Greg Wesley Makes his Mark

When the Kansas City Chiefs overhauled the defense this past offseason, they were animate that safety Greg Wesley stay in place despite being, in some people's eyes, the poster child for the team's defensive struggles the last two seasons.

Some people, including myself, felt that safety Jerome Woods should have been the starter. After Wesley's three interception performance against the New England Patriots, boy were we wrong.

The truth is, this season Wesley has validated his coaches' confidence in him with a Pro Bowl level performance thus far in the 2005 campaign. Wesley's improvement has been a major factor in the Chiefs' ascension from the bottom of the league's ranking defensively. So far this season, Wesley has now picked off six passes tying his career high he set in 2002 and 2003.

But this season he's playing at a Pro-Bowl level. In fact, some could argue this is his finest season as a pro. Over the last couple of games Wesley has certainly been the type of play making safety that defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham thought he'd be when he came back to coach this defense in 2004. For Wesley, it's been a two week highlight film, with a scintillating blend of with hard hits, forced fumbles and interceptions.

Actually, we shouldn't be surprised. Wesley has been a solid player since the day he arrived in Kansas City, even putting together a couple of seasons where he could have been a Pro Bowler. The young safety quickly made a name for himself around the league with his hard hits. The last season or two, Wesley wasn't the explosive player everyone expected him to be. Part of that was scheme and the talent around him but he worked his tail off in the offseason determined to be a difference maker.

"Greg Wesley is a guy that since I've been here, I thought never played as well as everyone told me he was going to," Vermeil told reporters. "This year, he is. One reason he is, he made a commitment in the offseason, and he went to work. Right now he's reaping the rewards of a total commitment long before this game ever took place."

Wesley dedicated himself this season, and it's paying off. When the Chiefs signed free agent safety Sammy Knight, Wesley decided that it was time to make his impact on the NFL. After playing strong safety for five seasons, Wesley was switched to free safety, meaning that Wesley would have to play an even bigger role in defending the pass, and that meant he would be expected to be more of a ball hawk than in seasons past. Throughout the offseason and training camp, Wesley worked hard to become the player he knew he could become.

"My offseason might have been as hard as I've worked since I've been playing," Wesley said matter of fact.

Fellow safety Sammy Knight can see the difference. Playing right alongside Wesley, Knight maybe gets the best view of Wesley's play.

"He's grown leaps and bounds," Knight said. "I watched on film and I saw him play, and when I watched the guy I always wondered why he wasn't in the Pro Bowl. He's a great player, and he's a guy who can run. Normally, you don't have free safeties who hit as hard as Greg, and he has the range, and he's very intelligent, too."

"Playing with him is a joy, you get to play with a guy like that who understands the game and can hit and runs and makes plays. It's great."

In fact, today's game against the New England Patriots could be considered a coming out party for Wesley, who snagged three interceptions off New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Before the game, Wesley told tight end Tony Gonzalez he would pick Brady off three times.

"I told Tony I was going to get three picks today," Wesley confessed.

Gonzalez was in awe. "I knew he was capable of doing that," Gonzalez said, "but I didn't no about THREE."

But after that performance, Gonzalez was willing to make a prediction of his own about the Chiefs defensive star on Sunday. "It's getting to the point where he's established himself as one of the best players in the league and you're just seen the beginning of it," Gonzalez predicts.

He could be right.

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