Edwards: Defense has changed


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Jan 22, 2006
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Edwards: Defense has changed

By Rick Dean
The Capital-Journal
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Herman Edwards took only slight exception to the premise of the question.

The Kansas City Chiefs, their new head coach pointed out, have made some significant defensive personnel moves this offseason, contrary to a reporter's suggestion that the first-line defense of the final 2006 spring workouts looked frightfully like the 2005 defense that was ranked 25th in total yards and No. 30 against the pass.

"There has been change," Edwards insisted this week as spring workouts concluded. "We drafted an end, two young safeties, acquired some linebackers last year. Pretty good players. There will be more competition (for positions) this year, and the players that were here in the past understand that."

The drafting of Penn State defensive end Tamba Hali, a player with considerable pass rush upside, could be a significant upgrade.

How much he contributes as a rookie remains to be seen, but Hali got significant spring practice time with the first unit at the left defensive end position while incumbent Eric Hicks rehabbed from offseason shoulder surgery.

Kansas City also sought to improve depth at safety with the second-round drafting of Bernard Pollard, a fierce hitter who brings the kind of nasty attitude Edwards likes to see to his last line of defense.

But counting on rookies can be a risky proposition. Kansas City's other major offseason defensive acquisitions -- cornerback Lenny Walls and defensive tackles Ron Edwards and James Reed -- are essentially role players whose arrival does little to generate hope for a quick turnaround in the mind of most Chiefs fans.

An ageless adage in sports says there are two proven ways to improve a team, usually used in combination. One is to make your current players better. The second is to acquire better players.

Judging from their offseason moves, the Chiefs intend on exercising Option 1 more than Option 2.

Barring the arrival of unsigned veteran corner Ty Law, Edwards appears ready to report to training camp on July 27 with last year's top-line defense largely intact.

There will be a new right corner to replace departed free agent Eric Warfield. Walls, who started for Denver in 2003 before missing most of the last two seasons with injuries, emerged from spring drills as the leading replacement candidate.

Hali will see a lot of playing time whether he replaces Hicks or not. Ditto with Pollard in the secondary. And if calorically challenged defensive tackle Ryan Sims doesn't get in shape soon, the Chiefs could have Edwards or someone else replacing him.

Even so, the emphasis in spring drills and in camp will be on making the returning Chiefs defenders better. That sounds like a broken record; Dick Vermeil played it for five years. But with a new Tampa Cover Two scheme employed by a new head coach with a background in defense, the Chiefs hope to improve with the personnel on hand.

"The guys who've been here are not bad football players," Edwards said. "But, it's very important that our (defensive) mindset change, and I think for the most part that it has. Now we've got to make the next change -- we have to become a very physical team and a very fast team on defense. We have guys who understand that. Now we've got to get it done.

"I can't give them any more talent; God gave them that," Edwards added. "But we can improve their technique and their mindset.'

"They've just got to get better, and that's true for all of us. In life --and I'm not talking about just football -- if you can't improve yourself as a person, shame on you. It's how you grow. And as a professional, if you can't get better and grow, somebody else is going to take your job -- unless your dad owns the company or something."

DEE BROWN, who started three of the 14 games he played for Carolina in 2002, emerged from spring drills as the backup to starting halfback Larry Johnson.

But Edwards still thinks Johnson's eventual backup may be a more established player. A guy named Priest Holmes.

"I'm still anticipating Priest coming back," Edwards said again this week. "If he does, then we've got two starting running backs, and not many teams have that luxury. If Priest isn't the guy, then Dee Brown gets the first shot. If he can't do the job, we look someplace else."

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