Youth Is Starting to Show Its Age for Kansas City

With the emergence of running back Larry Johnson the future at running back looks even better than it did to start the season. Injuries to All-Pro running back Priest Holmes and back-up Derrick Blaylock gave Johnson the opportunity he needed to showcase his talents. But with the injury to wide receiver Johnnie Morton, rookie Samie Parker was able to make the most of his chances.

In a season of disappointment the Chiefs continued their fourth quarter serge by whipping up on their most hated rivals the Denver Broncos 45-17. On Sunday, they gave Chiefs fans something special to think about for 2005 as some of their youth showed that they can make plays if given a chance. There was so much more in defeating the Broncos at Arrowhead than the final score. Not to mention the offense but for the most part the Chiefs defense played to an acceptable level. Granted they had an edge today because they knew the Broncos were on the other end of a lopsided score. This defense did not have to worry about Denver's vaulted running game.

Now there cause was aided by Dante Hall who returned the opening kick-off 97 yards and sets the stage for a route. Though the game was close at times in the first half, Kansas City played their best game of the season in destroying the Broncos.

Larry Johnson continued his case to become not only the Chiefs back-up running back next season but challenge Priest Holmes as the starter. It's not a stretch to think that possibility exists. This organization should give serious thought about mobing Priest Holmes in the off-season. The Broncos have a great defense and he shredded them for two more touchdowns adn looked impressive all day long. On the day, Johnson ran for 151 yards on 30 carries.

As I said in a column last week, the thought of the Chiefs trading Holmes is slim to remote but Johnson to me can be the starting running back for this organization for years to come.

But another young player took the most of his opportunity as wide receiver Samie Parker showed that he can make plays in this offense. The former Oregon track star has been struggling to get on the field. After a series of injuries including a nagging hamstring injury, Parker caught his first touchdown of the season.

Outside of Eddie Kennison who led the Chiefs with two touchdowns and another 100-yard receiving effort, Kansas City does not have anyone else that can stretch the field. At the NFL combines last year, nobody was faster in the 40-yard dash than Parker.

The Chiefs fell in love with him at the combines but knew because of his size that he would not be a first day draft pick. They crossed their fingers and thanks to a trade were able to select him early in the fourth round.

Chiefs V.P. of Player Personnel, Lynn Stiles, told me after the draft that they knew it would take him sometime to adjust to the complexity of this offense. But once it happened, he could shine. One thing that hurt Parker was the fact he was unable to work with the Chiefs in the off-season because he had not completed his classes at Oregon State.

He was unable to work with the Chiefs along with fellow Pac-10 draftee Junior Siavii until mid June.

Parker caught three balls on the game but none was as special as his 48-yard touchdown. The Broncos defense had not seen any film on and so they kept playing him man on man. But on the touchdown pass, the Broncos were blitzing and Parker blew past Broncos cornerback Kelly Herndon at the 20-yard line and ran into the end zone untouched.

With the emergence of Eddie Kennison as the teams most significant receiver of date, the future looks bright for Parker. He's the fastest player on the roster and if Kansas City can cultivate that speed, Parker could play a significant role next season. That means the Chiefs could be in a position to release wide receiver Johnnie Morton next season.

It's no secret at Arrowhead that the Chiefs will bring in another wide receiver either through the draft or in the free agency market but having Parker in hand and contributing means the Chiefs can afford to be aggressive.

The word this off-season will be to upgrade the talent. The defense played better on Sunday. Much-maligned cornerback Dexter McCleon played better and even linebacker Kawika Mitchell added a pair of sacks; one that stopped the Broncos on fourth down.

This game was even special for tight end Kris Wilson. The man who the Chiefs had engineered so much of their game plans for the beginning of the season, has come full circle after suffering a broken leg on the teams final pre-season game in Dallas.

Wilson in my opinion was the difference maker for this offense when the team struggled starting the season at 1-4. Wilson was so much a focal point of the game plans in those games that his loss crippled the Chiefs offense. Despite the fact that Wilson was a rookie, he was so impressive in the off-season workouts and in the first two exhibition games; that Kansas City held him out the final two games because they wanted to use him in their season opener against Denver.

On the play he was injured in Dallas, he was not even supposed to be on the field. But those things happen and hopefully he'll get some more playing time the next two games against the Raiders at home and the Chargers on the road to finish this miserable 2004 campaign.

But this game served as a lesson for the Chiefs organization. There has a lot been written about some of the youth standing up to the veterans on this team in recent weeks. Today the young guns continued to flex their muscles and that's a good sign for this team that needs an infusion of youthful energy and leadership.

One of those players who could step up is rookie defensive end Jared Allen who didn't record a sack today but he was all over the field. He along with linebacker Monty Beisel has been the most quoted of the defensive players the past couple of weeks. There is no doubt that this defense is better when Beisel and Allen are on the field at the same time.

Other highlights today was the play of defensive tackle Junior Siavii and nose tackle Lional Dalton who is only 28 years old and could be poised to be even better next season. There is stuff to build upon on this defense and those are good places to start.

Another player who needs more playing time is free agent cornerback Benny Sapp. If you ask some of the Chiefs coaches, they'll tell you he has the most skill to be a cover-shut down corner for this team. He nearly had two interceptions today and despite he was called for a questionable pass-interference penalty late in the first half, he played a strong game.

No doubt a young cornerback will need to be added to this roster in the off-season but Sapp made a statement today as he's moving up the depth chart. He'll go up against some good receivers the next two games. It'll be good for this organization to put him in more situations to see if he can cover some of the better receivers.

But today's shellacking over the Broncos on Sunday should be the engine that drives progress for next season. If the Chiefs make smart decisions this off-season through the draft and though free agency to blend in some of the younger talent on this roster, they can be a formidable team in 2005.


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