Warpaint Roundtable – Offseason Edition II

In this week's edition of the Warpaint Roundtable, we talk rookie offensive tackles, Gunther's new job, and Brodie Croyle.

What do you expect from Brodie Croyle this season? Is steady improvement enough or will he have to win 6-8 games?

Michael Ash: As long as he's properly protected and has a running game behind him, I definitely expect steady improvement. The second part of the question seems to be asking what the Chiefs expect from him. I wouldn't put a number on it, but Croyle needs to show the Chiefs he can win some games. That may be asking quite a bit if the play of the offensive line doesn't improve.

Nick Athan: Fans should lower their expectations until there are five guys who are willing to die for their starting quarterback up front. This line was bad last year, with only Damion McIntosh earning high marks. If Croyle is going to develop into a winning quarterback without losing a limb, the Chiefs have to fix the line before anything else.

Assuming that happens, and based on the opponents and the fact I believe Croyle has the right stuff, if he wins six to eight games and improves throughout the season, it would be a success. But if he's punished as he was a year ago behind an inept line, we won't know what he has until midway through the 2009 season. It's going to take two seasons for the Chiefs to learn what they have or don't have in Brodie Croyle.

C.E. Wendler: Forget winning games or showing improvement. Start with staying healthy. If Brodie Croyle can't stay healthy, he's worthless to the Chiefs as a franchise quarterback. That's the first hurdle he must jump in 2008.

Anything else is gravy, to be quite honest. Croyle has the tools and mental makeup to be a successful starting NFL quarterback, but I expect him to get injured. There's no reason to believe anything else will happen until proven otherwise considering his history.

That's not necessarily horrible in the grand scheme of things. Tyler Thigpen could be the next Tony Romo. You might find that notion laughable, but the undrafted Romo spent three years on the bench before rising to stardom last season. Stranger things have happened in Kansas City (Brian Waters came out of nowhere as a tight end).

With Carl Nicks' age and off-the-field issues and the fact Sam Baker is apparently being talked up as a guard because of his finesse style of play, who do you think is the best possible offensive tackle the Chiefs can select with their second-round pick should they pass on one in the first round?

Michael Ash: Making the likely assumption that Boston College's Gosder Cherilus goes before the Chiefs pick in the second round, the answer would probably still be Nicks in terms of talent. But those issues that were mentioned, including his banishment from Nebraska's pro day, may cause him to fall. I wouldn't discount Baker just because some project him as a guard. The Chiefs need help all over the offensive line - having a player they could try at both tackle spots and at guard wouldn't be horrible.

Nick Athan: Nicks is a likely candidate for Kansas City. The Chiefs have spent a lot of time with him. Age is an issue and Hicks had some personal problems at Nebraska, but he also has two children who have helped mold him into a better more responsible adult heading into the NFL.

Would the Chiefs consider Carl Nicks in the second round of April's draft?
Brian Bahr - Getty

There are some who don't view Nicks as the answer at left tackle. I think he'd be dominating as a right tackle. The same goes for Baker, who I know the Chiefs like, because he's gone up against some of the premier defensive ends in college.

But the guy I think the Chiefs will draft in the second round is Kansas tackle Anthony Collins. All three scouts I talked to about Collins told me next to Ryan Clady and Jake Long, he has the best set of god-given tools and could dominate in the NFL with some good coaching.

C.E. Wendler: I'm of the belief that if the Chiefs wait until the second round to take an offensive tackle, he won't be protecting Brodie Croyle's blindside in 2008. I think it's far more likely that you see Kansas City take a player to man the right tackle spot and leave Damion McIntosh at left tackle.

With that said, it follows that someone who's been scouted as a dominant run blocker would be the best choice. Despite his issues, Nicks fits that mold, but so does Pittsburgh's Jeff Otah, a massive man whom the Chiefs met with this past week.

Many of us are predicting the Chiefs will not finish the way we would like this year. If we are in the same situation next offseason, who will be on the hot seat? King Carl or Herm?

Michael Ash: Herm, just because Carl has said in the past that he plans to retire when his contract is up in 2009. It's hard to be on the hot seat when you're only going to be around for one more year. If the Chiefs are disappointing again in 2008, Herm will have a year to right the ship in the hopes that a new GM doesn't completely clean house.

Nick Athan: I don't think there is any question that there's far more heat on Carl Peterson than Herm Edwards. All the head coach is doing now is what he should have been able to do when he took the job in 2006.

If Edwards would have been able to dump the old in 2006, perhaps we'd now be talking about resurgence in 2008. Instead, that talk will have to begin in 2009. Either way, I would not be surprised if Edwards gets a contract extension this year.

C.E. Wendler: Regardless of how good or bad the Chiefs are this season, no one will be on the hot seat going into 2009. That doesn't mean the people running the show at Arrowhead aren't held accountable for results. Allow me to explain.

Even before the Chiefs went 4-12 last year, everyone knew Peterson was going to step down after 2009. It's set in stone. Carl can't possibly be on the hot seat, because he's leaving anyway. And it would be counterproductive to dump the man who's overseeing the Arrowhead Stadium renovation project. Furthermore, according to some people, Herm Edwards has more control over the football operations these days.

Does that mean Edwards would be on the hot seat following a poor 2008 season? No. If the Chiefs don't show significant improvement next year, most likely it means Brodie Croyle didn't improve. That would open the door for Edwards to draft a franchise quarterback at the top of the 2009 draft, which would easily grant him more time to turn things around. The bottom line is that no one is going to fire a head coach because a third-round pick didn't pan out.

Is Gunther Cunningham coaching the linebackers a good thing or too much for one man to handle?

Will Gunther Cunningham be an effective linebackers coach in 2008?
Brian Bahr - Getty

Michael Ash: Based on what Herm Edwards said Monday, it was Cunningham who wanted to start coaching the linebackers. So I'd have to assume he thinks he can handle it. I think it'll be a good thing – the linebackers are a critical part of KC's defensive scheme, and Cunningham is an experienced linebackers coach.

Nick Athan: Cunningham did a good job with the linebackers in Tennessee and he wants to be more involved with the defense in Kansas City. I'm not 100 percent sure what happened with Don Blackmon but obviously he could not handle the trio of Napoleon Harris, Donnie Edwards and Derrick Johnson.

The problem with this defense last year was the fact Harris was generally in the wrong spot. As a middle linebacker, your job is to stay in the middle of the line, not wander to the outside and leave gaping holes inside. That's why the Chiefs signed DeMorrio Williams, because there's talk about eventually moving Derrick Johnson to the middle.

Cunningham knows that the linebackers are critical in the continued growth of the defense. They need to play at a higher level. If they don't, the defense could take a step backwards, especially when you consider the jury is out on Jared Allen's future.

C.E. Wendler: First off, no one can ever question Gunther Cunningham's work ethic. Hundreds of NFL coaches put in long hours, but how many would accept additional duties – or even ask for them - without hesitation? At the very least, you have to admire him for that.

But is it the right thing for the Chiefs? I'm not so sure. Will the linebackers now get the attention they need without a full-time coach? Who's going to coach KC's linebackers on the sidelines on gameday, since Cunningham will remain in the booth? There are several questions concerning this move with potentially negative answers.

And consider this – Cunningham will be 62 when the 2008 regular season begins. As a longtime fan of Gunther Cunningham, I already worry about the kind of workload he's become famous for. It'd be awful if he got burned out simply because the Chiefs couldn't find someone else to coach linebackers. According to NFL.com, every other AFC team has a linebackers coach. Why not the Chiefs?

Is Rudy Niswanger going to be 100 percent healthy by training camp, and if so do you think he can be an effective starting center for the Chiefs?

Michael Ash: All signs are that Rudy's ahead of schedule in his recovery and will be ready for camp. He was promising last year at guard, and was a starter at center for a major college program (LSU), so I think he'll do alright.

Nick Athan: I asked Herm Edwards that very question last week. He told me Niswanger would be ready to go by OTAs, which is outstanding news based on how bad he wrenched his knee last year. I saw Rudy after the surgery in December and didn't think I'd ever see him on the field this year.

He's worked his tail off and right now he's the starting center. I thought he did a great job at guard a year ago. He's got the size and strength, and his knee was a fluke so I don't think he's injury prone. He'll be ready to go full speed by July. Even with Niswanger's recovery, I expect the Chiefs to draft a young center this April. Herm Edwards won't go into the season without a backup plan.

C.E. Wendler: Herm Edwards said Niswanger was KC's starting center going into OTAs this week, which sounds great, but I'm cautiously optimistic. Knee injuries on 300-pound men are risky business.

Niswanger hurt his knee at the beginning of December last year. Four months later he's the starting center? I certainly hope the Chiefs aren't rushing Niswanger as they rushed Damion McIntosh last year after his training camp knee injury.

If healthy, Niswanger looks like a great replacement for Casey Wiegmann. In limited duty last season, he was pulling everywhere and smashing any defender in his path, clearing lanes for Kolby Smith. I was almost angry when the Chiefs took Niswanger out of the game in favor of John Welbourn several times last year.

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