility to learn the techniques needed to play successfully in each of these roles.

"My first year in it, it was very difficult,” Abdullah explained. “I was like, 'I'm just going to learn safety, first.' But then as you start learning different things, it's like, 'When he's speaking to the linebackers, he's speaking to me. When he's speaking to the D-line, he's speaking to me.'

“So I was able to pick up all of the different things. Typically, older guys just kind of sit back and know the playbook, but there's always something new to learn."

While Abdullah doesn’t get credit in a box score for the unpredictability his presence presents an offense on every play, he doesn’t care.

If he can affect a play, even through a quarterback’s momentary indecision, the goal has been achieved.

"We know every time the quarterback has to hold the ball for another split second, that's another split second that Justin [Houston], Tamba [Hali] and company are coming.

“So if a quarterback is back there and doesn't know who's the blitzer, who's the dropper, who's in man coverage or who's in zone, it gives us a lot of advantages."

Abdullah finished the 2014 season with 71 total tackles, which ranked third on the team behind linebacker Josh Mauga (103) and fellow safety Ron Parker (94).

His lone interception last season was a memorable one.

It resulted in a 39-yard return for a touchdown off New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on Monday Night Football and put an exclamation point on the 41-14 win over the eventual Super Bowl champions. It was the second interception of his Chiefs career.

Coincidentally, Abdullah has returned both of his career touchdowns in games that Chiefs Kingdom broke the sound record at Arrowhead Stadium.

His first interception as a member of the Chiefs was in 2013 against the Oakland Raiders, against whom he took a Terrelle Pryor pass 44 yards the other way for a touchdown.

“Just to be able to have the camaraderie of the guys and the fans just going crazy, it was just amazing,” Abdullah said of those two plays.

While Sutton and the Chiefs defense would undoubtedly welcome more of these game-changing plays, the truth is the defense’s success is built upon the consistent play-by-play grind, and Abdullah is a central figure in what the group not only wants to try and do, but is able to do.

“He’s a pro's pro and all he wants to do is win,” Sutton said of Abdullah. “That's the beauty of the guy. He's one of those guys as a coach you love to have on your team."

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