There are several players switching positions, with players moving from defensive end to linebacker, defensive tackle to defensive end, 4-3 defensive tackle to 3-4 nose tackle, and so on. Which of those players is the favorite to successfully make the transition? Which player has the toughest road ahead?
How about in the secondary, where the changes won't be as drastic? Could anyone struggle with the new system? How about a player who might show some improvement?
We examine those issues in the first edition of the Warpaint Illustrated Fortune Teller.
Most likely to succeed at his new position: Tamba Hali
Upon first hearing of this move, I didn't have terribly high hopes for it. But the recent revelation that Hali – at the request of former coordinator Gunther Cunningham – had been playing some 25 pounds above his normal weight put things in a different perspective.
Could that extra weight explain why Hali has constantly battled leg injuries over the last few seasons? He's had bad knees, bad feet, bad ankles, all areas that would have to support the additional weight he's been carrying. If dropping those pounds can help keep Hali off the injury list, that alone will go a long way towards helping him return to form.
But the biggest benefit to be gained from a slimmer Hali will be increased speed, which will be important for his transition to linebacker since he'll have to drop back into pass coverage occasionally.
If you've been following OTA recaps, either here at Warpaint Illustrated or from other sources, you've already read the reports of Hali making plays against the pass. If nothing else, it shows he appears to have some range we might not have expected from him a few months ago.
Considering his performance at defensive end last year, the switch to linebacker could be the best chance the Chiefs have to salvage Hali's career in Kansas City. So far, it sounds like he might be on the right path.
Most likely to struggle at his new position: Turk McBride
The decision to move a defensive end/defensive tackle ‘tweener like McBride to outside linebacker seems a rather curious call. He has no real experience at the position, isn't particularly fast, and he seems to have the sort of body – if he bulked up a bit – that should put him more in the mix at defensive end.
Barring an injury to Hali or Mike Vrabel, McBride will be a rotational player in the Chiefs' new defense, so perhaps the plan is to use him exclusively in pass-rushing situations. Still, on the surface it has the feeling of an experiment that's doomed for failure, which might suggest the new coaching staff just isn't that high on the former second-round pick.
Most likely to step up in the secondary: Bernard Pollard
Perhaps more than anyone else on the roster, Pollard seems to inspire a wide range of opinions. Most agree he hasn't yet lived up to his second-round draft status, but just watching him throughout a season brings on plenty of varying thoughts.
In 2008 Pollard was repeatedly singled out for his improved play by Jason Whitlock and praised by an ESPN writer for "quietly having an excellent season," among other such media compliments. On the other hand, when news surfaced last week that veteran safety Mike Brown was visiting the Chiefs, some of my colleagues here at Warpaint Illustrated seemed ready for Pollard to hand over his playbook to Ray Farmer.
While his play still isn't at the level you'd like to see from a second-round pick, Pollard did appear to make some strides last year after dropping weight in the offseason. Perhaps the biggest sign that he started getting his legs under him was that he finally began dishing out the big hits we've been expecting to see since he was drafted.
While Pollard's improvements as a whole weren't anything to write home about, that they were even noticeable is noteworthy considering he played behind a front seven that couldn't stop the run or rush the passer to save their lives.
With Pollard expected to play more of a traditional strong safety role this year, he should be in position to take a few more steps on the path to respectability. But to be honest, he wins "most likely to step up" mostly by default, particularly since Brandon Flowers would have to elevate his game to near Pro Bowl levels to noticeably stand out from his rookie season.
Most likely to step back in the secondary: Brandon Carr
As a rookie, Carr played remarkably well for a fifth-round pick from a Division II school. The reason he earns the title of "most likely to step back" is simply an acknowledgment of the fact that he was specifically drafted by Herm Edwards to play the former coach's style of defense. Carr played in a cover two at Grand Valley State and already had years of familiarity with the system when he arrived in Kansas City.
In other words, shifting away from that scheme will probably be a bigger adjustment for Carr than any other player in the Chiefs' secondary. Naturally, that would make him the most likely to regress.
But the team put Carr in plenty of man-to-man situations last season and he handled himself just fine, so perhaps there's no reason to worry.
Next week: the offense
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