KANSAS CITY, Mo. – From sacks to turnovers, the overall production from the Chiefs defense reflects eye-popping statistics.
And among some of the unit’s Pro Bowlers and big-name standouts, one player inconspicuously goes about his business out of the spotlight.
With 25 tackles (15 solo) on the season, Chiefs right defensive end Mike DeVito doesn’t have the numbers as some of his defensive teammates.
But the native of Wellfleet, Mass., is fine with his role behind the scenes.
“I just try to go out there and bring that lunch pail, kind of blue collar-type mentality,” DeVito said. “You see guys like (Dontari) Poe and Tyson (Jackson), they have all the physical talent and ability, I want to come out there and complement them with the blue collar mentality on the field.”
Signed as a free agent in March, DeVito followed defensive coordinator Bob Sutton from the New York Jets.
He quickly assumed a mentorship responsibility helping new teammates learn Sutton’s scheme.
“That really helped coming in here knowing the defense and how we were going to do things,” DeVito said. “But these guys picked it up really fast; it didn’t take much to get guys on board.
“That was really something during OTAs (organized team activities) that I really wanted to do was to help these guys learn the defense because once you pick things up, you can play so much faster. Guys had it down by training camp.”
What also assisted the Chiefs transition to Sutton’s scheme was the similarity to the system most players were accustomed to from the prior regime.
Still, left defensive end Tyson Jackson pointed out DeVito’s value in helping the team understand the intricacies.
“As far as coming over from New York to Kansas City, the terminology was a lot different,” Jackson said. “He helped translate that for us, made that adjustment a little bit easy and just made everybody’s job that much easier once you understood the defense, you could play better.”
Improved performance is exactly what the defense has done under Sutton.
Entering Week 16, the Chiefs are tied for third in the league with 43 sacks; tied for second in the league with 28 takeaways; recorded six defensive scores, the third-most in team history; and rank fourth in points allowed per game (18.2).
And while DeVito’s play doesn’t often show up in the box score, the seven-year pro’s importance to the defense goes deeper than his individual numbers.
At 6-foot-3, 306 pounds, DeVito’s ability to occupy blockers allows others to make plays.
“You see it on film,” safety Quintin Demps said. “You put the film on and are like, ‘Who is this guy?’ He may not have all the numbers, but he’s definitely causing havoc and opening doors for other guys to get numbers.”
Inside linebacker Akeem Jordan, who plays directly behind DeVito, emphatically agreed.
Jordan said everything starts with the defensive line, and the linebackers rely on them before going in pursuit.
“When you see me or D.J. (inside linebacker Derrick Johnson) shooting through the gap, it’s because of Mike,” Jordan said. “When you see plays like that, it’s the guys up front doing a good job keeping the guys off us, letting us run free.
Meanwhile, Sutton points out another area where DeVito excels, and that’s ensuring his teammates are ready every week.
“He’s tough, a hard-nosed and physical player,” Sutton said of DeVito. “His leadership in meetings and on the field helps his teammates prepare for the opponent’s offense.”
Jackson adds DeVito’s analytical skills have been “awesome.”
“He’s got a real good feel for the game,” Jackson said. “He understands the opponents, how they’re trying to attack our defense. He gives us a pretty good breakdown to help us throughout the week in preparing for the game.”
DeVito’s helpful nature extends beyond his fellow starting teammates.
Rookie defensive end Mike Catapano said DeVito is a “leader by example” and he’s learned a lot watching how DeVito conducts himself every day.
“He’s just a great pro,” Catapano said. “He works so hard and tirelessly at what he does, so to watch him go through his week and how he ramps up on game day, it’s a great model to look at. I’ve already learned so much from him already.”
Rookie linebacker/defensive end Josh Martin also enjoys learning from DeVito, and Martin has a unique perspective.
Martin’s locker is immediately next to DeVito’s and the two interact daily.
“Just being around him, he’s such a genuine, honest guy on the field and off the field,” Martin said. “Seeing him in the weight room, he’s lifting heavy. He’s been in the league a while now and to see somebody who probably could get away with skipping corners, to see him working that hard inspires me to be at that level.”
Coach Andy Reid appreciates and complimented DeVito’s intelligence.
Reid said DeVito plays a position that won’t often receive media recognition, but what DeVito does every week has the locker room’s respect.
“He takes a lot of pride in his job,” Reid said. “He’s got a great relationship with the rest of the room and they respect him for not only for being a tough guy and how he plays, but also for what he knows.”
In the meantime, the Chiefs have a player who is willing to do the work in the trenches without regard to personal accolades.
A main part of DeVito’s job is to occupy space in order to free up teammates, rather fitting given his helpful nature.
He’s selfless and prefers to quietly play the role of an unsung hero on a defense full of stars.
“I want to play the role of the tough, hard-working guy,” DeVito said. “We got an All-Star cast over here. I’ve never seen a defense with this much talent on it. I don’t want to let these guys down. These guys are playing at such a high level; I want to make sure I’m helping out this team as well.”