Chiefs' focus shifts to defense


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Jan 22, 2006
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Chiefs' focus shifts to defense

New coach has placed emphasis on making defense dominant

By Tully Corcoran
The Capital-Journal
RIVER FALLS, Wis. -- Everybody has those big family gatherings -- Thanksgiving, Christmas, Thursday -- where there is food spread all over the place, people are everywhere and just not enough room.

Invariably at these events, there is a "kids table" where anyone under, say, 12, congregates. The kid conversations don't interfere with the adult conversations. There is plastic instead of glass. The kids can't muck anything up there.

The last few seasons, the Chiefs defense was sitting at the kids table. "It used to be offense this, offense this, offense this," third-year defensive end Jared Allen said. "We kinda took that back this spring."

Under new coach Herm Edwards, a defensive back in his playing days, the Chiefs have adjusted their focus. Gone are the days when, Allen said, the defense's assignment was, "don't mess anything up."

"It's not, 'We've got to work these kinks out,' he said. "It's 'We're out there honing our skills and we're gonna dominate you.' And that's how it should be. We've got a great offense, now let's roll back the clock and be a typical Kansas City great defense"
Even without Edwards' extra attention, there is plenty to suggest the balance of talent is tipping back in the defense's direction.

In the last four years, the Chiefs have taken five defensive players in either the first or second round. If the early training camp lineups hold, three of them -- linebackers Derrick Johnson (110 tackles) and Kawika Mitchell (team-leading 135 tackles last year) and defensive end Tamba Hali -- will start. Throw in Allen, a 24-year-old fourth-round choice in 2004, and Ryam Sims, the No. 6 overall pick in 2002, and five of the Chiefs' starting front seven will be younger than 26 years old.

This contrasts with an offense that starts 36-year-old Trent Green, 33-year-old Eddie Kennison, 35-year-old Will Shields, 33-year-old Casey Weigmann and 30-year-old Tony Gonzalez. All-World left tackle Willie Roaf just retired and Priest Holmes has yet to practice this offseason with a neck injury.

The point isn't that Kansas City's defense will replicate the '85 Bears, nor that the offense has evaporated. The point is that the expectations are different.

The Chiefs still expect the offense to score. But they no longer hope the defense can get stops, they expect it.
It's Edwards' philosophy.

"Herm, he's a defensive oriented guy and just to have him backing us, wanting us to be better and everything," linebacker Kendrell Bell said. "It's just more of an emphasis."

Edwards won't let his defense relax.

"(Sunday) we had two plays were we just didn't seem to be ourselves and he just stopped practice and told us we had to pick it up," Bell said. "Normally a coach would wait until that session was over, but he didn't. And that's what you need. You need somebody to get up on your butt sometimes, you get lackadaisical and fall into, as he put it, a 'governor mentality' where you just loaf and anticipate the end of practice."

Edwards' renewed focus in combination with a secondary that, with new cornerback Ty Law, who has eight combined Pro Bowls, has the defense believing.

"We walk out there like we're seven feet tall," he said. "This defense has turned the corner."
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