Chiefs hope to fill a need on defense


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Jan 22, 2006
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Chiefs hope to fill a need on defense
Lofty goal for Walls
Cornerback seeks start; Cromartie will visit KC
The Kansas City Star

While the Chiefs continue about their business, Lenny Walls is moving on with his.

For the Chiefs, that means preparing for the draft, one in which they will almost certainly draft one cornerback and perhaps more.

They will entertain another potential first-round cornerback next week in Florida State’s Antonio Cromartie, who missed all of last season because of a knee injury. Cromartie joins South Carolina’s Johnathan Joseph and Fresno State’s Richard Marshall as likely first-round cornerbacks who will meet with the Chiefs next week in Kansas City.

For Walls, recently signed as a free agent, it means working out at the Chiefs’ Truman Sports Complex practice facility. Walls is the leader in the clubhouse to be the starter at cornerback along with Patrick Surtain by virtue of his 20 career starts and his association with new defensive-backs coach David Gibbs. They were once together with Denver.

Of the Chiefs’ other cornerbacks except for Surtain, only nickel back Benny Sapp has ever started an NFL game. Sapp made four starts when the Chiefs opened the game with three cornerbacks but has never been an every-down player.

Still, Walls’ spot as a starter is hardly a given, and that’s even before the Chiefs import one or more talented rookies. So he has a lot to gain when the Chiefs begin their offseason practices next month.

The 6-foot-4 Walls has been a curiosity since joining the NFL with the Broncos because of his unusual size. He’s unusually tall for a cornerback, the tallest in the league.

That obscured the fact Walls, when healthy, was an effective player. But after starting for the Broncos in 2003, he missed half of each of the last two seasons because of injuries.

“I’ve always been known as the tall guy that can play corner,” Walls said. “(People wonder), ‘How can he do it?’ I’ve been limited by injuries. Now I’m just trying to reach my potential. I think this is a staff that can help me do that.

“I was on a great defense in Denver, one of the best in the league. I’m going to try to bring my mentality and my competitiveness, my confidence. I play with a swagger and I’m going to try to bring that to this team. In the NFL, teams are one or two players away. Hopefully, I’m one of those players that can help this defense get to the top.”

Walls’ size and wingspan could make him a useful player in new coach Herm Edwards’ defensive plans. Edwards has favored a zone defensive scheme commonly known as Cover 2.

“I think Lenny will be a good addition in terms of what we’re going to do defensively,” said Chiefs quarterback Trent Green, who has played against Walls. “They’ve talked a lot about Cover 2 and we’ve played Cover 2 in the past. Lenny played a lot of Cover 2 in Denver. If you have a corner who’s 6-4 playing Cover 2 it makes it hard for the quarterback to hit it in the hole.

“If that’s the direction we’re going in, in terms of more of the Cover 2 defense, then it fits perfectly. But if we end up going a different angle, playing more man-to-man and those sorts of things … because he’s a taller, lanky guy, he’s really more suited for Cover 2 type of schemes.”

Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham was initially less than enthusiastic about Walls. He later warmed up to him.

“I’ve never been that excited about a corner over 6-2,” Cunningham said. “For me, the ideal size was always 6-0, 5-11.

“I think we’ve got a really good situation with Lenny because Dave (Gibbs) coached him. When I watched Lenny play for the Broncos during the time Dave was still there, he was a really good player.”

Cromartie is big and fast, but his knee injury makes him something of a gamble, at least as a first-round choice. The status of his knee is something the Chiefs will undoubtedly have their medical team examine next week.

His agent, Jason Fletcher, said Cromartie is ready to play.

“He’s probably 90 percent at this point, and he will be 100 percent by the time the season starts,” Fletcher said. “He’s been cleared by every doctor he’s seen. He’ll be good to go for the minicamps and all of those things.”

Tall corners
Heading into 2005 training camp, only three cornerbacks in the NFL were listed at 6 feet 3 or taller. By the end of the season, only Lenny Walls was on an active roster.

Player Team Ht.
Lenny Walls Chiefs 6-4
Michael Hawthorne Rams 6-3
Bobby Taylor Seahawks 6-3
Many others 6-2
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