Grading the Chiefs – Part 2: Defense & ST

The 2007 season was supposed to be the year KC's defense blossomed into a dominant unit. For one reason or another, it didn't happen. That will be reflected in our grades, which are otherwise curved based on pre-season expectations for each player or coach.


Jared Allen – A-

Made his first Pro Bowl and led the league in sacks, but disappeared too frequently in the second half of games. Only had three forced fumbles all year and was a liability in run defense at times. Deserves credit for cleaning up his off-field problems, but still has a lot to prove if he wants Dwight Freeney money. Should be franchised in '08.

Tamba Hali – C+

No one plays harder, but that might part of the problem – Hali played injured all year, and it showed. Wasn't nearly as explosive around the corner and only forced two fumbles. You wonder how many sacks Hali might have finished with had he not been attempting to strip the ball all the time. Has been injured in some way or another for two years in a row now. Should take a few plays off in the future so he can be fresh for third down.

Jimmy Wilkerson – D+

Played inside last year, then switched outside for Jared Allen's two-game suspension this year, a role in which he was mostly ineffective. Lost playing time to Turk McBride during the year. Tagged as "a year away from being picked in the first round" when he came out, Chiefs fans have waited five years for Wilkerson to show something. Is Wilkerson another failed Dick Vermeil-era draft pick?

Khreem Smith – I

Promoted to the active roster in Week 14. Dreads flew around wildly in Denver while he chased people all over the field.


Alfonso Boone – B

Nicked a hand during training camp, but rebounded to become a dominant force early in the regular season. Had great games against Houston, Minnesota, Green Bay, Oakland and Cincinnati (had a hand in Brett Favre's face on the game-winning touchdown pass), but disappeared down the stretch like the other defensive tackles. Is Boone starting material or just a backup as he was in Chicago? We'll find out next year.

Ron Edwards - C

Led KC's interior line in sacks, and had a near-dominant afternoon in Indianapolis, but seems to play much smaller than his listed weight of 315 pounds. For such a big man, Edwards is far too often easily contained in the running game, and the Chiefs were terrible up front late this year.

Turk McBride – C -

Tabbed as the two-game replacement for Jared Allen, was relegated to the bench after a poor preseason, but came on at defensive tackle. Had a good game penetrating the middle of Minnesota's offensive line, but was far too inconsistent the rest of the way. Is McBride the future three-technique tackle Herm Edwards covets, or is he the next Jimmy Wilkerson? At least he entertained us on Hard Knocks. Needs to get stronger this offseason.

DeMarcus Tyler - F

Struggled in training camp and made little progress during the regular season. Rumor has it he actually made a couple of plays this year (we swear he put heat on Philip Rivers at least once), but they were far too infrequent. Dominated at times by average linemen and needs to improve his handwork. Tim Krumrie rode Tyler hard in River Falls last year. More of the same is required in '08 if "Tank" is going to live up to his name.

James Reed – I

A 15-game starter in 2006, Reed was active for only three games in 2007.


Napoleon Harris – D-

The apparent yin to Kawika Mitchell's disappointing yang of 2006 as KC's Cover 2 ‘backer, Harris looked like the real deal for about seven games, posting sacks, interceptions and filling holes in the running game. Then he promptly disappeared, almost weekly, from his assigned gap. Managed to post a career-high 116 tackles, but how many were eight yards down the field? Not the long-term answer in the middle, but probably made this year's defensive highlight video anyway.

Donnie Edwards – C+

Started the season strong with a crushing sack in Houston and a classic, swooping interception in Chicago. Most consistent linebacker on the Chiefs, but failed to flash the big-play ability that made him a KC legend. Dropped several interceptions this year and ran into the injury bug late in the season. At almost 35 years old, how much gas is left in 59's tank? At least Carl Peterson got to correct Greg Robinson's mistake.

Derrick Johnson – B

Recorded three sacks in the first month of the season and appeared to be headed toward a Pro Bowl, but tailed off toward year's end. Missed too many tackles and lost way too many jocks along the way. Appears to be an ascending linebacker, but where is his future? The Chiefs moved Johnson all around the field this year – rush end, left side, right side. Might be best if he was moved back to the weakside, his playmaking position at Texas. Had his best season (an incredible 14 tackles for loss), but can get better.

Keyaron Fox – D

Still can't stay healthy. Might be a career backup. The best thing we can say about Fox is that he's not...

Kendrell Bell – F

After a brief, failed training camp experiment at rush end, was relegated to special teams, but KC's worst free agent signing since Carlton Gray still managed to have a negative impact. Still healing from the burn marks Devin Hester inflicted on Mike Priefer's coverage units in Chicago. Was mercifully inactive late in the year, only to horribly resurface again in short-yardage situations, prompting speculation over just how much Gunther Cunningham loves him.

Nate Harris – B

Other than Boomer Grigsby, maybe the best special teams player on the squad, but Chiefs need a better backup in the middle next season.


Patrick Surtain – C

Entered 2007 focused on having a good year after losing 12 pounds before training camp. Had an impressive game against the Bengals in Week 6, shutting down Chad Johnson and picking off Carson Palmer. Might have a year left, but never lived up to his gigantic contract status, posting only two interceptions in '07 and just seven in three years. Almost as slow as Ty Law, but a much better tackler.

Ty Law – D+

Gave opposing receivers cushions so large you wonder how Samie Parker looked in practice during the week. Lost his speed, ability to tackle and mind control over Peyton Manning. Picked off two passes, but both came at the expense of Philip Rivers. On a positive note, Law actually managed to force an incompletion defending a streak route against Calvin Johnson, which probably ripped a hole in the space-time continuum somewhere. Don't move him to safety, don't hold a retirement press conference – dump the NFL's slowest corner now. Time fought the Law, and time won.

Benny Sapp - B

Lost his cool against the Bengals, and gave up too much ground in man coverage at times, but played well enough to stick in '08. The best tackler in KC's secondary, and a decent kick returner. Deserves credit for growing dreads out after suffering almost daily abuse in training camp. Picked off the legendary Brett Favre – more than Ty Law can say.

Tyron Brackendrige – C

Spotted early in training camp working with the starters, "Brack" didn't disappoint, holding his own in nickel and dime defense all year. Got turned around in zone coverage against the Bengals, allowing a touchdown, but secured a win in San Diego with KC's first defensive score since 2005. Deserves credit for playing through a biceps injury.

Dimitri Patterson - B

Played less on defense and more on special teams, but was one of the stars of Mike Priefer's coverage teams.


Jarrad Page – B-

Exceeded expectations in 2006, failed to meet them in 2007. Had three interceptions in limited playing time as a rookie, but just three as a 16-game starter this season. Improved tackling, but still needs work. Gets credit for shutting down Antonio Gates, but KC's best cover safety still has plenty of room to improve in 2008.

Bernard Pollard - D

Deserved a failing grade until marginal improvement late in the year. Still had a horrible season – constantly out of position in pass defense, took bad angles in run support and got used by running backs almost as much as Ty Law. Tabbed as the "big hitter" in KC's secondary, "Bonecrusher" wound up crushing Chiefs' fans hopes mostly, failing to lay the wood more often than not. A major disappointment in his first year as a starter, 2008 is a make or break year. Might be a career special-teams player - and that's not a bad thing.

Greg Wesley – B

Still the best overall safety on the roster, but is obviously being phased out. Laid more wood than any other defender on KC's roster (had a crushing hit on Denver's Tony Scheffler and an equally nasty shot on Minnesota's Bobby Wade). Still gets abused by play-action, but deserves a shot to start in 2008. Probably won't get it.

Jon McGraw – C

Special teams captain somehow found his way onto the field to play snaps with the regular defense. Quickly found his way off the field soon thereafter.


Justin Medlock – F

Had a good training camp followed by a brief NFL career in which he missed just one field-goal attempt.

Dave Rayner - D

Started strong, finished horribly.

John Carney - A

Nailed every kick and got surprising distance on his kickoffs. Should have been signed immediately after it was apparent Medlock was a failure.

Dustin Colquitt – A-

Just missed a Pro-Bowl berth, but lost points for the Devin Hester debacle in Chicago. Had a better year in 2006. Deserves a long term contract.

JP Darche – A

Made everyone forget about the glittering legacy of Kendall Gammon. The nicest Frenchman you'll ever meet.

Eddie Drummond – F

Stole an undeserved roster spot from Justin Phinisee. How do you stop 85? Give him the ball.


Gunther Cunningham – D

Chiefs only got worse on defense as the season progressed, a problem two years in a row. Other than Jared Allen, what player improved on KC's defense in 2007? Hamstrung by a pair of corners who couldn't cover man-to-man if their lives depended on it, but can he find a pair who can? 2008 should be a make-or-break year for Gunther Cunningham.

David Gibbs – B

Did a good job with KC's young corners – Sapp, Patterson and Brackenridge. Got the most out of KC's old corners. Can he develop their replacements?

Don Blackmon – C-

Got a good season out of Derrick Johnson, but how much responsibility does he share for the lack of disciplined run defense from Napoleon Harris? Donnie Edwards has had better seasons.

Tim Krumrie – C+

Did a great job in training camp. Got a Pro-Bowl season out of Jared Allen and half a productive year from Alfonso Boone. Everyone else was a disappointment. Krumrie has a huge task on his hands next year with McBride and Tyler.

Mike Priefer – F

Two years in a row, two horrible special teams units. There's got to be someone out there named "Gansz" who's looking for a job.

Friday: We grade Herm Edwards and Carl Peterson. Top Stories