Chiefs Head to River Falls With a Swagger

The Chiefs will arrive in River Falls, Wisconsin today and begin their assault on the 2006 season. It's hard to believe that training camp is already upon us. This off-season started with a bang when the team hired Herman Edwards to succeed Dick Vermeil, and ended with an explosion when they signed cornerback Ty Law.

So what happens next?

Nobody really knows for sure. I have a hunch. But even with the Chiefs yet to put on the pads, play a meaningful game or earn the wrath of the coaching staff, you still can't help but feel good about this team.

Today marks the start of what could be a very special season. Yes, this team still has to find some answers on defense. But with Ty Law in the fold, they're already better on that side of the ball.

I may be crazy, but I don't think this defense is going to resemble the one that struggled the last two seasons under Gunther Cunningham. This defense is faster, stronger and has more depth than any team we watched during the Vermeil era. It also has the most potential.

Linebackers Derrick Johnson, Kendrell Bell and Kawika Mitchell are entering the season with more experience in the system and are all 100 percent healthy entering two-a-days.

Ryan Sims, who might just be the key to the entire defense, has been getting special attention from defensive line coach Tim Krumrie. Though he was a bit overweight during OTAs and received a little chewing out from Cunningham, Sims might still have a shot at achieving the stardom he's capable of.

There has been plenty of bad things about Sims during his Kansas City career, but there is no question that he worked extremely hard last year. He was the best defensive player on the practice field in River Falls last summer, and it was a real shame when he suffered a serious injury in the season opener.

On offense, there should be no drop off in production. Fullback Tony Richardson left for Minnesota and big money, and that has some Chiefs fans worried. All they can do is hope that Ronnie Cruz, who has slid up and down the elevator from the practice squad to the active roster, has the tools follow in his footsteps.

The only other spot up for grabs is right tackle, where Kyle Turley appears to be the front-runner. In 2005, the Chiefs tried Kevin Sampson, Chris Bober Jordan Black and the recently retired John Welbourn at right tackle, but none of them established themselves as the leading candidate this season.

The Chiefs are hoping that Turley, who has been out of the NFL for two seasons, can gain enough weight to play the position at a high level. He believes he can, and despite the fact that he's slimmed down, you can't ignore his experience.

There's one thing that might separate the Chiefs from the rest of the division. For the first time in a decade, they have multiple Pro-Bowlers on both sides of the ball. They also have an energetic head coach who has assembled a coaching staff that excels at teaching.

They know how to get their message across to players. I've always believed that coaching can make a huge difference in the regular season. It takes a great deal of strategy and preparation during a 16-game season to win more than you lose.

That's not the case when the playoffs roll around. Playmakers determine wins and losses during January and February. Fortunately, the Chiefs have them.

And because of that, the Chiefs have as good a chance as any other NFL team to get to the playoffs and make a serious run at the Lombardi Trophy.

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