Will The Chiefs Change?

With the bye week finished and the Chiefs preparing for the Jacksonville Jaguars, surely we'll see some changes this Sunday. When you're 1-6, it screams for change, doesn't it?

It's unlikely we'll see Matt Cassel benched, however. A surprising change in KC's offense akin to the shift we witnessed a year ago under Chan Gailey is also probably out of the question.

But a team that ranks 31st in offense and 27th in defense has to throw a changeup at some point, right? Surely Scott Pioli and Todd Haley, desperately needing to convince legions of potential season ticket-holders that they know what they're doing, won't stand pat as we begin the season's second half.

Nah, they couldn't possibly do that. Here's five changes we hope to see in the coming weeks – hopefully starting as soon as this Sunday in Jacksonville.


1. Reduce Sean Ryan's blocking responsibilities

It's unclear just who decided Ryan could pass block before the season, but after seven games, he's something of a spiritual heir to the throne of Jordan Black, a former Kansas City offensive tackle who led the league in sacks allowed in 2006. It's impossible to find blocking statistics for tight ends, but just based on video review Ryan has to be responsible for four or five sacks already this year. That's pitiful considering he's not involved in protection on every pass play.

For some reason, the Chiefs felt it was a good idea in weeks past to assign Ryan to players like Demarcus Ware, Brian Orakpo and Osi Umenyiora, and we're talking single blocking – Ryan wasn't helping out a tackle, although he manages to do a poor job of that, too. Ryan's run blocking isn't great, but compared to his pass blocking, he looks like Jason Dunn.

Meanwhile, Ryan's production as a receiving tight end (14 catches, two touchdowns) hasn't been half bad. It's pretty clear at this point he's fairly useless in protection, and a 29-year old journeyman isn't suddenly going to change his game over the last nine weeks. So why is he doing anything but running routes when Cassel drops back to pass? Let's hope we see more of that and less of Ryan whiffing badly against the opposition's top pass rusher starting Sunday.


2. Bench Mike Goff

If Goff is an upgrade over KC's terrible right guard from 2008, Adrian Jones, it's only by the slimmest of margins. So far, there's been no other player who calls into question the talent evaluation skills of Scott Pioli more, because clearly the Chiefs thought they were getting a steady veteran lineman to solidify their interior line. Goff has been anything but, and is a total disaster on more than his share of plays.


Mike Goff - over the hill?
Jamie Squire - Getty

Despite his sizable bulk, Goff is no threat to move anyone in the running game consistently. Quite the opposite is true, in fact, as it's been common to see Goff hold a block at the line of scrimmage for an instant before his defender slides off the contact and brings down a running back trying to make it through a hole. When Goff is asked to get out and block someone on the move, he's as slow as you'd expect a large 12-year veteran to be and the end results are often lackluster. Roll back some tape and you'll see Goff getting destroyed by linebackers as he pulls.

The real embarrassment is when the Chiefs call a pass play, however. Goff isn't quick enough to stay with the league's more nimble defensive tackles and even though he easily passes the eye test for an NFL guard, he gives up plenty of ground to even average defensive tackles. Asking him to pick up a blitzing linebacker coming from the outside is a real adventure. Give some Goff credit, though - he's KC's least penalized lineman, and his lone penalty shames the six left guard Brian Waters has committed.

Who knows where the answer lies at right guard. Maybe it's Andy Alleman or Ike Ndukwe, who currently aren't giving the Chiefs much at all despite the fact Pioli hurriedly traded for both before the season began. But what's the point of letting a soon-to-be 34-year old guard continue to fail when the team is 1-6? If Goff starts the remaining nine games, maybe someone was a little too proud of his acquisition this offseason.


3. Fire up the Studebaker

For a brief moment in time this preseason, Andy Studebaker reminded Chiefs fans of Jared Allen – a tall, white, non-stop-motor defender who came out of nowhere and loved getting after the quarterback. Studebaker grabbed a couple quarterback sacks in August and then promptly disappeared from the playing rotation on KC's defense? Why?

Mike Vrabel, for all his knowledge, hasn't lit KC's pass rush on fire. In fact, Vrabel's declining abilities make Tamba Hali look like Derrick Thomas when it's third and long. Vrabel has little burst off the edge to scare an offensive tackle and even backs have handled him just fine in pass protection. If he gets a sack it's because the quarterback held the ball.

Does Studebaker have a burst? Does he even have a pass-rush move? Who knows, but with the lack of heat the Chiefs have put on opposing quarterbacks, it makes sense to give someone else a shot at outside linebacker. Studebaker is big enough to hold up against tackles, and he has long arms. Put him on the field for 20 plays a game and see what happens. At the least, Mitch Holthus will have fun with Andy's last name.


4. Start DaJuan Morgan

Show me a replay of the Chiefs giving up a huge chunk of yards, and I'll show you a slow, un-athletic safety failing to make the play. Clancy Pendergast has started some combination of Jarrad Page, Mike Brown and Jon McGraw all season long, and in every game their lack of speed and quickness has hurt KC's defense. Last week, San Diego's Darren Sproles put clown shoes on both Brown and McGraw on several occasions. It was almost as if they were moving in slow motion.


Morgan - ready for action?
Kevin C. Cox - Getty

It's easy to put one slow safety on the field and play good defense – just ask any of John Lynch's defensive coaches – but starting two in every game for half a season is just asking for opposing offensive coordinators to lick their chops and dial up the deep pass plays. Do you think it's any coincidence the Chargers went deep early and often in KC's last game? Norv Turner probably saw McGraw and Brown on tape and started giggling.

Of course, it's one thing for a safety to run like a fullback and change direction like a kicker. It's another thing entirely for a safety to miss tackles, and the Chiefs' safeties have done plenty of that. All of this leads to one inevitable conclusion – put DaJuan Morgan on the field and see if he can play.

At minimum, Morgan's athletic ability and speed will give opposing offenses pause before they challenge the Chiefs deep. If everything works out and Morgan lives up to his billing – he was once thought to be the most talented safety in his draft class – KC's defense will have a real complement to their solid young corners, Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers.

We saw Morgan perform in preseason – interceptions, solid in-the-box run defense. The Chiefs are 1-6, give up gobs of passing yards every week and are tied for the league low in interceptions (three). Make a change or continue wasting time with defensive backs who couldn't beat Matt Cassel in a footrace.


5. Deactivate Larry Johnson permanently

The Chiefs say they've resolved the matter of disciplining Johnson. We can only hope that means they plan to glue his overpaid, offensive and immature posterior to the bench for the rest of 2009, because nobody in their right mind wants to see him on the playing field at Arrowhead Stadium ever again.

We've been through this before, but once again – what value does Johnson bring to the Chiefs? Todd Haley can probably find 22 running backs off the street who can average 2.7 yards per carry and put together what is shaping up to be the worst season by a starting running back in league history. Johnson's skills as a blocker have improved, but if he wants out of Kansas City now, will his heart be in it?

Giving Johnson even one carry is dangerous. The planets could align, opposing defenders could be paid off, the entire Chiefs' offensive line could block perfectly in sync for the first time this season, and LJ could break free for 75 yards, burying Priest Holmes' rushing record forever. Since the number of Larry Johnson fans currently in existence probably couldn't fill one section of Arrowhead Stadium, it's not hard to come to the conclusion that it's against the Chiefs' best interests to see a major record fall into his hands.

Johnson has burned bridges with many of his most die-hard, long-time fans, people who supported him well before he was starting games in place of Holmes. They are offloading Johnson-autographed merchandise by the truckload, burning jerseys and signing anti-LJ petitions en masse. Are the Chiefs ready for thousands of people booing Johnson every time he takes a handoff or scores a touchdown (you know, if hell freezes over)? The stage is set for one of the ugliest scenes in Kansas City sports history.

We don't need to reiterate the horrible message playing Johnson – or God forbid, starting him – would send to the rest of KC's roster. How can "The Right 53" possibly include an unproductive player who tears down his fans online and embarrasses the organization in front of the media? If the Chiefs have one logical brain among them, Johnson shouldn't run between the red coaters ever again.

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