Law Needs Some Deputies


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Jan 22, 2006
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Law Needs Some Deputies
Jul 25, 2006, 5:51:41 AM by Jonathan Rand - FAQ

New head coaches always strive to change a team’s attitude. But it doesn’t help a lot to change the attitude without upgrading the talent. Otherwise, new attitudes quickly become old attitudes. Poor ones, too.

So Herman Edwards’ chances of instilling the Chiefs with a new defensive attitude get better with every improvement he can make. The Chiefs used their top two draft picks for defensive help, but of all their defensive newcomers, none will make as much of an immediate impact as cornerback Ty Law, signed as a free agent Sunday.

Shaky pass defense kept the Chiefs out of the playoffs a year ago. The unit made some progress after its collapse in 2004 and finished seventh in rushing defense, despite a late-season meltdown against the Giants’ Tiki Barber.

But the Chiefs couldn’t get enough pressure on the passer. Their measly total of 29 sacks helps explain why the Chiefs finished 30th in pass defense and 25th in total defense.

How much difference can one cornerback make? With Patrick Surtain on the left side and Law on the right, an opposing offense obviously has no cornerback to exploit. The longer it takes a receiver to get open, the more sack-prone the quarterback becomes.

But Law’s assets can’t be totally enjoyed by the Chiefs unless they get a better push up front. A strong pass rush can help a weak secondary more than great coverage can help a poor pass rush.

It’s not unusual to see a powerful front seven protect a mediocre secondary. It is unusual, however, to see a strong secondary compensate for a weak pass rush.

When it comes to stopping the passing game, pressure is more effective than coverage. Why do you think the prevent defense gets shredded so often? How many coverage sacks do you see in the NFL?

Law, 32, will help the Chiefs under any circumstances. He led the NFL last year with 10 interceptions and made the Pro Bowl. Yet, he was coming off a major foot injury and should be healthier and more effective now. Just don’t expect him to pick off 10 passes again.

It’s another good sign for the Chiefs that Law chose to sign in time for training camp. Conventional wisdom suggested he’d blow off training camp for the second straight year and sign a contract only after avoiding two-a-day workouts and dormitory beds. By signing now, it’s clear he means business.

But don’t expect Law to be Superman. There’s been lot of talk about how he owns three Super Bowl rings and can bring his championship magic to the Chiefs.

Yet the 2004 Patriots won their third Super Bowl in four years, despite a patchwork secondary that had been missing Law since a mid-season foot injury. That should remind us that any championship defense had better boast a stout front seven. And Law’s latest Pro Bowl season, which helped the Jets rank second in pass defense, couldn’t prevent a 4-12 finish.

The Jets’ collapse, of course, was caused by quarterback injuries. Yet it showed that no cornerback, not even Deion Sanders in his prime, is going to take a struggling football team on his shoulders and clear away all obstacles.

Yes, Law can be a difference-maker. But how much of a difference he can make will depend, to a great extent, on how different the rest of the defense can be.

The opinions offered in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the Kansas City Chiefs.

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