Between The Hash Marks

If you want to see why the Kansas City Chiefs have improved defensively, you have to look no further than the play of the defensive line. The addition of free agent Vonnie Holliday and a year of experience for 2002 first-round draft pick Ryan Sims have provided the Chiefs with run-stuffing capability and a pass-rushing presence. Returning from a season-long injury in 2003, safety Jerome Woods has helped the defensive backfield become more consistent.

· Imagine where this team would be without former NFL Europe wide receiver/kick return specialist Dante Hall and castoff Priest Holmes. We don't kiss-up to anybody, but Dick Vermeil is one hell of a head coach. Some indications coming out of Kansas City are that Vermeil may end his coaching career if the Chiefs win the Super Bowl this season.

· Watching the San Diego Chargers this season has brought back some memories of the last team head coach Marty Schottenheimer coached prior to landing in San Diego. The Washington Redskins struggled mightily during the first-half of the 2001 season under Schottenheimer, only to show signs of life during the second-half and pose an 8-8 record for the season. The progress over the second-half of the season was striking; Schottenheimer is attempting to use the same building block philosophy in San Diego. This Chargers team may be 0-5, but they have shown some semblance of improvement, but talent at the linebacker and defensive line positions is questionable. The only way Schottenheimer saves his job in San Diego is to have this team playing well in the second-half of the season and an 8-8 mark would buy him another season.

· Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis has never been one to mince words and his latest display of ‘football expertise' may have lit more than a fire under the backside of head coach Bill Callahan. Davis from what we have been told spoke with Callahan following the Raiders 13-7 loss to the Cleveland Browns and informed him that the play of the team is as poor as any he has seen in his years in Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland, you get the point. Basically, the message was "Win or else, no excuses. This was a Super Bowl team in 2002 and the talent on the roster is better than a year ago." Maybe Davis hasn't noticed that he doesn't have middle linebacker Bill Romanowski in the lineup. Also, Rod Woodson missed playing time and the team's lone deep-threat in the passing game, Jerry Porter has been MIA due to hernia surgery.

· Philadelphia Eagles free safety Brian Dawkins was expected to be ready to play within the next week or two according to initial reports from the team's medical staff. Don't buy into the notion of seeing Dawkins anytime soon. Dawkins can walk gingerly on his own and is aided by the use of a cane, best-case scenario is that Dawkins may be able to suit-up in about a month, if everything goes well in his rehab. Also, head coach Andy Reid is catching a serious amount of flak for his play-calling and inconsistent play from quarterback of Donovan McNabb. Granted, McNabb has not played well this season and the running game has been inconsistent as well, but for some close to the team to talk of Reid's inability to have this team prepared is preposterous.

· With rumors running wild that running back Corey Dillon could be traded to the Dallas Cowboys, the Cincinnati Bengals do not appear ready to deal the running back that has suffered with a groin injury over the past few weeks. According to a team source last Monday night, the Bengals have received an inquiry about Dillon's availability, but supposedly shot-down the opportunity to trade the moody Dillon. Head coach Marvin Lewis spoke with Dillon recently and informer him that the team does not have any desire to trade him. While we haven't been able to get confirmation as to what team has discussed a deal for Dillon, the Dallas Cowboys have been mentioned by league sources as the one team that is ‘hot' after a running back.

· The talk in New York leads us to believe that both the Giants and Jets could be in the market for new head coaches during the off-season. With the Giants, the belief coming from those close to the organization are that Jim Fassel may have taken this team as far as he can and a coaching change could instill consistency in what has been an erratic Giants team during his tenure. As for the Jets, head coach Herman Edwards is set in his ways and will not buckle to the quiet pressure he is getting within the organization from owner Woody Johnson and GM Terry Bradway. This Jets team in 2003 is strikingly similar to that of the 2002 model, now the question will be can Edwards get this team to come together and rumble though the opposition as they did in the second-half of last season and make the playoffs. They need to, or Herman may be looking for a new gig.

· The demise of the Pittsburgh Steelers cannot be pin-pointed on any specific area of the team, but there are more than a few candidates that qualify as 2003 Steeler season-killer in the Steel City. Speaking with an AFC personnel evaluator on Monday, the problems are like watching domino's fall. First, quarterback Tommy Maddox is not an unknown entity any longer and he cannot get away with looking down receivers as he did in the 2002 season. Also, Maddox caves-in under pressure situations according to our personnel expert. With an offensive line that has been mediocre at best this season, Maddox is holding the ball too long and telegraphing his decisions and throws. The offensive line plays into a rushing attack that has not gotten untracked this season, but head coach Bill Cowher has not won any friends within the coaching staff and locker room with the benching of veteran Jerome Bettis. And lastly, the Steelers linebackers have been a step slow in getting pressure on the quarterback, leaving the very average cover cornerbacks, Dwayne Washington and Chad Scott on an island in coverage. Did we mention that first-round Troy Polamalu has done absolutely nothing in his rookie season for the Steelers? Trading up in the draft for a run-stopping safety was questionable to start with for a team that had difficulties stopping the pass in the 2002 season.

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