Scout.com Chiefs Report

The changes are coming. The question is, where? In one breath, Chiefs coach Herm Edwards sounds like he's preparing for a youth movement.

"There's going to be youth on this team, period," Edwards said.

Then again, actions speak louder.

The Chiefs re-signed 30-year-old tight end Tony Gonzalez to a five-year deal, ensuring he'll retire a Chief. And Edwards said he intended to retain Trent Green as the starting quarterback. Then again, he hinted rookie receiver Jeff Webb would be a bigger part of the offense.

Edwards thought his coordinators did a good job, but said he could make some more changes on the coaching staff after firing his weight room staff.

The offseason strategy, as it's been presented by Edwards and general manager Carl Peterson a, sounds like more of the status quo, i.e. another round of just good enough for a winning record, not good enough to win in the playoffs. The Chiefs, Edwards said, are unwilling to "blow up" their offense, despite its dramatic drop in performance the last two seasons that has coincided with its rise in age.

"Some of the positions changed, we changed a coordinator," Edwards said. "That hindered it some. We had two quarterbacks playing. That hindered it some. That, to me, is not surprising."

What Edwards said might be surprising is some of his offseason moves.

"There will be some tough decisions," Edwards said. "There will be some unpopular decisions at times. But the big decisions is what's best for the organization."

Edwards explained the decision-making process this way:

"I'll give you the readers' digest version of (the evaluation process)," Edwards said. "Is he an ascending player -- that means is he going up? Has he plateaued? Is he a descending player?"

At 27, running back Larry Johnson is the youngest of the key players on the Chiefs' offense.

NOTES, QUOTES


--The Chiefs gave rookie Tamba Hali the team's Rookie of the Year award after he collected a team-leading eight sacks to go with an interception. Hali was the team's leading tackler after two weeks, a title he later relinquished. Nonetheless, he started every game after the Chiefs took him No. 20 in the draft.

Still, he didn't feel like he had a good season.

"Naw," he said. "There's a lot of things I could have done better."

--Herm Edwards' eyes lit up at the question.

Do the Chiefs want more defensive players in the draft?

"Yeeeeeeaaaah boy," Edwards said, rubbing general manager Carl Peterson's back. "Yeah, we need some defensive players. No doubt about it. But we understand this: We're never gonna pass up a good football player."

QUOTE TO NOTE:
"Your mom and them gave you a real name, It ain't DA. Your name is Damon. It's a nice name." -- Chiefs coach Herm Edwards to Kansas City radio personality "DA" at his season ending press conference.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL


UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS


QUARTERBACK:


Starter -- Trent Green. Backups -- Damon Huard, Brodie Croyle, Casey Printers.

Green is 36 and showing his age and the effects of a Week 1 concussion that cost him half the season. Green threw 11 interceptions in nine games and has neither the quickness nor soundness of decisions that made him a two-time Pro Bowler. With average pass protection, Green became a below-average quarterback in 2006.

Huard took all the relevant snaps in Green's injury-induced absence this season and was surprisingly effective, finishing with a 97.3 quarterback rating and 11 touchdowns against one interception. He was more accurate and more confident on his deep throws than Green was, and while not normally as accurate as Green overall, showed a better understanding of the Chiefs' strategy under coach Herm Edwards.

Brodie Croyle played sparingly and poorly in his rookie season. Croyle entered training camp with an outside shot at the No. 2 position and was no less impressive than Huard in those early practices. But regular-season and even preseason game situations exposed Croyle as the rookie that he is. He seems to have the arm and the accuracy, but durability has always been a question, going back to his college years. He'll need at least another year on the bench before he's ready to contribute in a meaningful game.

RUNNING BACKS:


Starters -- RB Larry Johnson, FB Kris Wilson. Backups -- RB Michael Bennett, RB Dee Brown, RB Derrick Ross. Injured reserve -- FB Ronny Cruz, RB Priest Holmes (physically unable to perform).

In his first season as a full-time starter, Johnson proved he not only is capable of carrying the full load, but proved himself one of the NFL's best runners. His pass blocking, pass catching and overall lack of versatility limits the Chiefs' offense in ways that it never was when Priest Holmes was the starter. He has a penchant for dropping passes in the flat and doesn't seem to enjoy running those plays anyway.

The jitterbug-like Bennett is an effective change-of-pace to Johnson's bruising style, but he had difficulty staying healthy, which severely limited his carries and severely raised Johnson's. When healthy, Bennett is among the fastest players on the Chiefs and has shown the ability to break big runs.

Holmes began the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list and ended it on IR, all indications being that his career is over after suffering a severe neck injury in Week 7 of the 2005 season. He has been rehabilitating in San Antonio, but the aloof Holmes does not speak to reporters. The only Holmes-related information has come through Chiefs president-general manager Carl Peterson, who will not count Holmes out for 2007.

RB Dee Brown is almost strictly a special teams player and will be fortunate to be on the Chiefs' roster at the end of next season. Ross is another practice squad guy who may not be back for the start of next season.

Wilson is really a tight end who filled in at fullback when Cruz went down with a knee injury in Week 5. He is effective as a pass receiver and serviceable as a blocker, though not dramatically better or worse in this area than Cruz. If the Chiefs did not need his services as a tight end, he would probably push Cruz for the starting fullback position. Cruz is rehabilitating his ruptured knee and should be ready by training camp, if not before.

TIGHT END:


Starter -- Tony Gonzalez. Backups -- Jason Dunn, Kris Wilson.

Gonzalez again was the Chiefs' best receiver, though they didn't utilize him in the play-action game as much as they have in previous seasons. The Chiefs re-upped his contract for another five years, meaning unless it is re-worked, they'll eventually be paying a 35-year-old tight end top dollar in a few seasons. He still has as much explosiveness and speed as ever and showed a renewed ability to shed tackles this season. He has voiced displeasure with his role in the offense, which came and went at various points in the season, partially depending on who the quarterback was.

Dunn actually finished the season on IR, but that was strictly because it was Week 17. His back injury was not serious, though it did linger for the final month of the season. He is a glorified offensive tackle at 275 pounds and poses virtually no threat in the passing game. He remains effective as a run blocker, better, actually, than some of the Chiefs' tackles. Wilson, of course, finished the season as a fullback, but frequently split out. His athleticism gets him open, but he is prone to dropping passes and hasn't necessarily shown much ability to make yards after the catch.

WIDE RECEIVERS:


Starters -- Eddie Kennison, Samie Parker. Backups -- Dante Hall, Rod Gardner, Jeff Webb.

Kennison saw his string of two straight 1,000-yard seasons come to an end with 53 grabs for 860 yards this season. Kennison isn't the deep threat the Chiefs brought him to Kansas City to be in 2001, partially because he has slowed, partially because the Chiefs are so conservative. He did lead the team with 16.2 yards per reception and scored a team-high five receiving touchdowns.

Parker has made little progress since his rookie season in 2004, when his track speed made him an attractive deep threat. Now the Chiefs basically use him for quick slants and crossing patterns, which, at 5-foot-11, isn't his strength. He averaged 13.7 yards per catch and didn't have a touchdown after Week 3 and does not display good enough hands to be a possession receiver.

Hall, frankly, adds nothing to the Chiefs' offense. He has lost whatever spark he had in 2002 and 2003 and is much too small to be a consistent target. The Chiefs oddly like to throw him lobbed passes in the back of the end zone, throws which he has difficulty catching. They also throw him quick passes and screens, but injuries and age have stolen his elusiveness. He caught 26 passes for 204 yards this season.

Gardner, a former first-round draft pick, has never duplicated the spectacular rookie season he had in Washington. The Chiefs used him little, and he gave them little. Gardner is big and strong, the type of receiver who the Chiefs will look for under Edwards.

Webb, a rookie, had a couple of electrifying kick returns when Hall was out with injury and should take Hall's spot next season. Webb spent half the season inactive and didn't get many opportunities in the regular offense, though Edwards said Webb would play a larger role next year.

OFFENSIVE LINE:


Starters -- LT Jordan Black, LG Brian Waters, C Casey Wiegmann, RG Will Shields, RT John Welbourn. Backups -- T Kyle Turley, T Will Svitek, T Kevin Sampson, T Chris Terry, G/T Chris Bober, C Rudy Niswanger, T Tre Stallings. Chris Bober.

There was so much shuffling on the offensive line, particularly at tackle, that it's hard to determine who played which position and, because of injuries, who was the starter. Undoubtedly, tackle was the line's weakness. Sampson began the year as the starter at right tackle and quickly hit injured reserve. Turley began the year at left tackle, but was severely underweight and oft-injured. Black ended up anchoring the left side and had a sometimes promising, sometimes dreadful season.

Welbourn, coming off a retirement and six-game drug suspension, wasn't much better on the right side, where he finished the season. Waters probably overtook Shields as the team's best lineman (especially in the run game) though both made the Pro Bowl. Wiegmann has always been smallish, but the Chiefs' scheme always played to his strengths by pulling him into space, a strategy they did not implement so much this season in favor of the Johnson-favored downhill game. Svitek is a promising prospect, but spent almost the whole season on injured reserve. He is a converted defensive lineman, and excels as a run blocker, but needs technique work in the passing game. Terry, Bober and Stallings filled in, but aren't long-term solutions.

DEFENSIVE LINE:


Starters -- DE Jared Allen, DT James Reed, DT Ron Edwards, DE Tamba Hali. Backups -- DE/DT Jimmy Wilkerson, DE Eric Hicks, DT Ryan Sims.

Allen had another good season, registering 7.5 sacks, but improved most dramatically in the run game and displayed a tremendous motor, leading the team with six forced fumbles and an interception. Hali exceeded expectations with a team-leading eight sacks and four fumble recoveries. After two games, he was the team leader in tackles. Hali won't beat many double teams, but his athleticism allows the Chiefs to drop him into coverage, where he made an interception.

Reed and Edwards were both offseason additions to fill a gaping hole in the middle of the Chiefs' line. They were passable, but neither should be an NFL starter. They combined for 3.5 sacks and made few plays or disruptions. Wilkerson played his best downs as a defensive end, though he recorded no sacks.

Hicks is rapidly approaching the end of his career. Hali beat him out for the starting left end position from Day 1 of training camp and Hicks was the most seldom used of the Chiefs' lineman. Sims is also likely on his way out of Kansas City. He has never approached the billing that came with his No. 6 overall slot in the 2002 draft. He had 11 tackles in 2006.

LINEBACKERS:


Starters -- WLB Kendrell Bell, WLB Kawika Mitchell, MLB Derrick Johnson. Backups -- Keyaron Fox, Boomer Grigsby, Kris Griffin, Rich Scanlon.

The Chiefs shelled out a load of money two years ago for former rookie of the year Bell, and he hasn't given them much. He had 57 tackles (six for loss) this season and one sack. His coverage skills are not what they were reported to be and he's unusable on third-and-longs. Edwards would like to see Mitchell become the defense's leader, but his play isn't quite good enough to warrant it, though he led Kansas City with 118 tackles.

Johnson is the biggest blitz threat of the group, getting 4.5 sacks in an injury-shortened season. His speed allows him to make plays no one else on the field can make. He just doesn't do it enough. However, Johnson was leading the team in tackles through six weeks until an ankle injury sidelined him for the better part of four games. Fox and Johnson are similarly sized and skilled, and Fox performed admirably in Johnson's absence, leading the team in tackles twice, though he missed two crucial third-down tackles in a loss at Miami. He should challenge for the WLB spot next season.

Grigsby, a short, stocky wild man, should be a special teams ace, and he's fine there, but not great. A middle linebacker, he almost never plays on defense, because Mitchell has remained healthy and plays every down. Scanlon, who finished the year on IR, and Griffin are both strictly special teams guys with Griffin leading the Chiefs with 22 special teams tackles.

DEFENSIVE BACKS:


Starters -- LCB Ty Law, RCB Patrick Surtain, FS Sammy Knight, SS Greg Wesley. Backups -- SS Jarrad Page, FS Bernard Pollard, CB Benny Sapp, CB Lenny Walls.

Law led the Chiefs in interceptions with six (including two in the playoff game), but didn't have the kind of impact most expected when the Chiefs signed him as a free agent last offseason. He gave up a couple of big plays by falling down or otherwise slipping and is a less consistent tackler than his reputation would indicate. The perception seems to be that Law is beatable on deep patterns, which was true of him this season.

Surtain had another OK year with 77 tackles and one pick, though he was not a shutdown corner by any stretch. He usually switched to the nickel back position when the Chiefs went nickel.

In those situations, Walls would take over at RCB, where he was also vulnerable to the deep ball. Walls' 6-4 frame makes him an interesting matchup, particularly in the Chiefs' Cover 2, though he made zero noteworthy plays this season. Knight is another slowing member of the Chiefs' secondary, though he finished with 87 tackles despite rotating with rookie Page. Page came on strong late in the year, picking off three passes in the final three games. If he doesn't start next season, it will be the biggest upset on the team.

Wesley had 71 tackles and three interceptions, but seems to have lost some of his desire to deliver a knockout blow. He also finds himself out of position in coverage more often than anyone else. He'll be back next season unless Pollard shows remarkable improvement over the offseason.

Pollard, incidentally, was a special teams star, but couldn't get on the field defensively. He loves to hit. He'll be a starter eventually, but may not be ready next season. Sapp had an injury-riddled year. When healthy, he specializes as a blitzing nickel back. But with Surtain playing nickel this season, his opportunities were rare.

SPECIAL TEAMS:


K Lawrence Tynes, P Dustin Colquitt, LS Kendall Gammon, KR/PR Dante Hall.

Tynes had a bad year, even before he missed a 23-yard field goal, in a dome, in the playoffs. He has plenty of leg, but isn't reliable on middle-distance kicks. He went 4-for-6 form 30-39 yards and 7-for-10 from 40-49.

Colquitt had a terrific season, unleashing on a semi-regular basis 60-yard blasts and routinely hitting 50-yarders. He crushed a 72-yarder in Week 17. In all, he averaged 44.3 yards with a net 39.3. Gammon had another perfect season.

Hall has slipped noticeably in his speed and agility. He's been injured some, and at important places like his hip and ankle, which were the most important joints for the human joystick. He had a relatively effortless punt return TD this season, but averaged 8.9 yards on punt returns and 22.8 on kickoffs with a long of 60.

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