Is the Jury Still Out on Kendrell Bell?

Kendrell Bell had a disappointing 2005 season. That's an understatement. If it weren't for the improvement of Kawika Mitchell, or the fortunate draft steal of Derrick Johnson, Kendrell Bell would have been thrown out of town by many fans. But there is no question if he's healthy, he has the talent to be special.

Good seasons by Mitchell and Johnson clearly overshadowed the fact that Bell was such a disappointment, saving Bell from even more criticism. Bell was supposed to be the sure thing in the linebacker corps, being a former rookie of the year and Pro-Bowler. He was everything but those things last year.

Coming off a healthy regular season with the benefit of a full off-season, Bell will be given another opportunity to live up to the hype this year. Not many players get a second chance after failing so badly, and this season will show exactly what Bell is all about.

Was Bell's disappointing 2005 the result of a position change from 3-4 inside linebacker to 4-3 outside linebacker? Was he affected by injuries that had him playing at less than 100 percent during the whole off-season and regular season? Both of these things are true, and that is why Bell has been given a second chance.

Bell was forced to take a pay cut, but with a Pro-Bowl season, Bell would definitely get his money back. He'll have to prove he's the same player that dominated in Pittsburgh. He must stay healthy and be a consistent playmaker and fierce hitter.

Reports from OTAs say Bell looks like a completely different player this year. Gunther Cunningham and Herm Edwards have not hesitated to stick up for Bell this off-season. All signs point to him having a much better year in 2006, but until he proves it, there will still be people questioning the signing of a 3-4 inside linebacker to play outside in the 4-3.

One report had Bell running stride-for-stride with Larry Johnson, making a play on the ball like a defensive back. That was unheard of during the 2005 season. I don't recall Bell making such a play in coverage in any game, including preseason.

Some people might say that making plays in practice and making them in a live game are two different things, but anyone who saw how horrid Bell was in coverage last year understands why anything reported to the contrary is exciting. Still, many Chiefs fans have low expectations for Bell, with good reason.

I think that Bell will bounce back the way Mitchell did after the 2004 season and prove all the naysayers wrong. I'm not about to start a Kendrell Bell fan club, though. He's going to have to prove it.

With Keyaron Fox sitting behind him, Bell will need a solid, consistent season to keep his starting job. Everything points to Bell improving immensely, but until he does, the jury is still out.

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