State Of The Chiefs: Defensive End

In part two of our series, the focus turns to the edges of the defensive line in evaluation of the defensive ends. Two years ago this position was Kansas City's greatest weakness but recent free agents and draft picks have improved the group.

Jared Allen – When you consider his production over the past two seasons it's hard to believe Jared Allen was the 129th player taken in the 2004 draft. In fact, Allen should now be considered the best defensive end of that draft as he's outperformed all the others. That includes Will Smith of the Saints, Kenechi Udeze of the Vikings and Jason Babin of the Texans, all of whom were first round picks.

As Kansas City's premier pass rusher, Allen has performed as you might expect during OTAs. Willie Roaf has been unable to practice with the team and Allen has abused anyone else playing left tackle. Inexperienced tackles don't have an answer for his blend of quickness and power.

Whether you are watching film or looking at statistics, it's easy to see that Allen steadily improves with each passing season. The coaching staff attributes this to his tireless work ethic. He's one of the first players to hit the practice facility and one of the last to leave. Based on his previous performances, Allen will most likely make the Pro Bowl in 2006.

Tamba Hali – Tamba Hali has made a great deal of progress since he first joined the Chiefs two months ago. He's been soaking up Tim Krumrie's coaching like a sponge.

There have been days on the practice field when Hali has disrupted every play run to his side. He's like a giant energizer bunny with spin moves, and he just wears his opponents down to nothing. Sometimes a player can be deceiving without pads on, but I'm willing to say that Hali is ahead of the curve right now. He's definitely exceeded my expectations.

Hali is also becoming one of the defense's emotional leaders. He's continually yelling words of encouragement or barking instructions to his teammates. They usually have a positive response to his prodding, which is fairly surprising considering he's a rookie.

Carlos Hall – It's unfortunate that Hall was injured for most of the 2005 season because he has the talent to be a difference maker. At this time last year the coaching staff may have had him penciled in as the starter opposite Jared Allen, because he tore things up during mini-camps and OTAs.

Hall has been much quieter this off-season, both on and off the field. He hasn't been willing to talk much and he isn't blowing guys up like he was a year ago. It's not that he's been playing bad, but he hasn't stood out as much.

Hall will be a big key to the success of this defense in 2006 because he'll provide the Chiefs with a talented three-man rotation at defensive end. The cover-two is a defensive scheme that lives and dies with the pass rush, so his role couldn't be more important.

Eric Hicks – Hicks has been sidelined all off-season recovering from rotator cuff surgery. Hall and Jimmy Wilkerson have stepped up in his absence and are solidifying their spots on the roster. At the same time it's almost impossible to out-work Eric Hicks and anyone looking to replace him is going to have a tough fight on their hands.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Hicks once the team hits River Falls. Herm Edwards seems to prefer young players and Hicks will have to adjust to a back-up role. Unless the Chiefs carry five defensive ends, he'll be competing against Wilkerson and Hall for what will likely be the final two spots on the depth chart.

Jimmy Wilkerson - The former Oklahoma standout bounced around at the beginning of OTAs as the coaches tried to find which position suited him best. After seeing him used extensively at left defensive tackle, the Chiefs have moved him back to defensive end in the past two weeks.

Wilkerson is currently rotating with Hali at left defensive end. He's been in the middle of a few plays but hasn't shown the same play-making ability that Hali possesses. He is stouter at the point of attack than Hali is, however, so he'll likely replace him in the lineup on goal-line and short yardage situations.

Due to Wilkerson's versatility, I'd be shocked if he didn't make the roster. I think he'll likely take over John Browning's role as the utility defensive lineman.

Zach Ville – Ville is currently listed on the Chiefs roster as a defensive end, but I expect them to move him to the interior of the defensive line by the end of training camp. At this early stage of his career he's shown a lot more promise as a defensive tackle than he has at defensive end. With the Chiefs need for a pass rushing tackle, the move would only seem logical.

Ville had a nice run in Europe this off-season with the Rhein Fire playing the "three technique". If you've seen him play at both end and tackle you'll soon notice that he flashes a lot more when lined up over an offensive guard.

Clint Mitchell – Although he was an outstanding player in college, Mitchell hasn't had the same impact in the NFL. He's done a fairly decent job in recent camps but really doesn't have a shot at unseating any of the players we've listed above.

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