Behind Enemy Lines: Part I

Our Scout.com experts, John Crist from Bear Report and Nick Athan from Warpaint Illustrated, go Behind Enemy Lines and take a closer look at Thursday's preseason matchup between the Bears and Chiefs at Soldier Field. Let's begin this two-part series with five questions from John to Nick.

John Crist: This preseason game might feature the two most unsettled quarterback situations in the entire NFL. While Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton are currently trading days running the first team in Bourbonnais until Lovie Smith decides on a starter, what is the situation under center in Kansas City? Is it Brodie Croyle's job to lose? Who seems to have the upper hand so far in training camp between Croyle and Damon Huard?

Nick Athan: There is zero doubt in Chiefs camp that Croyle is the starter. There is no debate, no competition and no question that when the regular season starts the young gunslinger from Alabama will be the man in 2008. Huard is the backup, with young Tyler Thigpen the third-string guy at the moment. However, head coach Herm Edwards didn't rule out the possibility of adding another quarterback to back up Croyle.

He did address the Brett Favre rumor in regards to the Chiefs, but he told reporters that to his knowledge there has been zero contact with the Packers.

JC: Larry Johnson had no help whatsoever along the offensive line this past season, and then he got hurt just about the time it looked like he was starting to be productive again. How healthy is Johnson heading into this year? And should we expect him to be the workhourse again, or will we see a generous amount of Kolby Smith and third-rounder Jamaal Charles in the backfield at times?


RB Larry Johnson
Orlin Wagner

NA: LJ has that chip on his shoulder again, and thus far in training camp he's been a manbeast. Edwards likes his players to hit one another, and LJ is delivering blows and bursting through holes like he did two years ago. Smith is out with a groin injury, but Bears fans need to keep an eye on the "Texas Comet." Charles might be the fastest back in the NFL. Once he shoots through a gap, he's gone in a flash.

But he's not alone. Another young running back on the Chiefs roster is former Oklahoma Sate Cowboy Dantrell Savage. He is the entire package and has been a star at training camp.

JC: Dwayne Bowe was sensational as a rookie this past year, but there doesn't look to be too much on the other side of the formation. Who is most likely to emerge as the yang to Bowe's yin? On top of that, is the need for a second option at wide receiver diminished at all because Tony Gonzalez continues to be nothing short of incredible at the tight end position?

NA: The Chiefs flirted with the possibility of taking another top wide receiver in the draft, but the guys they wanted were not as good as the players they had on their roster. They did draft Will Franklin from Missouri in the fourth round, and he's been solid. Right now, he could be the team's No. 3 receiver.

But they do need to find someone who can play opposite Bowe. They hope that former Baltimore Ravens wideout Devard Darling fits the bill. He is strong and can get off the line of scrimmage better than any receiver on the roster at the moment. His speed is deceptive, but he's very tough and physical.

JC: Once the 2008 NFL Draft was in the rearview mirror, every expert from sea to shining sea just loved what the Chiefs did on selection weekend. Aside from the two picks in Round 1, defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and offensive tackle Branden Albert, which member of the rookie class do you see stepping in right away and making the biggest impact?


CB Brandon Flowers
Orlin Wagner/AP Images

NA: I think the player that will have the biggest impact is corner Brandon Flowers, the team's second-round pick from Virginia Tech. For a small corner, he plays big time all the time. He can play bump and run, cover two and has a knack for playing in the offensive backfield. He had 17 tackles behind the line of scrimmage last season for the Hokies.

Both Dorsey and Albert are out with injuries and won't play against the Bears on Thursday night, but the Chiefs like all 12 of there draftees and all but their last pick, tight end Michael Merritt, could make the opening-day roster. Merriit is likely headed for the PUP list.

JC: Jared Allen led the league in sacks last year despite the fact that he only played in 14 games, so losing him from a middle-of-the-pack defensive unit has got to be a hard pill to swallow. Who is in line to replace him at end? And who else will need to step it up and put more pressure on enemy QBs in order to cover for Allen's absence?

NA: That's the $64,000 question in Kansas City. Defensive end Tamba Hali has moved to Allen's slot. That has forced the Chiefs to move former Bears defensive tackle Alphonso Boone from inside to end. It's not his natural position, but thus far in camp he's done a good job getting to the quarterback. The problem for both Boone and Hali is that the Chiefs' improved offensive line has been getting the job done, so it'll be interesting to evaluate their progress after the matchup with Chicago.

Two other guys to keep an eye on are second-year end Turk McBride and rookie Brian Johnston from Gardner-Webb. Each has shown the ability to make plays and get to the QB. But the Chiefs will fight for sacks this year, and their entire ability to hit quarterbacks in the mouth will likely be determined by the push up the middle ñ and that's where Dorsey comes in. However, his debut won't happen for at least another week.

Be on the lookout for Part II of this two-part series, when John answers five questions from Nick, on Thursday.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report. Nick Athan is the Publisher of Warpaint Illustrated.


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