Allen has been Kansas City's best defensive player for a few years now, but improved his game last season to become one of the best in the league. A recent analysis by ESPN revealed Allen as the league's most skilled pass rusher in 2007, based on his ability to beat one-on-one blocks and his variety of pass-rush moves.
That isn't to say Allen is perfect. Far too often he seems to be taken out of games in the second half, once teams are able to make their halftime adjustments and react to him. But no criticism of his play is strong enough to offset the fact that the Chiefs need to sign him long-term.
DE Tamba Hali
Hali followed up his impressive rookie season with a solid but slightly underwhelming 2007 performance. His stats were mostly right on par with his first year effort, but the nagging injuries he battled all season kept him from taking that next step in his development.
If Hali can avoid the injury bug in 2008, he should bounce back with a strong season – perhaps double-digit sacks are in the future. If the Chiefs were to use their first-round draft pick on a top defensive lineman, the biggest impact could be made on Hali, who has the versatility to be used in a variety of ways to create mismatches along the defensive front.
Will Turk McBride become the three-technique DT the Chiefs need?
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Speaking of versatile linemen, McBride is listed on Kansas City's web site as a defensive end, but saw most of his action last season at defensive tackle. He appeared on the depth chart as the primary backup to both Jared Allen and Ron Edwards, and while he could be serviceable as an end, it's as a quick, penetrating three-technique tackle where he offers the most value.
Whether he's capable of performing that job is something that remains to be seen. McBride will certainly see more action in 2008 than he saw as a rookie, so the questions surrounding him should be answered during the upcoming season.
DT Alfonso Boone
Signed last year in free agency, Boone flat out dominated offensive linemen over the first half of 2007. His performance against the Packers, for instance, saw him singled out for praise by Sports Illustrated's Peter King even though the Chiefs lost the game.
But Boone appeared to tire out during the second half of the season. Considering the lack of playing time that Tank Tyler and Turk McBride received, perhaps Boone and the other linemen played more than expected and simply ran out of gas. If Tyler proves to be a solid option in 2008, Boone will have more opportunities to rest during games.
DT Ron Edwards
Edwards has been a full-time starter since signing with the Chiefs two years ago. Although he hasn't made the sort of impact Boone initially had, Edwards has been an improvement from the days of Lional Dalton, Ryan Sims, and John Browning.
His role as a starter is probably up for grabs with the team going young, but he should be a solid part of the rotation in any case.
Can Tank Tyler shed the label of draft bust?
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With the bad luck the Chiefs have had drafting defensive tackles in recent years, hope has been high that Tank would be the one to finally reverse the trend. But in that same vein, when he didn't pay dividends in his rookie year, fear rose immediately that he's just another name in a long line of busts at the position.
Tank's role should expand considerably in 2008, so the pressure is on him to start calming those fears.
The Chiefs' defensive line is solid, but is by no means perfect. The most immediate issue it faces is a lack of depth. The versatility of Turk McBride helps, but one man can't serve as a fill-in for an entire unit.
While nobody would expect a backup player to be able to fully replace Jared Allen for a game if necessary, the Chiefs do need some reserves who are capable of holding their own. At the moment they don't even have warm bodies, let alone quality backups.
Kansas City boasts one of the best defensive end combos in the league with Allen and Hali, but once Boone began to fade last season, the play from middle of the line was only average at best. It's for this reason that many have speculated about the Chiefs drafting LSU's Glenn Dorsey or USC's Sedrick Ellis in the upcoming draft.
To dominated within the Cover 2 scheme, the Chiefs need their own version of Warren Sapp. Having Hali and Allen rushing off the edges, an elite three-technique defensive tackle coming through the middle, and a big body like Boone eating up space would give Kansas City one of the best defensive lines in the league.