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July 28, 2005

Question Marks « Kansas City Chiefs »

Ivan Carter read my blog! Ivan Carter read my blog! [big grin]

But when he stopped by, he left some good questions that are worth re-addressing.

I should admit that nothing is certain. The defense could still stink. The offense could finally rattle and wheeze and grind to a halt. Having a dominant team is as much luck as it is skill, but when the memories of specific plays fade, what lingers is the memory of the wins. Or the collapses, like in the Chiefs' previous two seasons.

Perhaps I should also explain again the nature of my fandom. I love the Chiefs! Heck, that's nothing special. Bunches of people do, or they wouldn't have among the best attendence numbers every year since the Derrick Thomas era started. But I see lots of people who demand of their favorite team, and so they complain when the team doesn't draft the player they want, or sign the right free agent, or let a player go, or call the wrong play, or don't fire/hire coaches according to the fans' whim. I'm not that kind of fan. I don't accept everything the team does...I didn't approve of signing Chester McGlockton. I didn't like the signing of Dan Williams after he sat out a year. I wanted Kimble Anders to get another decent crack at tailback. I wanted Gunther Cunningham to have another year. I was openly critical of the trade for Trent Green. Sometimes I've been proven correct, other times I've turned out to be horribly wrong.

The point is, I enjoy watching the games. I'm not an expert. I've never developed a game plan. I've never had to call plays with a 40-second clock running. I've never played football since junior high.

But I do understand that football is the true team sport, where one person making a minor mistake blows the play, but a team acting in concert for a whole series is unstoppable. I do understand that football is the ultimate in strategy, where you can lose badly even if you clearly have the better teams, if you call the wrong plays at the wrong times. While I love the drama, the suberb physical performances, the truly amazing moments that make you doubt your eyes, I'm smart enough to not let the drama fool me. I listen to the experts. Most of the time.

The thing is, even among experts, you have agendas. You have people trying to make a name for themselves, and the easiest way to seem smart is to criticize everything and remind people of the few times you eventually turn out correct. Aside from the personal goals affecting the process, you have people with different loyalties, different backgrounds, different pet peeves and interests. The result is that you can get multiple opinions on any topic.

The trick is knowing who to listen to, and what to listen to.

That's a good portion of what I try to do. The other portion is to try to find the silver lining, the optimistic angle, the possible positive result. It may be naive, but it's better than giving up on a game because we give up an easy touchdown in the first corner. I've seen lots of fans do that...and sadly, not a few "professional" writers.

I will watch the games. But I haven't lived within several hundred miles of the KC or River Falls areas in nearly 30 years, so I can't see what's happening on the practice field. So feel free to disregard my opinions. But I've got some viewpoints worth noting, so I hope everyone who loves or hates the Chiefs will come back and talk to me about it. Just be civil, okay? And try to use the proper names for our opponents. I won't ban you or anything if you don't...I just like to try to take the high road.

So. Down to business. Mr. Carter said:

Love what they have done on D but man, those corners still scare me especially in light of the fact that the Chiefs still don't have a scary pass rushing DE ala DT or Neil Smith. Better get through those first four games until Warfield is back. Should be an interesting season.

I'm kind of wondering about the plural on "corners". Is Surtain possibly a liability? I've heard no indications that anyone has doubts. Of course, the guy who plays opposite him is absolutely undetermined for the first four games, at least.

I think that's not our biggest area of concern, actually. Until I hear otherwise, I'm going to assume that Surtain is still a legitimate #1 corner, who can shut down a #1 receiver. That's why I'm not so certain that people should be that worried because we face Laveranues Coles, Randy Moss, Ashley Lelie, and (maybe) Terrel Owens in the first four weeks. Simply put, our #2 corner isn't going to be the one defending those guys much. Our #2 corner is supposed to cover/shut down the #2 receiver. Now, if you want to start talking about difficulties in covering Jerry Porter, Rod Smith, and Wayne Chrebet, you might get more traction with me...

But McLeon struggled as the front seven struggled. If our front seven are good to go, he should be more than adequate, as well. CBs often look good or bad depending on how long they have to cover someone...and if they are distracted by having to worry about a runner breaking into the secondary, which we did in every game Maslowski didn't play at full speed. I think our front seven is vastly improved no matter how you slice it; as a result, I think our #2 CB will not lose games for us, whether it is Warfield or McLeon. And if either Hodge or Perkins can build on an impressive OTA performance to take the starting job away from McLeon, we'll be even better off. Sure, unheralded rookie CBs rarely pick things up rapidly enough to start the season...but if anyone can, it's probably Hodge. I've never heard anyone knock his cover skills; everything I've read is that he wasn't the total package in college. But I've also heard he is coachable and learns fast. And if the front 7 do their job, cover skills may be all he needs.

Okay, so we lack a Neil Smith or Derrick Thomas on the DL. Well, Neil Smith without DT was really Neil Smith. He had a sub-par rookie season, and while he was a solid contributer at Denver, he hardly was a "force". DT made Neil Smith, I think.

So what does KC have? Eric Hicks is adequate. Ryan Sims is mediocre. John Browning is average. Lionel Dalton played well. Junior Siavii could break out this year. Carlos Hall has a decent rush. If Ryan Sims plays to his potential, we could have a darn good DL as his drawing of doubleteams would free up other DL players. But where I think our best potential is, is in Jared Allen. He was 1 sack away from tying DT's rookie record...and had two (?) sacks called back for penalties by teammates in the final game. Now, despite having rookie numbers similar to DTs, it would be ridiculous to predict he could ever be a force like DT. He's never going to get 7 sacks in one game, I don't think. He's never going to force opposing teams to game plan to try and slow him down. But he should improve on last year's totals, because he'll have a full season, and he'll be coming off of a full off-season in the Chiefs' strength and conditioning program. I expect him to be bigger, stronger, and faster.

But if we have a DT on our defense, it's probably going to be Derrick Johnson. As long as we get him signed early enough to get some good training in during camp. And instead of being an amazing pass rusher, he's probably going to be an amazing tackler, an amazing pass defender, and a decent pass rusher.

And then he's going to be paired with Sammy Knight, a guy who creates mad amounts of turnovers. Not to mention that the MLB who wins between Kawika Mitchell, Mike Maslowski, Rich Scanlon, and Boomer Grigsby is going to be no slouch on hitting and taking over the middle.

In fact, the guy that worries me the most is the LB I haven't mentioned yet: Kendrell Bell.

He can be very, very good. If his injury troubles are behind him. And that's a significant if. With him healthy and at the top of the game, we have a scary-good weapon. If he's hobbled, well, we wasted his contract.

But at the end of last season, would you have considered a season-ending injury by Julian Battle to be a cause for alarm? Of course not. Three months ago, who would you have bet would have been more likely to have a season-ending injury? Injury-prone Bell or young Battle? No one expected to lose Kris Wilson and Mark Boerigter for the entire year to injuries last pre-season. No one expected that a RB not name Priest Holmes could nearly salvage our season. No one expected that the leading TD-catching TE in the league would not be TG. The unexpected is what makes the game interesting, so I'm not going to write Bell off as a liability until he actually is out due to injury. And even if he does, it sounds like Keyaron Fox is hitting his stride this year, and becoming the better-than-mere-starter-quality LB we hoped he could become when he was drafted.

Bottom line: with the end of a disappointing season staring us in the face, the Chiefs went out and got some of the best possible people to shore up the defense. We have clear upgrades at most positions, and the three weakest positions (#2 CB, MLB, and Safety) should see pretty strong competition that should ensure whoever gets the job will be more than adequate. if we can just have guys step it up at DT...!

Posted by Nathan at 12:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Hey hey! [smacks Nathan on the back hard enough to rattle his fillings if he has any]

Posted by: McGehee at July 28, 2005 06:54 AM
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