Chiefs’ cornerback conundrum


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Jan 22, 2006
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Young veterans, or draft picks?
Chiefs’ cornerback conundrum
Coaches look at several options for secondary
The Kansas City Star

That once-in-every-10-years shot is out there, and Gunther Cunningham slams down a quick sandwich and heads back to his draft meetings. In the old days, there was almost an exact science. You could judge a man by his swagger, see it in his eyes, calculate it with his answers.

Now the suits are involved. Agents, Cunningham says, hand these young guys all the questions. So the Chiefs coaches go back to their meetings, back to the tapes and the workouts, searching for that perfect cornerback.

Maybe he’s already here.

The first thing to know about new coach Herm Edwards is that cornerback is a position very near and dear to his heart. Almost 30 years ago, he was an undrafted rookie corner who eventually scrapped his way into the starting lineup in Philadelphia. So Edwards isn’t necessarily wowed by million-dollar contracts or Mel Kiper can’t-misses. He’s looking for that nastiness, that air of intimidation, and has made it clear that the right cornerback spot is up for grabs between four relative pups on the roster who are all under the age of 27 — Benny Sapp, Julian Battle, Lenny Walls and Alphonso Hodge.

Oh, and don’t forget that high draft pick that probably will be thrown in the mix in late April.

“He likes younger players,” said Hodge, a 2005 draft pick from Miami of Ohio. “Dick Vermeil, he liked old players, guys who have some accountability. With Herm, he’s one of those guys that the only way you’re going to learn how to play is by playing.”

So who will play? Battle is confident it will be him.

A few summers ago, the lanky, speedy corner was on track to debunk that Vermeil-veteran theory. He challenged Eric Warfield and Dexter McCleon for a starting job in training camp. He drew comparisons to Dale Carter. The next summer, when Warfield was facing a four-game suspension, Battle was ready to become a starter. Then he ruptured his Achilles tendon during minicamp, and missed the entire 2005 season.

Cunningham said he was “heartsick” when Battle slipped on the grass, because at 23, he was showing major progress. Battle thought so, too. Asked if he thought the starting job could’ve been his last summer, Battle said, “Definitely.”

Then the competition changed. Warfield, a good buddy of Battle’s, woke him up early last month to deliver some news. He’d been cut.

“There’s a sense of urgency for me because Warfield’s gone,” Battle said. “I feel like I’m going to assume a larger responsibility on defense.”

By all accounts, Walls feels a similar itch. He made three starts for the Broncos in 2005 before suffering a groin strain. While Chiefs fans clamored for the free-agent acquisition of somebody with a bigger name, like Ty Law, Kansas City quietly agreed to a deal with Walls over the weekend.

He’s 6-foot-4, he’s physical, and he caught the eye of Edwards and Cunningham during a recent workout. Better, yet, he’s a known commodity. Walls has a history with new secondary coach David Gibbs.

“When Dave coached him at Denver,” Cunningham said, “Lenny played very well. After they let Dave go, I thought his play went downhill. After watching him work out for us, it got me very excited.

“He’s got an upbeat personality. He thinks he can cover anybody. Those are the kind of guys we want. We’re looking for an extrovert, guys that have a thought process that they forget very quickly. He seems to have that kind of attitude.”

Attitude is the key to any special corner. When Cunningham is asked about his perfect cornerback mold, he doesn’t even pause. He rattles off two names, Carter and James Hasty. Ten years ago, they were the NFL’s best, going to Pro Bowls and intimidating dozens of receivers along the way.

“They were very physical,” Cunningham said. “Both of them were feared. That was the biggest ability they both had. I don’t think too many wide receivers you talk to in the NFL liked playing against them.

“Those guys don’t come around but maybe every 10 years. They’re hard to find.”

With a glut of quality cornerbacks in this year’s draft class, the Chiefs are expected to use a first or second-round pick for the spot. Edwards was seen dashing around the NFL combine in February, meeting with prospects, trying to ask the right questions.

Hopefully, Cunningham said, not all of them have the answers.
See, there's a plan, and they like the depth in the draft. Patience Kansas City, patience.
Rupert said:
See, there's a plan, and they like the depth in the draft. Patience Kansas City, patience.
Ahaha.....don't you mean "patience Angel"?? I'm very impatient...I always want things done NOW.....not later!! :p
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