Monday Morning QB: Just Not Enough Playmakers

If there was any question about the heart of this football team, it was partially answered Sunday night in San Diego. The Chiefs did a good job playing with a heavy heart in the face of losing owner Lamar Hunt, but it's clear that they don't have the talent to be a playoff team. But at least that's the easy part to fix.



Head coach Herm Edwards and President Carl Peterson will have to make some tough decisions, but some of their players made those decisions a little easier.

The Chiefs have the talent of a .500 team right now. I think Edwards could coach any group of players to an average record, but in order for this team to win three or four more games next year, upgrades are needed.

The Chargers exposed KC's weakness at outside linebacker. The Kendrell Bell experiment is over, because he's just not physical enough to play the position. On both of LaDainian Tomlinson's touchdown runs he was blown up by a fullback. All he had to do on both plays was slide to the hole. If nothing else, he would have bogged down the run.

Instead he fell weakly to the ground in an attempt to take on a blocker who overmatched him. But Bell isn't alone because Derrick Johnson isn't playing up to his skill level. I realize he's recovering from a serious ankle sprain, but where is the playmaking ability he flashed at the University of Texas?

He's not flying to the ball and he's not physical enough to take on blockers on every snap. He needs to use his speed to shoot the gabs to disrupt the play, but that might be a coaching issue. It could also be the linebacker cast around him.

Kawika Mitchell may prove to be too expensive to resign this offseason. If I were the Chiefs I'd make a run at Chargers linebacker Donnie Edwards and plug him in as the middle linebacker for the next two seasons. I'd then move Keyaron Fox to the starting lineup as Bell's replacement and take my chances building up the defensive line.

The Chiefs have been handicapped all season by the play of their defensive line. Jared Allen and Tamba Hali are solid pass rushers, but that's not enough. This ‘Cover Two' isn't worth a hill of beans if you can't get pressure on the quarterback.

Edwards had a good game plan last night. He attacked Philip Rivers, and if he had the penetrating defensive tackles up front that he needs, this defense could be borderline great.

Against the Chargers the Chiefs defensive tackles were not a factor. Had they been able get some penetration Tomlinson doesn't score at least one of his first two touchdowns in the first half.

The secondary is just getting old. The Chiefs have solved the safety position with youngsters Bernard Pollard and Jarrad Page, who both will start in 2007. They'll be tested, but I think they can handle it.

That means the Chiefs should be relatively active in trying to secure via free agency or the draft interior defensive lineman and young cornerbacks.

But the real problem on this football team is the offense. Based on what I saw last night, I'm not sure Trent Green can get the job done with an offensive line that'll be in transition next season. With only Brian Waters a lock to return in 2007, Green's age is quickly becoming a factor.

Green was under duress last night that will only intensify in 2007. With a receiving corps that's challenged by speed, height and play-making ability, Green's going to have to rely on Larry Johnson. But LJ isn't the same runner when the line in front of him doesn't open holes. Though it's a long shot, keep the name Chad Pennington in the back of your minds as free agency begins in March.

Don't get me wrong, I love Green, but this team isn't likely to seriously compete for a division title until 2008. The Chargers are going to be the team to beat for the foreseeable future, and Denver isn't far behind them. What those teams do is make solid player personnel decisions. The Chiefs are finally taking that lead and making better decisions in the draft.

They found three starters from this draft (Hali, Page and Pollard) and my guess is that they'll find at least two more in April. But Kansas City needs help on both sides of the ball. They need two more fruitful drafts to complete the turnover that father-time has bestowed on the team Edwards inherited.

With all that said, the Chiefs aren't really as far away as some think and don't for a minute think this team won't make strides next season in securing better and younger talent.

The Chiefs aren't out of the playoff picture as we wake up this morning but they're definitely in the middle of the pack. Teams that want to play meaningful games in January don't lose consecutive games in December.

They also don't lose to inferior teams on the road.

Five to Bench:
1. RB Derrick Ross - Just fall on the ball. Ross' muffed punt was a 14-point swing, and that's what you get with a rookie who hasn't played much football. He's a future star in this league but he has to know what to do in that situation.

2. LB Kawika Mitchell - He's just not the physical presence in the middle of the defense that this team needs. He was overmatched play after play trying to tackle Michael Turner. It's sad to think that Mitchell will likely earn a multi-year deal in 2007 for roughly $5 million per season. That would not be money well spent for the Chiefs.

3. OC Mike Solari - Anyone who puts in Dee Brown to play running back needs to be benched. Enough said.

4. KR Dante Hall - Anytime you aren't willing to take on a kicker as a return man you need to stay on the bench. Rewind your DVR's and watch Hall weakly run out of bounds instead of taking on Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding. It was awful.

5. C Casey Wiegmann He's had a nice career, but he isn't physical enough to play effectively against a 3-4 defense. He's undersized and it's finally caught up to him. Remember the name Rudy Niswanger. He could be the starter next season. He reminds me of a young Tim Grunhard.

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