Saturday night the Kansas City Chiefs defense made the jump to respectability. It was a leap forward that many had anticipated based on the movement they made in free agency and the NFL draft.
We've already seen flashes of their potential dominance. I use that word with some caution, but consider this fact. The Arizona Cardinals threw to Patrick Surtain's side of the field one time. He broke up the only pass that came his way, and—with a little help from his Dolphin buddy Sammy Knight—he sent a message that throwing to that side of the field was futile. So the Cardinals picked on Dexter McCleon and had some success.
Consider the fact that the entire defense held the Cardinals' first-string offense without a single point in the first half. Even further, linebackers such as Kawika Mitchell, Derrick Johnson, Scott Fujita and Kris Griffin each made plays. They showed speed and play-making abilities that give us hope this unit will be even better when Bell and Keyaron Fox return from injuries.
Up front, the Chiefs put some pressure on Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner. Eric Hicks, Jimmy Wilkerson and Jared Allen created enough havoc that Warner had to throw some passes early. The pass rush should get a boost this week when Hall returns to the mix. Inside Ryan Sims struggled, but Junior Siavii will be back at practice today. Lional Dalton remains steady and the anchor of the defensive line. He'll get some company, as John Browning will try to clear the cobwebs and take his rightful place in the rotation.
The impressive part about Saturday night was that the team showed an immense improvement from the Minnesota game. The Vikings moved the ball at will, and the defense looked out of sync. But against the Cardinals, the Chiefs defense blitzed, tackled and showed a tenacity that had been missing the last two years.
Gunther Cunningham has taken painful steps towards rebuilding the defense while waiting to get some of his horses on the field. That should all change today, as Cunningham gathers most of the parts and pieces that will be available come September 11th.
Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Dick Vermeil talked with the media yesterday and confirmed that most of the defensive players who have been sidelined by injuries will make it back to practice.
"Defensively, we should get both defensive tackles back. John Browning we'll hold out of contact work and not play in the game, but we'll get Junior Siavii back. We'll get Carlos Hall back, and I think Kendrell Bell back. We'll get Jerome Woods back, too, I think. So, there'll be some new faces on the practice field tomorrow."
One player of note on that list is safety Jerome Woods. With Greg Wesley struggling on and off the field, Woods' leadership and ability could vault him ahead of Wesley. When healthy, the Chiefs have four solid safeties. Currently, Woods is on the second team with William Bartee who has successfully made the transition back to his natural position.
Woods needs to get back on the field to showcase his talents. He's either going to help the Chiefs this season or he could be shipped off to another team before the final cuts.
Woods has not responded very well to his back-up role. He was late reporting to OTA's and was very sullen during mini-camp and parts of training camp. But Kansas City made a point to upgrade that position this offseason, and with the addition of Sammy Knight and the emergence of Bartee they've done just that. Woods needs to show what he's made of and make a statement in the Chiefs' final home preseason game on Saturday. If not, he could be in jeopardy of not making the final roster.
This weekend's game will be a huge test for the front seven. The Seattle Seahawks' first-team offense was impressive last night against the Dallas Cowboys, and running back Shaun Alexander should play the entire first half on Saturday. The Chiefs won't be facing a back any better than Alexander this season.
The team's run defense did a great job preventing the Cardinals from getting into a rhythm on the ground, but Arizona did't have Alexander in the lineup. The Chiefs defensive line will need to get in the backfield and disrupt the flow of their offense. If they can do that and some of the new parts and pieces can get on the field, then optimism could guide the rest of the way.
The Seahawks game will likely determine the roster spot for most of the fringe players on defense. Next week's show-me-game against the Rams will be nothing more than getting a few reps and using players that have no shot to make the roster.
Vermeil and Cunningham will find out a lot about the players on the defensive side of the ball come Saturday night. After all the offseason moves, injuries and practices, this weekend's game should see the Chiefs horses on the field together for the first time. And that should have everyone excited.
Vermeil Hopeful Horses Will Return
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