Warpaint Roundtable – Offseason Edition XV

This week we discuss the pass rush, Lions vs. Chiefs, the long-term safety of the 2008 draft class, and the impact of the Tony Gonzalez trade.

Holy Gotham, Batman! What are the Chiefs going to do about their horrific pass rush?!

Nick Athan: Scott Pioli still has some work to do in free agency. Jason Taylor and Julius Peppers are the Chiefs' best options to get to the quarterback. Tyson Jackson and Alex Magee have the potential to combine for 10 sacks, so that will easily improve upon last year's total. Mike Vrabel could get five more and I suspect Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, Turk McBride, Brian Johnston and Glenn Dorsey might get six or seven combined.

That still leaves the Chiefs a bit short, but if this team can average three sacks a game that would be outstanding. That has to be the goal. One per quarter on defense would mean this defensive unit took it's game to a new level. But until Pioli finds more pass rushers his work isn't finished.

Michael Ash: For starters, they aren't going to play the passive Cover Two anymore, which will improve the pass rush by default. It's possible the Chiefs will double their sack output from 2008 just on that basis alone. Arizona had 31 sacks a year ago, with no single player on the team contributing more than five.

Clancy Pendergast is known as a fairly aggressive defensive playcaller who is creative with blitz packages, so there should be more opportunities for different players to step up and make something happen. Obviously, the Chiefs still need an upgrade in personnel - particularly a pass-rushing outside linebacker - but you can't expect them to fill all their holes at once, which is why an addition like Vrabel seems like a good move in the short-term.

C.E. Wendler: When the previous regime lost Jared Allen, their plan to get to the quarterback really involved no new players. Gunther Cunningham told us he was going to get to the quarterback with blitzes. Considering the Chiefs loved to play the Cover Two so much, which usually calls for linebackers to drop in coverage, the viability of that plan didn't seem sound.

I can't imagine Scott Pioli and Todd Haley are going to rely on scheme alone to get to the quarterback. There's only two legitimate outside pass rushers on KC's roster at the moment (Hali and Vrabel), and neither is a player that's going to keep opposing offensive coordinators up at night. Just be patient. There's no way the Chiefs can stand pat with this group of pass rushers if they want to be successful on defense.


Who will have the better record in 2009, the Lions or the Chiefs?

Nick Athan: No question the Kansas City Chiefs. Right now, based on the additions they've made in the offseason, I have them pegged for six wins if the season opened today. They can reach nine wins if they play above their talent level in a few games when the schedule is beyond brutal. Meanwhile, the Lions are in real trouble.


Will Stafford make the Lions competitive?
Carlos Osorio - AP

I'm not a Matthew Stafford fan and it'll take him years to get better on a bad football team. The Chiefs are a better organization with more talent and a more qualified general manager. Remember the Lions also play in a tougher division, so that gives Kansas City another advantage.

Michael Ash: Both teams have pretty rough schedules, but the AFC West appears to be a less competitive division than the NFC North at the moment. The Chiefs will fare better in 2009.

C.E. Wendler: The Lions aren't as far away as some people may think. First of all, Stafford to Calvin Johnson is going to be great to watch for Lions fans. When you combine those two with Kevin Smith, Shaun McDonald, Maurice Morris, Ronald Curry, Bryant Johnson and rookie Brandon Pettigrew, there's talent to work with on that offense.

The Lions have a ton of work to do on defense, but so do the Chiefs. But give Kansas City a slight edge for now, simply because they won't be dealing with a rookie quarterback, and quite frankly, the Lions are still the Lions (eight straight losing seasons) until proven otherwise.


Which rookies from last year's draft will get cut besides, Merritt, Franklin and Robinson?

Nick Athan: Barry Richardson might be one if he doesn't take the right tackle spot, but he could stay if Damion McIntosh is cut. Other than that, it has to be Glenn Dorsey, if he's eventually traded. It's still possible. All of the other players fit. Albert, Cottam, Charles, Morgan, Flowers and Carr will be on this roster for years.

Last year's draft still has something to prove, but when you can get as many as seven or eight starters out of a single draft that's impressive. Even if Dorsey and Richardson don't make the final 2009 roster, the Chiefs will get contributions from the rest.

Michael Ash: It's hard to say since we have no idea what the new regime thinks of that draft class. Players who didn't contribute much last year – Morgan, Cottam, Richardson, and Johnston – are probably more at risk than the rookies who saw significant playing time. But it would be a surprise if any of them were cut before getting a chance to fight for their jobs in training camp. But we could have said the same about Will Franklin.

C.E. Wendler: It's not so much about which players are cut this offseason, but which players are part of the Chiefs for the long haul. Considering the Chiefs drafted a cornerback with a fairly high pick, are Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers stone-cold locks to be future starters? How much confidence can the Chiefs really have in Barry Richardson if they went out and picked Colin Brown?

We don't even know who the Chiefs might draft next year. If they were to pick Taylor Mays, it wouldn't look good for Morgan. If they pick a tight end, Cottam might not be the heir apparent to Tony Gonzalez. The way I see it, if Glenn Dorsey trade rumors are flying, no one can really be that safe.


Did Scott Pioli and Todd Haley consider the impact on the fans and team before trading Tony Gonzalez? It has the potential to polarize a lot of fans.

Nick Athan: The Gonzalez trade had little to do with any possible fan reaction. Some like the move and others don't, but this situation was already getting ugly, it was just happening behind the scenes. It was a good move by Pioli and honestly how can it polarize the fan base at any level?

We're talking about an aging player who has a couple of years left, and a tight end in the NFL is a devalued position these days. The Chiefs are going to use a spread offense that has four wide receivers and though Gonzalez would have fit nicely, he was not going to be featured in any way. So why not move him? In time the fans will understand.


How will fans live without Tony G?
Dilip Vishwanawat - Getty

Michael Ash: They likely knew it wouldn't be a popular decision, but someone like Pioli, who is used to winning year after year, has shown he can walk away from the likes of Ty Law, Adam Vinatieri, Asante Samuel, and so on. He's interested in doing what's best for the team, not making the fans feel warm and fuzzy by keeping around the most popular players.

But for teams that aren't used to winning, clinging to our favorite players is all we have. It stings for us when someone like Gonzalez leaves. But everything Pioli does is designed with one goal in mind - making the team better to win a championship. If he accomplishes that, fans won't care if he trades away 100 Tony Gonzalezes.

C.E. Wendler: Why wouldn't they consider that aspect? Trading away one of your main attractions is always going to have an impact from a business standpoint. But Pioli probably recognized that some fans had already been prepared for the eventuality of Gonzalez being traded by the fiasco that went down last year, in midseason.

When you consider what tight ends did in New England's offense over the last few years (they certainly didn't catch 100 passes), and the money Gonzalez was making, it made too much sense not to trade him. Judging by the fallout from the trade, the fan base isn't too upset over it, anyway.

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