Strength of Chiefs Defense Rests Up Front

While the focus of the Chiefs defense this offseason has been the back seven, improved defensive line play is critical if Kansas City wants to contend in the AFC West this season.

In defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham's attacking scheme, defensive line play is paramount in limiting opposing offenses effectiveness. His defense is built on getting penetration in the opposing backfield, pressuring the quarterback and disrupting the timing of the running game.

The Chiefs are depending on improvement from within on the defensive line. With Lional Dalton, Eric Hicks, Ryan Sims, Junior Siavii, John Browning and 2004 Mack Lee Hill award winner, Jared Allen, the Chiefs apparently felt that the line was capable of improved play, adding only Carlos Hall to the mix.

Thus far, the defensive line play has improved dramatically this offseason. The improvement can be seen across the entire depth chart, giving the Chiefs the pleasant dilemma of figuring out who to play where and when.

Although, they don't garner the attention, defensive tackle play is the most important facet of the defensive line. When the tackles are dominating the line of scrimmage, it makes it easier for the entire defense. Defensive tackle Lional Dalton has been head and shoulders above the other lineman thus far. Dalton was the team's most effective defensive tackle last season, and is continuing his high level of play this offseason. A free agent acquisition in 2004, Dalton, although talented, had exhausted almost all of his options in the league. His play was an absolute surprise, and he became a consistent force at the line of scrimmage.

Ryan Sims, although effective in spurts, has not consistently played to the level the Chiefs felt he would when they drafted him with the sixth pick in 2001. A holdout, injuries and apparent concentration lapses have all conspired to slow his development. This offseason, however, it appears that Sims has rededicated himself to the position. Typically, Sims would forgo the Chiefs offseason workouts in favor of working out in his hometown of Atlanta. This year, Sims has participated fully in the Chiefs offseason program and it has shown. Sims looks faster, and has carved out a place as a leader in the locker room.

John Browning is the Chiefs Swiss Army Lineman. Over the years, he has played well as both a defensive tackle and end. Browning has been the most consistent lineman. He hopes to challenge defensive end Eric Hicks; last years team leader in tackles along the defensive line the past two seasons; but his versatility might not allow that to happen. He has continued to play at a high level this offseason, and it is clear that he will remain the coaching staffs' defensive line security blanket this season.

Second year player Junior Siavii is the most intriguing prospect on the Chiefs defensive line. A solid mountain of a man, Siavii is exceptionally agile and quick, period, let alone for a man his size. At times last season Siavii showed signs of being an absolute force on the defensive line, overwhelming blockers with his size and quickness. Unfortunately, he would also disappear at times, so it appears that he needs to work on his consistency. If he can keep focused and continue learning, Siavii could eventually become our best lineman.

On the outside, last season's rookie sensation Jared Allen will try to build on 2004's surprising success. Although coming out to a slow start this offseason, Allen has come on strong, and is looking as good as or better than last season at this time.

Defensive line stalwart Eric Hicks will continue to man the left side, although he may be in for a fight with newcomer Carlos Hall. Hicks has continued to be his solid self, but Hall has impressed the coaching staff with his athleticism and quickness. It will be interesting to see how much Hall will be able to work its way onto the field.

This offseason, the Chiefs have been aggressive in pursuing defensive players to improve last year's defensive effort. The defensive line, however has taken to task to raise last year's level of play. It is a vote of confidence from the front office and coaching staff, for sure, yet it applies a tremendous amount of pressure on the players to step up.

The Chiefs' destiny depends on it. Top Stories