Defensive Line's Getting Better

After getting picked on by the Giants and the Texans in their first two preseason games, the Kansas City Chiefs desperately needed a solid showing from their defensive line. Against the St. Louis Rams, the Chiefs' front four got it done, giving the Chiefs hope going into the season.

If the Chiefs want to be successful in the Cover Two, they have to generate pressure from the defensive line. The guys up front have to disrupt offensive timing, force errant or quick passes and be stout against the run.

"We did a good job of stopping the run," said head coach Herm Edwards. "We went into this game knowing we had to stop (Rams running back Stephen Jackson) from running, and make them pass and try to put pressure on the quarterback."

The Chiefs limited Jackson to only 22 yards on 10 carries. Once the Chiefs stopped the run, the Rams were forced to throw, which fell right into the Chiefs' collective hands. Knowing they could tee up on the quarterback and rush, the defensive line was able to pin their ears back and get after Bulger.

"We rushed four guys and got to the quarterback," said Edwards. "We don't want to have to blitz all the time to get to the quarterback. We did a pretty good job."

Rookie Tamba Hali looked sharp in his first action this preseason. The Chiefs moved Hali around, inside and outside, and even used him as a stand up rush end. Hali scored a sack where he stripped the ball, and the Chiefs recovered the football. Hali was everything the Chiefs hoped he would be when they took him with their first pick in this year's draft.

As impressive as Hali was, veteran Jimmy Wilkerson was even better. Wilkerson played tackle and defensive end and like Hali, rushed the quarterback a few times as a stand up defensive end. The Chiefs love Wilkerson's versatility, and despite being a backup, he figures to be a major part of the defensive line rotation.

"They have certain defensive calls and they're just trying to put me in different spots," said Wilkerson. "They asked me ‘Hey, you want to play stand up defensive end, and I said okay. I played linebacker in high school and a little bit in college, so I know the linebacker situation."

Apparently, versatility will be the secret to Wilkerson's success. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has been pushing him the last couple of seasons, and it looks like he's coming into his own.

"He played pretty well," said Edwards of Wilkerson. "He's a versatile guy, he can tackle, he can play defensive end. He's a full effort guy, he's a full speed guy and he did some good things. He brought some pressure, we like him as a football player. He's a guy that obviously has a role in this defense."

Defensive tackles Ryan Sims and Lional Dalton got in on the fun, too, and consistently applied pressure against the Rams' second-team offensive line. On one play, Dalton exploded off the ball, and knocked his opponent back about three yards on his butt. That's the kind of intensity and effort the Chiefs have been waiting for from the defensive front line. It was the second team, but the linemen did what they were supposed to do: dominate the guy opposite them.

It's still early, but the Chiefs now have a defensive effort they can build on. Overall, the game was pretty sloppy, but at least the effort and intensity was there from whistle to whistle. Let's keep watching to see if the trend continues. If the defensive line keeps playing this way, the Chiefs will be tough to beat this year.

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