Nick Athan: I liked him from his first OTA session a year ago. He was having his way early in those sessions and the words Jared Allen, but better, came to mind as the team began featuring him in passing situations. Based on the start of his practices he was ahead of Allen's curve as a rookie. I like his game and think he has high upside. Right now I'd pencil him in as a starter at defensive end along with Turk McBride. Injuries and defensive line coach Tim Krumrie messed him up last year, so hopefully a good offseason will put him squarely in the mix to be a surprise this year.
Michael Ash: How can the Chiefs even try him at defensive end? Are there any 3-4 ends in the league under 280 pounds? If Johnston tries to bulk up it may negatively impact his speed, which was one of his best attributes coming out last year. He'll surely be in the mix at outside linebacker, maybe as a situational pass rusher, until he can develop as an every-down player.
C.E. Wendler: Like Michael said, Johnston's size limits his options in a 3-4 defense. I don't see how he has a prayer of starting at defensive end in that scheme. But if you believe the talk the Chiefs are moving to a more hybrid scheme, in which they combine elements of the 3-4 with the 4-3, there's definitely a spot for him.
Envision the Chiefs sticking Johnston and Tamba Hali on the field in a 4-3 pass-rush package. Johnston would have to be the right end, of course. Comparisons to Allen are putting way too much pressure on Johnston, because he lacks Allen's wingspan and first step, but some of the other elements are there.
What do you think about extending the regular season? I like the idea of a shorter preseason and more regular season games that count, but also realize the value of the preseason in evaluating young players.
Nick Athan: Eventually they'll settle on an 18-game season with two bye weeks and every team playing a game overseas. That's what the NFL wants to maximize their profit potential. The fact the NFL just landed a $43 billion deal with DirecTV leads me to believe the other networks understand it's doubtful that TV fees will decrease. By adding two more meaningful regular season games, the networks can expand their use of televised games to promote their primetime lineups, which from all accounts are failing.
The players want this as well, because it will expand the gameday roster from 45 to 53, which means more players will have a chance for better earnings. The owners want it because fans are not showing up for preseason games. Going to 17 games would be a bad move because it'll give one conference a leg up on home games, and that disrupts the competitive balance. Keep it at 16 or go to 18.
Is preseason really worth it?
G Newman Lowrance
If the league added more than one game, teams might not have enough time to evaluate their young players. So one additional game might be the best option, or just leave it alone altogether.
C.E. Wendler: There are positives to both sides of this equation, but far more negatives seem to loom with a longer schedule. More injuries have the potential to pile up. Old records will more easily be broken with an extra two regular-season games entering play. And if you thought teams having their division locked up in Week 14 or Week 15 was bad, imagine if a team locked up their division with an entire month left in the regular season. Talk about boring football.
More football is always desirable. But two extra games – is that really all that more for us to enjoy? Perhaps the league should focus on other ways to make more money. Hey, improving the quality of the existing product sounds like a great idea!
It seems the only untouched position of need that hasn't been addressed in free agency is defensive line! Does that mean the Chiefs think the draft can fix that position?
Nick Athan: I can't see the Chiefs passing up Aaron Curry. He's the best player in this entire draft and he'll make the biggest impact of any rookie. Sure he's light on pass rushing skills, but he's a once-a-decade linebacker. This team needs pass rushers in the worst way but can always make a run at a veteran like Jason Taylor.
Brian Orakpo might look good but he comes from Texas, and we've not seen Derrick Johnson, who came from that program, blossom into a superstar. The nose tackle from Boston College, BJ Raji, is a can't-miss prospect, but drafting him means admitting Glenn Dorsey was a mistake.
Michael Ash: No, the Chiefs don't think the draft will fix the defensive line, because the draft isn't going to fix the defensive line. Looking at the draft as a whole, there's a lot more depth at other areas of need – offensive line, for example - than there is on the defensive line. This is not the draft to load up on defensive linemen. And the Chiefs still have to evaluate many of the players they already have (Dorsey, Hali, Tank, Turk, etc.) and find out where they fit before adding others.
Incidentally, the three defensive ends (Orakpo, Aaron Maybin and Everette Brown) would probably move to outside linebacker if the Chiefs drafted them, so they wouldn't help the defensive line. Only Raji would be guaranteed to play on the line.
C.E. Wendler: Scott Pioli most definitely believes the draft is the way to fix the defensive line. But perhaps not this year's draft. But where else do you get young, talented defensive linemen? They rarely come from free agency. Under Pioli, the Patriots struck defensive line gold through the draft with Richard Seymour, Jarvis Green, Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork. Those four players have started over 250 combined games for the Patriots.
Can you think of a more exciting time to be a Chiefs fan?
Nick Athan: Change is always good for an organization and the Chiefs, with their new business model, free agents, and the NFL Draft a month away, are heading in a new direction. They have had one of the more interesting offseasons with the addition of Matt Cassel, and seem to be high among some NFL experts who believe the team can compete for an AFC West title this year.
Todd Haley's excited. Are you?
Michael Ash: It was probably an exciting time back when the Chiefs were playing in Super Bowls. As for an offseason, I can't imagine anything topping 1993 when the franchise added both Joe Montana and Marcus Allen in the span of about a month. But the hiring of Scott Pioli is certainly in the mix for the #2 spot on that list.
C.E. Wendler: Oh, certainly. Every offseason is exciting. Remember how excited we all were when the Chiefs added Dexter McCleon, Shawn Barber and Vonnie Holliday? Remember how exciting the return of Gunther Cunningham was?
The offseason has been action-packed this year, but the real excitement, as always, starts in September. Only then will we know if there's a reason to be truly excited for the future.