Hali Makes his Mark


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Jan 22, 2006
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In the thick of it

Tamba Hali wastes no time making his mark

By Tully Corcoran
The Capital-Journal
RIVER FALLS, Wis. -- Tamba Hali's confidence drips off him like beads of sweat. He's just a rookie, the 20th pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. And he's running with the first-team defense. He's taking a job from a nine-year veteran.

But Eric Hicks is not a star. He's never made a Pro Bowl, but he's started 104 NFL games. He is fifth in Chiefs history with 44 1/2 sacks.

He's proven. "We know what Eric can do," defensive end Jared Allen said, "so it's really on Tamba to show what he's made of." Hali knows the challenge he faces. He gets that he's taking over for a vet. He knows he's one of the players the Chiefs are counting on to resurrect a defense that produced 29 sacks last season, 27th in the NFL.

That all registers with him. But he doesn't feel it. It doesn't worry him. "I'm not a guy to feel pressure," Hali said. "The pressure will come. Pressure's always gonna be there." It would be sensational to call the competition between Hali and Hicks a battle. If anything, Hicks is helping train the guy who is taking his job.

That's really nothing new, either. Hicks did the same thing with Allen, a fourth-round pick from Idaho State in 2004. With Hicks' help, Allen's 20 sacks in his first two seasons trail only Derrick Thomas' 30.
"Eric's taught me more in this league than any coach I've ever had," Allen said. "What to expect, how things work, blocking schemes, just everything. He could be a great coach if he wanted to."

But Hicks hasn't coached the Chiefs into a great defense. They have a full stable of capable defensive linemen from which to choose, but beyond Allen, none have become proven difference makers.

The Chiefs had the No. 6 run defense in the league last season, surrendering just 98 yards per game. But they allowed 229 passing yards per game, good for No. 30 in the NFL.

That could be changing if the Chiefs get what they expect from Hali.

In Hali, coach Herm Edwards thinks he has a good fit for a 3-4 defensive scheme. With a number of experienced linebackers as well, Edwards said the 3-4 was a possibility.

"We know (Hali) can play in space. He can drop - he dropped in college in zone dogs," Edwards said.

"He can come off the end. We can go to a 3-4 and put him inside and rush. His first couple of years (in college) he actually played inside. So there's a way we go and let him rush. I'm not going to sit here and give my game plan away to 31 teams but there's a lot that we can do."
On the interior, Edwards is pleased with tackle Ryan Sims, the No. 6 pick in the 2002 draft, who, sprained his foot last year and played in just six games.

"He's down to about 315 (pounds) and he's moving well," Edwards said. "He's got a lot of energy in his body and is playing with a lot of confidence."

The first unit thus far in training camp has been Allen, nine-year veteran Lional Dalton, Sims and Hali. Hicks, Carlos Hall, Jimmy Wilkerson and John Browning have all spent time on the second unit.

Edwards expects to use up to eight defensive linemen on game days.

"If you're productive you're in the rotation system," he said. "We don't want any one guy to play over 50 plays. You've got to keep them fresh with what we're asking them to do and how we're asking them to play you can't ask them to play that much."

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