Chiefs Will Count On Youth To Provide Depth

Ask any NFL general manager what most teams can never have enough of, and they'll likely say the following: Pro Bowl players and depth. Both are key components that typically fit the profile of playoff-caliber teams.

The Chiefs have plenty of Pro Bowl players on their roster – from offensive tackle Willie Roaf to running back Larry Johnson to quarterback Trent Green – but the overall depth on the team, particularly at key positions, leaves a lot to be desired.

So long as football is a contact sport, injuries will always be a part of the game. Unfortunately, injuries aren't predictable and they often seem to happen at the most inopportune times.

Look no further than the Cincinnati Bengals, who lost star quarterback Carson Palmer on their second offensive play in a playoff loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers last season. There was no way Cincinnati was going to beat the Steelers without Palmer. They weren't good enough to overcome his injury.

And it makes you wonder if the Chiefs are good enough to overcome some injuries of their own. Are they capable of having success if they were to lose a couple of key players in 2006?

What if wide receiver Eddie Kennison were to suffer a long-term injury? Do you really trust Samie Parker to step in and assume the role of a player who has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons?

Or suppose cornerback Patrick Surtain went down. Could the Chiefs line up Lenny Walls and Benny Sapp and expect to get the job done in coverage?

Let's not even get started with the quarterback situation, where 36-year-old Trent Green is likely to have a pair of rookie quarterbacks – Brodie Croyle and CFL star Casey Printers – backing him up.

The problem that most NFL teams face is that it's very difficult to have quality depth at every position on the roster. The restricted roster sizes (mandated by league rules) and the salary cap play a huge role in this.

The New England Patriots have been better than most, and much of that can be attributed to the luck they've had in the NFL draft. Last season they lost several All-Pro players and still made the playoffs.

Again, could the Chiefs do that if they were to get hit with the injury bug next season?

It will depend on how well head coach Herman Edwards and his staff can develop the younger players on the roster.

The Chiefs will need players like cornerback Julian Battle and linebacker Keyaron Fox to return from injuries that cost them all of the 2005 season.

They will need offensive linemen Chris Bober and Jordan Black to improve to the point where, if called upon, they won't get Trent Green killed. Both players were below average pass blockers last season.

The Chiefs are also counting on a pair of young players – offensive tackle Will Svitek and wide receiver Jeff Webb – to make the 53-man roster. Both players have been impressive in early workouts and should have an outside shot at contributing. Webb could become the big target the Chiefs thought they had when they signed Marc Boerigter to a contract back in 2002. Svitek, who has excelled in NFL Europe, could fill in for Roaf, who was hampered by hamstring injuries last season.

It's imperative for backups to not only raise their own level of play, but to challenge the starters ahead of them. Competition will always improve players, and the Chiefs are hopeful that they will discover that first-hand with defensive end Eric Hicks.

Hicks hasn't been able to replicate the 14-sack season he had in 2000, and with the Chiefs looking to employ more of a cover two defense, they'll need to generate a better pass rush from the outside. That's why they drafted Penn State defensive end Tamba Hali, who many expect will push for Hicks' job.

But the bottom line is this: Whether you're protecting against possible injury or if you're hoping to create competition, all teams could use more quality depth. You can never have enough depth.

The Chiefs didn't address all of their needs through free agency and the draft, and are hoping that the players they currently have on the roster will step up.

If the Chiefs can remain competitive despite losing key players (which is something they couldn't do in 2004), they should be poised to make a playoff run in 2006.

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