Will Romeo Crennel be able to make pass rushers out of Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey?
Nick Athan: As many of you know I'm NOT a big fan of Dorsey simply because I think he's an inside defensive lineman who would thrive in a 4-3 defense. If I had one complaint about Scott Pioli a year ago, it was his insistence the Chiefs run a 3-4 defensive scheme without the benefit of having the front seven personnel to run it. I know Jackson was a start but to me the man in the middle is the first piece you add. As of this writing the Chiefs don't have a dominating nose tackle to help the outside pass rusher. But that's a topic for another day.
However despite that omission and the addition of Crennel, there isn't any question in my mind that he can make Chicken Soup out of water and stone. So I think he'll get the most out of Jackson and Dorsey. If he can get them to combine for ten sacks, he'll win defensive coach of the year honors. Jackson has skills to get to the passer but Dorsey is simply a run defender and nothing more. And that's not a bad thing.
But my faith rests in Crennel so I'm expecting big things from the Chiefs outside pass rushers.
Conner Crawford: It's tough to say whether or not Jackson or Dorsey will break out this year, but if anybody would turn into a pass rusher to complement Tamba Hali, I think it would be Jackson. I think Dorsey is set at being stuck on the line and stopping the run, and Jackson should be the most flexible of any of the linemen to move around the field.
With Double-Digit sacks in 2010, Hali might get BIG contract from KC.
I don't expect Pro Bowl stats from either of them this season, but they should be solid enough to give opposing offenses a run for their money, especially tough divisional rushing attacks from teams like San Diego. In the OTAs which I attended, Crennel was always with his linemen, so if he's going to put a lot of effort for anybody on the team, it would be his front line.
Michael Ash: It's probably asking too much to pin it all on Crennel's shoulders. While he was a defensive line coach early in his career, his responsibility here will be overseeing the entire defense, so to some degree he also has to stay involved with the linebackers and secondary. That means a great deal of the burden has to fall on new defensive line coach Anthony Pleasant.
Pleasant is a first-year coach at the position, so it's impossible to say what he'll bring to the table. But as a former lineman who was coached by Crennel, he seems like an ideal candidate to impart Crennel's teachings onto Jackson and Dorsey.
Ultimately, I expect to see both players take a step forward this year, if only because Tim Krumrie is no longer their coach. Look at Tamba Hali – after two years of stagnating, if not regressing, at the defensive end position, he made a quantum leap last season after his switch to linebacker. I don't think it's a coincidence that he immediately began to flourish again after getting away from Krumrie. Apparently, neither does the rest of the NFL, since Krumrie isn't overseeing any team's defensive line this season.
What do you think the biggest story of training camp will be?
Nick Athan: It has to be head coach Todd Haley. With two Super Bowl winning coordinators at his disposal, can he steer the ship? There is no doubt the best two offseason moves by this organization were to bring in Romeo Crennel to run the defense and Charlie Weis to steady quarterback Matt Cassel and the rest of the offense.
To me, Haley has to take a backseat to his coordinators. It might not be easy for a lot of reasons. But last year, Haley didn't have anyone on his staff that he could rely on to shoot him straight within the hand-picked staff he quickly assembled after filling the head coaching vacancy last February.
Some believe this is a make or break season for Haley, who enters year two of a three-year contract. If the Chiefs get off to a shaky start and Haley is too hands on, then we're going to hear rumblings about job security. However, if he leans on the men that have successfully maneuvered through far worse reclamation projects in their coaching careers, Haley might end up with a new contract extension.
Haley has Super Bowl Coordinators in Crennel & Weis at his disposal.
Conner Crawford: The biggest story of camp will focus on the wide receivers, especially Dwayne Bowe. I fully expect the Chiefs administration to scrounge to waiver wires to find wide receivers who have been dumped by other teams.
I think Terrell Owens is definitely out of the question due to his rocky past with Todd Haley as well as high asking price, but it wouldn't surprise me for the Chiefs to go after at least another receiver to push Bowe. Haley has a knack for receivers due to his past at coaching the position, so he's going to try and give Matt Cassel as many weapons as possible and make that push towards the playoffs in 2010.
Michael Ash: The story of training camp will center on the player who has the most influence on the Chiefs' fortunes in 2010: Matt Cassel. No other player will be more closely watched by camp observers, and no other player's performance will cause expectations to rise or fall like Cassel's will.
If live reports from camp are filled with details of Cassel missing open receivers, struggling on his deep passes, and otherwise not looking impressive under center, Chiefs fans will be grumbling, cursing Scott Pioli, and lowering their predictions for the upcoming season. And if Cassel struggles while Brodie Croyle shines, it's all anyone will be talking about.
On the other hand, if Cassel's camp performances are impressive, that too will be significant. And some may make upward adjustments in their predictions for the season.
How do you think the Chiefs will utilize Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles? Who do you think will see more snaps? Could you envision Haley using both RBs on the field at the same time?
Nick Athan: I could see Charlie Weis putting both players on the field at the same time. In fact, I could see Charles split out as a receiver and Jones in the backfield. It would be a nice wrinkle in the potential passing game.
As runners, though, I think Charles will get somewhere in the neighborhood of 18-20 carries per game with Jones picking up another 8-10. In the back of Haley's mind he has to wonder about using Charles on special teams as a kick return specialist. If that's the case, them Jones' role could increase.
Is Charles poised for All Pro season?
Conner Crawford: It would be fantastic to see some plays with both Jones and Charles on the field at the same time, say to throw off opposing defenses, but I think it would be very rare.
Although Charles has shown his worth, I don't think he'll see as much action now that Jones is around. Charles is a small guy, and Jones is a bowling ball. Jones should be getting the most snaps to move the ball up the field, but then Charles should be getting more touches that reach the endzone.
Michael Ash: I expect to see them utilized as a one-two punch, but with Charles clearly the focus. Anything else would be a mistake. The more Charles has the ball in his hands, the better things will be for the Chiefs' offense. Jones is a great addition, but his primary role should be to make sure Charles doesn't get overworked.
Of course, if Charles' role in the passing game expands, then it would make sense to give Jones more carries. Along those lines, I absolutely expect to see both of them on the field at once, and I expect to see it often. In fact, I expect to see Charles, Jones, and Dexter McCluster on the field at the same time. They should be doing everything they can to create mismatches in the defense.
What are the year by year expectations for Kendrick Lewis?
Nick Athan: There is no question in my mind at this point that he'll get every chance to start opposite first round pick Eric Berry. To me, he's someone that was overshadowed in this draft. Some rankings had him in the top five while others had him at the bottom of the pile. But he has the skills to make the jump to the NFL.
Plus, it would be a great move by the Chiefs to start this tandem together in 2010 and let them grow into their starting roles and have each other to learn from. The Chiefs did a good job doing that with cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr. But to me, Lewis is a guy that could someday be just as valuable to this defense as Berry.
However, there is a lot to be gained by pairing the rookies to open the season. On the other hand though, it could be disastrous. But that's why Crennel is getting the big bucks to run this defense.
Kendrick Lewis will should every chance to start opposite fellow draftee Eric Berry.
Conner Crawford: I think it's safe to say that Jarrad Page is not in the Chiefs' plans, and Kendrick Lewis will likely take his spot. I don't know if Haley would be willing to start two rookie safeties, but Lewis has tons of potential. We all ready know Eric Berry will be a threat, but Lewis can be a great complement to the secondary.
Michael Ash: Obviously the hope is that Lewis develops into a starter, but I'm not sure if I expect that from him in his first season. It's one thing to start two rookie corners in the fairly straightforward Cover 2, as the Chiefs did with Flowers and Carr.
But it's another to start two rookies at safety in a defense that will probably evolve on a frequent basis, perhaps even from play to play.
Unlike my colleagues, I don't necessarily think a starting job is Lewis' to lose. If the Chiefs plan to do a lot of different things with Eric Berry, then they'll probably be tempted to have a steady veteran like Jon McGraw back there with him. I certainly think Lewis has a shot, but it'll take a strong showing during camp to get him into the starting lineup.
If he doesn't start this year, he'll probably be right in the mix in 2011, and hopefully he can hold onto the job from there.