Putting Together The Pieces


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Jan 22, 2006
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Putting Together The Pieces
Jun 23, 2006, 8:01:57 AM by Bob Gretz

When the Chiefs walked off the field at Arrowhead Stadium back on New Year’s Day they knew things were going to be different come the start of the 2006 season. They didn’t know who was going to be the new head coach, but they knew things were not going to be the same as they had been through most of the Dick Vermeil Era.

There were holes in the Chiefs as they finished up last season. Yes, they won 10 of 16 games, but that wasn’t good enough in the AFC. They missed the playoffs not because of bad luck, but because they didn’t have enough (1.) talent and (2.) production from the talent they did have on the roster.

The Chiefs finished up their off-season on Thursday. That doesn’t mean work has been completed on the roster. But obviously, most of the heavy lifting is already on the books with free agency and the draft. Also, don’t forget that often a team realizes most of its improvement with stepped up play from players already on the roster.

Just where do they stand in filling those holes now that they are five weeks away from their first training camp practice? Here’s one man’s look, in order of the size of the hole on the roster.

Signing Pat Surtain solidified the left cornerback position last year. The hole in the secondary was on the other side, where Eric Warfield under-performed and was sent packing early in the off-season.

To date, the biggest change the Chiefs have made in filling the hole is signing a veteran cornerback who won’t play a down: head coach Herman Edwards. The change in attitude that he’s helped foster throughout the defense will make whoever plays the right corner a better player. The switch to heavy use of the Cover Two will make the starter there a better player.

Judge the roster in a vacuum and the Chiefs haven’t filled the hole. Judge the entire picture and they’ve made progress. Signing Ty Law would be another step forward, but only with a contract that makes economic sense. He would be a band-aid, not a long-term answer.

The Chiefs did a very nice job at stopping the run last year, but were unable to put constant pressure on the quarterback. That’s why they invested their first-round choice in DE Tamba Hali and he’s shown some real flashes in the off-season work. Now, the question is can he withstand the pounding of a 16-game NFL season?

They also added unknown free agent DT Ron Edwards, but so far he’s not been able to get on the field because of off-season shoulder surgery. How much of a factor he will be remains unknown.

One non-factor from ‘05 who could be ready to become a bigger contributor this season is Carlos Hall. After a season where he fought injuries from the off-season program on, this year he’s gotten through the work relatively unscathed. In minimal playing time last year when he was healthy, Hall influenced games. The Chiefs really need him to step forward this season.

Let’s assume for the sake of this argument that Priest Holmes does not return to play this season. That would mean the Chiefs went from Holmes and Larry Johnson to Johnson and Quentin Griffin or Dee Brown. Obviously, that’s a drop in talent and NFL production.

Johnson will turn 27 during the season, so he remains a “young” running back. By the end of this coming season however, his body will age several years since he’s going to get 90 percent of the running opportunities. There remains an option: New Orleans running back Michael Bennett.

If Holmes returns, the Chiefs would have the best halfback duo in the league.

Things looked good when the Chiefs signed Kyle Turley. Then, John Welbourn retired and it left the offensive line in pretty much the same position it was before the arrival of Turley, if not a small step backwards.

Last year showed how important the left tackle position is, especially when the guy playing there is Willie Roaf. If Turley is the backup left tackle, even if he’s starting at right tackle, then the Chiefs have improved themselves. If Will Svitek can translate his NFL Europe performance into NFL play at left tackle, then the Chiefs have improved themselves. If Kevin Sampson can come back and play right tackle the way the team thought he would last year, then the Chiefs have improved themselves. If Welbourn should decide to return, then the Chiefs have really improved themselves.

If Welbourn is gone, then the Chiefs have also lost their best backup guard.

If you listed the skill position offensive players on the Chiefs roster last year in order of their importance based on performances, here’s how things would they would rank: (1A.) Trent Green, (1B.) Larry Johnson, (3.) Tony Gonzalez, (4.) Eddie Kennison, (5.) Priest Holmes, (6.) Jason Dunn, (7.) Samie Parker, (8.) Dante Hall, (9.) Tony Richardson, (10.) Chris Horn and (11.) Marc Boerigter.

So going to training camp this year, the Chiefs have definitely lost their No. 9, 10 and 11 offensive contributors from last year. Combined those three touched the ball 41 times. There were 520 running plays and 317 completed passes during the ‘05 season. Richardson-Horn-Boerigter accounted for five percent of those plays. Losing them will not hamstring the offense.

Horn and Boerigter were valuable because they understood the scheme and could play any of the three wide receiver positions. Of those players challenging for the spots left open by their departure, only one has played a regular season game in the NFL: Darrell Hill, who played in three games in three years on offense for Tennessee and did not make a catch; he was a special teams performer.

Did the Chiefs fill the hole? No. They are counting on improvement from within, from guys like Craphonso Thorpe and Jeris McIntyre to increase the talent level.

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