Broncos, Chargers Will Force Chiefs to Change

The NFL works in weird ways sometimes, especially when it comes to building a team and constructing rosters. As a general manager, it's important to improve areas of weakness on a football team. Right now, it seems as though the Chiefs have several.

But because of the other teams in the league, particularly the teams within the division, the Chiefs are going to have to prioritize. The Chiefs could use upgrades along the offensive line, at wide receiver, at defensive tackle and at cornerback. All of those positions are either lacking depth, youth or skilled players.

When there are so many needs that need to be filled, it's impossible to address all of them in one offseason. And so, soon enough, the Chiefs will have to make some tough decisions.

In April's draft, the Houston Texans held the first overall pick and the rights to the most unanimous number one choice in league history: Reggie Bush. It was a no-brainer. The Texans had to take Bush. He was the best college athlete of our generation, capable of turning any play into a highlight-reel touchdown. The offensively challenged Texans would have no other choice.

Of course, the Texans did have other choices, and they proved it. They took North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams. They are still fighting off criticism for the move. But when you hear the explanation for the decision, it sort of makes sense. The Texans said that no matter what they did offensively, no matter whom they brought in, they would still never field a better offense than the Indianapolis Colts, a team they have to play twice a year. In that context, the pick is justified.

The Texans realized that in order to stop the Colts, they would have to build a dominating defense. In other words, if you can't build an engine that's as fast as theirs, you might as well come up with some methods to slow it down. It's a work in progress.

That brings us back to the Chiefs. When Dick Vermeil became coach of the Chiefs in 2001, the rest of the division, particularly Denver's Mike Shanahan, knew that it was just a matter of time before Vermeil's offenses would be flying high and averaging 30 points per game. And slowly but surely, year after year, offseason after offseason, Shanahan improved his defense.

The Chiefs forced Shanahan, widely considered to be an offensive mastermind, to shift his focus to the defensive side of the ball. Shanahan had the foresight to realize that he would never outshoot the Chiefs, but understood that he could perhaps slow them down.

Shanahan drafted players like D.J. Williams, signed free agents like John Lynch and traded away arguably the best running back in the league, Clinton Portis, to the Washington Redskins for one of the game's premier cornerbacks – Champ Bailey.

So far, it's worked. Especially now that the Chiefs' offense is no longer what it was. Aging veterans have since moved on via retirement or free agency. The talent level has dropped. Many of the offensive coaches have left, too.

While Denver was busy constructing a defense that could slow down the mighty Chiefs, the Chargers were doing much of the same. They bulked up along the defensive line over the last few years, drafting players like Igor Olshansky and Luis Castillo. They added big-time players like Shawne Merriman, who is responsible for Priest Holmes being out of football right now. They have gotten tougher, and they present a lot of problems for the Chiefs.

And right now, the Chiefs don't present many problems for anybody. Maybe not even for the hapless Oakland Raiders, who, oh by the way, were not following the approach taken by the Broncos and Chargers over the last few years. They have just been doing their own little thing.

Now that the Broncos and Chargers have been able to build up dominating defenses, the shoe is on the other foot. The Chiefs must now find a way to get better, and to offset their strengths. The Broncos and Chargers, along with a laundry list of other teams, employ blitz-heavy schemes. They like to bring pressure from all directions. The Chiefs don't have the offensive line to withstand it.

Though we like to gripe about the fact that the Chiefs have failed to take any shots downfield so far this year, the reality is that that it's too risky. There simply isn't enough time, and the Chiefs can't count on their personnel to execute consistently. The receivers aren't good enough to get separation. The offensive line can't hold a block for longer than four seconds. The running backs, though markedly improved, are still very average in blitz pickup.

The defenses are getting better, and the Chiefs offense is getting worse. That's why the Chiefs will have to reevaluate their strategy looking forward. The game is changing.

Defenses are getting faster, quicker and more aggressive. It makes me believe that without dominating personnel, the Air Coryell offense that has been so successful here over the last five years is a thing of the past. It's just near-impossible to protect the quarterback for the necessary time.

If you watched Damon Huard closely against the Steelers, you would notice that he had a tendency to lock on receivers, and throw it to them whether they were covered or not. It was almost as if he had decided where he was throwing it before the ball was snapped. He knew the pressure was coming, he knew he would have to act quickly, and he knew he had to get the ball out in a hurry.

The Chiefs don't have an identity right now, but their competition certainly does. And since it's unlikely that the Chiefs will ever build up a defense that can allow just one touchdown in five games (as the Denver defense has done), they might have to look toward reviving the offense once again.

And if it means drafting a wide receiver in the first round for the first time since Sylvester Morris in 2000, then so be it.

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