Edwards Has His Team – Part II

Yesterday Herm Edwards talked about his offseason plan, quarterback Brodie Croyle, and his new coaching staff. Today we conclude our exclusive as Edwards discusses his defense and facing New England on Sunday.

Edwards spent a lot of time making changes to his offense this offseason, adding a handful of new coaches and new players, not to mention making Croyle his unquestioned starting quarterback. But his passion remains on the defensive side of the football, as he attempts to turn the Chiefs into perennial division winners.

Will that happen this season? If it does, it will be the defense that carries this football team. But Edwards has to deal with the fact the entire unit is younger and is now missing one of its premier players from a year ago, defensive end Jared Allen. Who will replace him? Edwards does not know.

"They just need to be who they are and that's all you can ever ask players to be," he said. "Their career will be defined on how they play. The great thing about them is that they're going to play."

Youth will be the pulse of the defense this year, as KC's starting defensive line consists of second-year linemen Turk McBride and Tank Tyler, rookie Glenn Dorsey, and third-year defensive end Tamba Hali.

No, none of them are Allen. But Edwards still likes the group he has assembled up front.

"They're all guys we drafted, guys we feel are good football players," he said. "Tamba Hali being the first out of that class as an end, we moved him to the right side. There'll be a lot of talk about how many sacks he's going to get, but this is about winning."

"I always tell players you can have a great season as a player, and you can go to the Pro Bowl, but if you don't win…when you get over there and all those other guys are talking about playoffs and Super Bowls, you really start reflecting. That's the deal."

"You can't lose sight of that. Sometimes when you receive those accolades and the team doesn't win, it's OK, but this is a team thing. To me it's how a player makes other players live up to their expectations and talent. How many players do you bring along with you? That's the key."

Edwards knows there is pressure on his defense because that side of the ball is ahead of the offense, and of course defense is the cornerstone of any championship team. Still, he's riding his upfront muscle on four guys that have to prove they can do it at the NFL level.

"I just think these young guys are going to have an opportunity to play," said Edwards. "How they play, we'll find out. It's about consistency more than anything else and it's about winning. Can they play at a level that will give us a chance to win? That's the most important thing."

"Every guy is different. Some guys you go wow, he really developed to be this guy. And then once you find out you have to coach them to where you know how they'll react. Then you get the best out of them and that's all you can do."

But that's only two thirds of the plan for Edwards, who had to make sure when he put together his final roster that he had enough quality players to contribute on special teams. That was one of the reasons he kept five running backs when the roster was cut down to 53 players last week.

"It always bothers me when you tell players that if they're good players, they'll make the team," said Edwards. "Well all of a sudden you've got an over abundance of players in one group and then you look at these other groups and think you have to keep this number of guys. Who says so?"

Edwards doesn't share that philosophy, because in his mind you can never have enough good football players.

"You keep the best players," he said. "Some people look at that and say you can't keep five running backs. Why not? If those five running backs are better than the eighth and the ninth guy at another position, then why not? It doesn't make sense not to. You keep the best players because they'll find a way to play, and then you have a bargaining chip. You have strength at one position."

"If you keep another guy and let one of these guys go, you really weaken yourself. The guy you kept, you think you eventually want to get rid of him, but you just got rid of a good football player. You don't do that."

And that's what is so refreshing about Herm's bunch in 2008. In years past the Chiefs have not always kept the best football players, but long-term, Edwards is trying to build a winning program. If you don't keep the best players, what kind of message does that send to your football team?

"The more we do that," said Edwards, "the better off we're going to be in the long run."

That run begins Sunday at New England, where nobody is giving the Chiefs a chance to win. Edwards is realistic about his team's chances, but realizes this weekend is just one of 16 games on the schedule. He's focusing on that, and is not distracted by the fact his team has one of the most difficult season openers in the entire NFL.

"You can't get caught up in all the distraction and the hoopla, and that's every week in the NFL," said Edwards. "My job is to prepare the team and the coaching staff to have a plan everyone is comfortable with and believes in."

"I don't get caught up in all that other stuff. I don't read it, I don't listen to it. That's what other people do for a living. What I do for a living is try to prepare this team and make them focused."

And if the Chiefs win?

"If we should win this game, I would hope that people will understand that's what we prepared to do," said Edwards. "But then it's over. We're not going to sit and talk about that game. If you don't do it that way then you're really cheating your football team."

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