I find the Kansas City Chiefs one of the more intriguing off-season stories in 2008. An old team is scrambling to become young.
The Chiefs have been ancient by NFL standards this decade. From 2000 to '06, the average age of the Kansas City roster was 27-plus years. From 2002 to '07, the average age of the starting lineup was 28-plus years.
Dick Vermeil was the head coach of the Chiefs most of the decade. He preferred older players. Veterans don't make the mistakes that beat themselves. As long as the Chiefs were a viable playoff contender, general manager Carl Peterson bought into Vermeil's philosophy.
Now Vermeil is gone, the Chiefs are no longer contenders and Peterson is embracing the philosophy of his next head coach, Herman Edwards: Go young.
Edwards earned his coaching wings as an assistant on Tony Dungy's staff at Tampa Bay. Dungy is the Godfather of the draft 'em/play 'em philosophy. The best way to make a young player better is to put him on the field.
The Chiefs went to the playoffs as a wild card in 2006 with a 9-7 record, then collapsed in 2007 at 4-12. Five players from Edwards' first draft class in 2006 are now starters and a sixth from the Class of 2007 has joined them (WR Dwayne Bowe).
The Chiefs selected two defensive tackles in the first day of the 2007 draft, Turk McBride in the second round and Tank Tyler in the third, and one of them figures to start in 2008. That would give the Chiefs seven draft picks from the Edwards era in the lineup.
The Chiefs then adopted the Jimmy Johnson formula for success this off-season – trade your best player to the Minnesota Vikings and use the draft picks to accelerate the rebuilding. The Cowboys traded Herschel Walker in 1989 and the Chiefs peddled NFL sack leader Jared Allen in 2008.
Allen cost the Vikings a first- and two third-rounders in the 2008 draft – and those picks provided the springboard for the NFL's best draft.
The Chiefs injected 12 more young players into the roster in April and three of them are walk-in starters: first-rounders Glenn Dorsey (DT) and Brandon Albert (OT) and second-rounder Brandon Flowers (CB). That would be 10 starters in three drafts since Edwards became coach.
The key draft pick of the Edwards era is quarterback Brodie Croyle, a third-rounder in 2006. He figures to open his first season a starter in 2008. If he proves to be the answer at quarterback, the Chiefs are on their way back to contention, be it 2008 or 2009.
But at least now you can see the plan – and Dungy has proven the plan works.
-Rick Gosselin, Dallas Morning News
Finally, someone from outside the Chiefs' organization and the greater Kansas City metropolitan area is drinking the kool-aid. Gosselin makes some interesting observations, and his optimism about KC's future gives optimistic Chiefs fans everywhere a little sense of justification.
While Gosselin had positive remarks for the Chiefs, his projection that there will be 10 players drafted by Herm Edwards starting this year may be a little off. First off, neither Tank Tyler nor Turk McBride have been regularly working with the first-team defense this offseason. Ron Edwards and Glenn Dorsey have been the starting tackles, with Tamba Hali and Alfonso Boone starting at end.
The fact that neither Tyler or McBride have been able to crack the starting lineup may be the biggest indictment on Edwards' drafting history in Kansas City. The most disappointing aspect is McBride's play. Granted, he's only a second year player, but he came into the NFL as a tweener. He was a little small for a defensive tackle and a little slow for an end, but isn't Alfonso Boone a little big and slow for an end as well?
Along the defensive line, look for two starters to be Edwards' draftees in Dorsey and Hali. The linebacker corps will boast zero Edwards' draftees, but the defensive backfield could have as many as four. The safety positions are set with Page and Pollard, Brandon Flowers looks like a lock as a starter, and fellow rookie Brandon Carr will definitely challenge Patrick Surtain for the other starting corner position.
As far as offense goes, the quarterback position is solidified with Brodie Croyle, and depending on how you define the word starter, Brad Cottam could qualify, because offensive coordinator Chan Gailey wants to utilize more two tight end sets. If Jeff Webb or Will Franklin can hold off Devard Darling, both starting wide receivers will be Edwards' selections.
Along the offensive line, Branden Albert will probably be the only starter drafted by Edwards during his time in Kansas City, but big training camps and preseasons from Barry Richardson and Tre Stallings may change that total.
By my calculations, the Chiefs could start as many as 12 to 15 players drafted by Edwards over the past three seasons. Though McBride and Tyler have yet to prove their worth as second and third-round picks, Edwards has proven that he can draft well, and the youth he has brought to Kansas City has given reason for a renewed sense of optimism.
Tamba Hali must improve his game now because he's the featured pass rusher sans Jared Allen. Hali has skills and is relentless as a pass rusher. He needs to finish better and become more consistent against the run.
The other starter, Alfonso Boone, is moving from tackle, where he was a solid and occasionally spectacular player. The backups are Turk McBride, who had a disappointing rookie season, and rookie seventh-round pick Brian Johnston. Grade: C. Pro Bowl-caliber players: None.
-Adam Teicher, Sporting News
In this article for Sporting News, Teicher (Chiefs beat writer for the Kansas City Star) gives out grades for the Chiefs' offensive and defensive units. I have to respectfully disagree with Teicher's criticism of Tamba Hali.
Hali gets a bad rap around Kansas City. Sure, Jared Allen led the entire league in sacks last year, but Hali is no slouch. Allen recorded just 10 more tackles than Hali last season, and forced only one more fumble. In 2006, Hali forced six fumbles, twice as many as Allen, and recorded one-half sack more.
I'm not going to argue that Jared Allen isn't a fantastic defensive end, or that he doesn't strike fear into the hearts of opposing quarterbacks, but he's not exactly the second coming of Reggie White. During his time in Kansas City, there were always questions about his ability to play the run.
Jared Allen got to play the right side, the quarterback's blind side. Now Tamba will line up on the right side, and he'll have more inside help this year than Allen ever did with the addition of Glenn Dorsey. Allen is a great pass rusher, and he beat Hali to the punch on a lot of sacks last year, but who's to say that Hali wouldn't have gotten there if not for Allen?
The real questions at the defensive end position should surround Alfonso Boone. He pressured the quarterback pretty well last season from the tackle position, but there's a world of difference between tackle and end.
If you've watched the Chiefs play the Broncos before, you know they love to utilize the bootleg, and Gunther Cunningham has to be having nightmares about watching the 305-pound Boone chasing Jay Cutler around the backfield.
Boone will have one sure move from the defensive end position - the bull rush. That may be all he needs to be effective on first and second downs. There is always the possibility the Chiefs' will bring in a pass-rushing specialist on third downs, but the best pass rusher off the edge they have besides Hali might be the seventh-round draft pick Brian Johnston.
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