Kansas City Chiefs 2008 Preview Report

August 4, 2008 by

Kansas City Chiefs

By Andy Benoit, www.NFLTouchdown.com

Predicted: 4th

2007 Record: 4-12 (3rd AFC West)

Head Coach: Herman Edwards (3rd year)

Roster Quick View

*Rookie

**New Veteran

Offense

QB: Brodie Croyle It’s too early to judge, but so far, he’s 0-6 as a starter and shows sporadic accuracy.

RB: Larry Johnson Broken foot ended his ’07 season in November. He was doing little before that. Great power runner, but might he need dominant blockers in order to thrive?

WR: Dwayne Bowe Dripping with talent. The challenge for him will be developing fundamentals while resisting the temptation to coast on raw skill.

WR: Devard Darling** He’s your No. 2? Really? You know he only has 20 catches in his four-year career, right?

TE: Tony Gonzalez Thirty-two and still the best TE in football (sorry Antonio Gates).

TE: Brad Cottam* Two-hundred-and-sixty-nine-pound frame should help make him a viable run-blocker in Chan Gailey’s frequent 2-TE sets.

LT: Branden Albert* Talented first-round pick who saw his draft stock soar. But that was as a LG. Faces a monumental transition in his first year.

LG: Brian Waters The cog of the front line. Only 31, so still has plenty left, but must rebound from a down year.

C: Rudy Niswanger Undrafted guy who has been a little-used guard for most of his first two seasons. If he can’t cut it, veteran Wade Smith will take over.

RG: Adrian Jones A tackle by trade, but the Chiefs lack options at this position.

RT: Damion McIntosh Moving to the right side (where his skills are a much better fit) after spending nine seasons at LT. Prideful player, well respected by teammates.

—————————-

QB: Damon Huard The reason he’s a career backup is he takes too long to get rid of the ball. Still, he’s proven he can start when called upon.

RB: Kolby Smith Has the potential to be a 1,000-yard back if he’s in the ideal situation. However, doesn’t standout in any one area, which may limit how coaches use him off the bench.

WR: Will Franklin* Nephew of former Bengals WR Darnay Scott. Athletic 4th-rounder who needs a year or two to polish up. Thanks to paucity of WR’s, Chiefs may have to start him in ’08.

WR: Jeff Webb Well-built and effective running after the catch. Problem is, he rarely puts himself in a position to do so.

FB: Mike Cox* Undrafted rookie who could be the default lead-blocker out of the backfield.

OL: Will Svitek Swing tackle. Has alright mobility but lacks the power to pop and hold ground.

Defense

LDE: Alfonso Boone Can be a monster at times, but endurance seems inconsistent. He’s a run-stopping DT playing out of position.

DT: Glenn Dorsey* High expectations as the fifth-overall pick. Was a two-gap defender at LSU, but Chiefs want him to get penetration in a three-technique.

DT: Ron Edwards Why is he starting?

RDE: Tamba Hali Ferocious run-defender though will focus more on pass-rushing now that he’s moved to the right side. Expect at least 10 sacks.

OLB: Derrick Johnson As fluid as they come. Isn’t a beast in traffic, but the more space you give him, the more dangerous he becomes.

MLB: Napoleon Harris Personifies an average LB. Can handle his business, but a majority of his tackles come several yards downfield.

OLB: Donnie Edwards Still effective at 35, though he’s lost more speed than he has left. Fortunately, he’s smarter than everyone else.

CB: Patrick Surtain Also slowing down, but also still capable of starting. Should be a No. 2, but with the DB’s around him, may not get challenged a whole lot.

FS: Jarrad Page Struggled mightily in deep coverage last season. Must improve awareness and take better angles to the ball.

SS: Bernard Pollard Cross apply comment on Page.

CB: Brandon Flowers* Second-round rookie who starts because no one else on this roster can. Scouts like his heart and football IQ.

—————————-

DL: Turk McBride Seemingly vanished late in his disappointing rookie season. It’s too early to cry “bust”, but 14 tackles and 1 sack won’t cut it.

LB: Demorrio Williams** Could certainly start in a bind. Lacks size (6’0”, 232) and strength, but moves well.

NB: Brandon Carr* Fifth-round rookie from Division II Grand Valley State. Will defend the outside in nickel packages.

Key Players Acquired

OT Anthony Alabi (Mia)

WR: Devard Darling (Bal)

DE Trevor Johnson (Stl)

RS B.J. Sams (Bal)

OL Wade Smith (NYJ)

LB Demorrio Williams (Atl)

Key Players Lost

DE Jared Allen (Min)

LB Kendrell Bell

OL Chris Bober

K Billy Cundiff

TE Jason Dunn

LB Keyaron Fox (Pit)

FB Boomer Grigsby (Mia)

WR Eddie Kennison

CB Ty Law

WR Samie Parker (Den)

DT James Reed

CB Benny Sapp (Min)

G John Welbourn

S Greg Wesley (Oak)

C Casey Wiegmann (Den)

H-back Kris Wilson (Phi)

These transactions paint a dire picture of a team in full-scale rebuilding mode. The Chiefs traded the disgruntled Allen (their best player) for three high draft picks, which was good value. Stars like Allen are extremely hard to come by though. Law, Dunn, Kennison, Welbourn, Wesley and Wiegmann were all good players at one point, but all were significantly past their prime. It made perfect sense to get rid of them. Not one of Kansas City’s acquisitions is capable of starting. Darling might get a chance only because the Chiefs are so weak at WR. Sams can at least spark the return game.

2008 – Kansas City Chiefs

Rd

Sel #

Player

Position

School

1

5

Glenn Dorsey

DT

Louisiana State

1

15

Branden Albert

G

Virginia

2

35

Brandon Flowers

CB

Virginia Tech

3

73

Jamaal Charles

RB

Texas

3

76

Brad Cottam

TE

Tennessee

3

82

DaJuan Morgan

SAF

North Carolina State

4

105

William Franklin

WR

Missouri

5

140

Brandon Carr

CB

Grand Valley State

6

170

Barry Richardson

T

Clemson

6

182

Kevin Robinson

WR

Utah

7

210

Brian Johnston

DE

Gardner-Webb

7

239

Mike Merritt

TE

Central Florida

The Chiefs certainly nailed the quantity part––how much quality they drafted remains to be seen. Remarkably, as many as six rookies could be starting in 2008. Dorsey and Albert are already focal points on the first string. DT’s generally struggle transitioning from college to the NFL. Given that Dorsey has no one around him, expect that to be the case. Albert is a G who will be learning to play LT on the fly. That’s like a med student interning as a head MD in an emergency room. Flowers seems ready for the pros. Cottam is the other likely starter, given new OC Chan Gailey’s predilection for 2-TE formations. Franklin and Carr both appear destined to handle three-receiver duties on their respective sides of the ball.

Kansas City Chiefs 2008 Preview Report

Look Chiefs fans, it’s not going to be fun, okay? But understand, it’s part of life. Everyone goes through it at some point. The Germans went through it after World War II. Your friends all went through it after their first major breakup. Heck, the Florida Marlins go through it every few years. It’s called rebuilding, and it’s what your favorite team is doing right now.

The worst part of any rebuilding project is the sucker punch that precedes it. No one ever sees it coming. The Germans didn’t foresee the bombing of Dresden. None of your friends predicted the last big fight. And the Marlins….well, okay, the Marlins usually do foresee it, as their rebuilding projects are often triggered by a World Series title. But they’re weird like that.

Chiefs fans, take solace in knowing that you’ve already survived your sucker punch. It came last year. It must have hurt. Your team snuck into the playoffs in ’06, then began the ’07 season 4-3. That’s when the fortress fell, as Kansas City lost nine straight. A lot of the experts were surprised the fall didn’t come sooner. But you, Chiefs fans, you seemed surprised that it even came at all.

By December you had mastered the art of booing and were calling for the head of team president Carl Peterson. You even hurled your new booing skills at him during the team’s draft party in April. You shouldn’t have.

And you shouldn’t be so hard on head coach Herman Edwards either. Clock-management issues aside, the man has reached the postseason four times since 2001. Only three head coaches (Bill Belichick, Tony Dungy, Mike Holmgren) have gone more. Edwards’s players respect him, and a lot of them learn under his tutelage.

As for Peterson, perhaps he could have read between the lines and spotted the looming rebuilding stage earlier (say, three or four years ago, when most of the offense became eligible for AARP membership). But you probably would have just booed the guy then, no?

You probably don’t want to hear any of this right now. That’s fine––you love football and badly want your team to win. There’s some nobility to that. But realize, you’re acting like the teenager who hates their parents because of a midnight curfew. You should be thankful that your team has leaders who are even willing to rebuild. Some clubs––the Raiders, for example––can never face their rebuilding stage. It’s sad because when this happens, their rebuilding stage never goes away.

At least your team is owned by the Hunt Family and managed by guys like Peterson and Edwards who, despite risking their own job security, willingly dismantle an aging roster in order to replenish it through the draft. That’s the right away to go about it––you can’t buy your way out of rebuilding.

This is why your team said goodbye to big-name veterans like Ty Law, Casey Wiegmann and Eddie Kennison (to name a few). And it’s why they traded Jared Allen. No need to say it––it’s obvious you weren’t happy about the Allen trade. There was plenty to question about the move (mainly, if Peterson won’t keep a 26-year-old sack leader, who will he keep?). But regardless of the trade’s merits, Peterson is to be commended for staying true to his plan. By getting rid of Allen, he saved the team over $30 million in guaranteed money (which is good because the Hunt Family is shelling out $150 million in the otherwise publicly-funded $400 million Arrowhead Stadium renovation project and isn’t big on paying for hefty signing bonuses right now). Peterson also acquired an additional first-round draft pick for Allen, as well as a pair of third-rounders.

In all, Chief fans, your team had 12 draft picks this past April––half of them in the first three rounds. There’s no way this won’t pay some sort of dividends in a few years. But for right now, you’ll have to be patient. As many as six of these draft picks could be starting this season.

Headlining the bunch is Glenn Dorsey, who must learn to be a one-gap defensive tackle while facing NFL blockers and having shaky tackles beside him. Dorsey is a first-rounder, so go ahead and expect big things. But don’t forget the challenge he’ll be going through.

Branden Albert is a first-rounder as well, but be easier on him. The guy was a guard in college and is getting acclimated to the foreign left tackle position. That’s one of the toughest positions in football. Last year, you were too hard on left tackle Damion McIntosh (who, by the way, is now starting on the right).

Second-round pick Brandon Flowers will start at cornerback. Rookie corners are seen as fresh meat by most quarterbacks in this league. Flowers may be ready for the job, but he’ll be playing with a pair of safeties (Bernard Pollard and Jarrad Page) who are awful in coverage. It’s almost inevitable that he’ll struggle. Keep this in mind.

The nickel back next to Flowers will be another rookie––Brandon Carr. You’d be diabolic to jump on this kid right away. He’s a fifth-round pick out of Division II Grand Valley State. He’ll be playing with the same iffy safeties as Flowers, only he’ll have minimal big stage experience to refer to. And don’t forget, Carr, Flowers and the rest of the young defenders will be hearing from acerbic defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham throughout the week. In other words, criticism from you on Sunday would just be overkill.

Again, remember that you’ve survived the sucker punch. And while you were booing your head coach, he was getting some of the early growing pains out of the way. Edwards allowed quarterback Brodie Croyle to start six games last season. The kid lost all six, but at least now he won’t be so wide-eyed when he takes the field to start his third professional season. And he’ll have second-year stud Dwayne Bowe to throw to.

Edwards was even willing to stick with his young safeties last year (Pollard and Page were second-year players at the time). Their performance was brutal, but the coach knew that ’07 was a lost cause, which made veteran safety Greg Wesley’s contributions moot. That’s why Wesley sat.

Edwards maybe could have been more patient with rookie defensive linemen Tank Tyler and Turk McBride, but those guys needed to show better work ethic. In fact, if you absolutely must boo a young player, boo them. They could use a kick in the pants.

But be patient overall. Another four-win season seems imminent. Six wins would be solid. Eight wins, reason for a parade. Such is life. Your team has been pretty stellar for quite awhile. Now, Chiefs fans, it needs your support.

Offense

The maturation of Brodie Croyle is key. And obviously, so is the health of workhorse Larry Johnson. Also significant is the arrival of coordinator Chan Gailey, a meat and potatoes type play-caller who favors the power-run with two-tight end formations.

But nothing about Kansas City’s offense will matter if the front five doesn’t improve. This offense’s ’07 yardage and scoring ranking of 31, as well as its rush ranking of 32, pass protection ranking of 29 and third down ranking of 28, were direct results of an O-line that was as impermeable as a colander. It was bad. Like stale-cereal-in-spoiled-milk-bad. Or Ben-Affleck-in-Gigli-bad.

Consequently, four of the five positions up front will be manned by someone new this year. The only guy returning to his spot is mobile three-time Pro Bowler Brian Waters, who is looking to bounce back from a mediocre season. That could be tough, given the situation around Waters.

Branden Albert is a guard playing left tackle. Damion McIntosh is a left tackle playing right tackle. Such a switch sounds easy, but some players have actually compared it to learning to write with the opposite hand. Rudy Niswanger was once an undrafted guard who is now playing center. Adrian Jones is a right tackle sliding inside to play guard.

Should any of these five guys get injured or fail, swing tackle Will Svitek (who can also play guard) could step in. So could center Wade Smith (who also plays tackle). Or guard Tre’ Stallings (who is more experienced at tackle). Or ex-Dolphin Anthony Alabi, a tackle by trade but guard by necessity.

If these linemen play well, then their peripateticism is seen as versatility. If they struggle, it’s viewed as instability. At this point, the latter seems more likely. Albert has a monumental challenge in front of him. Niswanger is 6’5”, which is awfully tall for a center. He may have trouble gaining leverage. Jones and McIntosh will survive on the right side, but both guys are extraordinarily average.

Mitigating the situation will be the presence of an extra tight end. Expect third-round rookie Brad Cottam to spend a lot of time on the left side helping Albert. Cottam (6’5”, 269) has excellent size, and scouts marveled at his strength coming out of Tennessee. However, he must avoid the injury bug that bit him in ’04 and ’07.

Future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez is a better blocker than people realize, though obviously, the Chiefs need his services in the passing game. Some have murmured that the 32-year-old is slowing down. That’s funny because even though the Chiefs had no rushing attack last season, Gonzalez still managed to catch 99 passes for 1,172 yards.

Gonzalez will be Brodie Croyle’s first option, though second-year wideout Dwayne Bowe seems destined to soon change that. Bowe is a freakish athlete blessed with solid speed and a chiseled 6’2”, 221-pound frame. His greatest challenge at this point is simply avoiding the tendency to ride his wave of talent instead of developing his fundamentals.

It will be slim pickings for Croyle outside of Gonzalez and Bowe. Chronic underachiever Devard Darling is slated to start at the other wideout spot. The hope is that working with receivers coach Eric Price––who recruited Darling at Washington State––can ignite him. There’s still hope for the ex-Raven. He’s not fast or quick, but he’s at least willing to go over the middle.

Fourth-round rookie Will Franklin will have a chance to earn a starting job. Franklin played at nearby Mizzou and showed goods hands and agility. He may need some refining though. Third-year player Jeff Webb has not materialized as hoped, mainly because he struggles getting open.

As for Croyle, his job is anything but secure. The Chiefs took a good long look at Matt Ryan prior to the draft, and if they were concerned about making the playoffs, they’d probably be starting limited but dependable 12th-year veteran Damon Huard (like they did last year). Croyle is a solid athlete with a good enough arm. He needs to prove that he can read a defense and manage the flow of a game.

In fairness to Croyle, he did not have a formidable rushing attack to fall back on last season (the offensive line’s struggles were to blame). The hope is that Larry Johnson––who, this time a year ago, was coming off his second-straight 1,750-yard rushing season––can stay healthy and hungry. Johnson broke his foot last November and had been treading water behind feeble blocking before that. He is a workhorse who can wear down a defense, as long as he doesn’t wear down first (emotionally as well as physically). Johnson turns 29 in November, but considering he sat for most of his first two pro seasons, one would think he has at least three years of gas left in his tank.

Still, the Chiefs must be judicious in the number of carries they give Johnson (his NFL record 416 attempts in ’06 were too much). Backup Kolby Smith was impressive at times as a fifth-round rookie last season, but he does not flash any striking skill that would give him a distinct role off the bench. This could be why Carl Peterson drafted lightning-fast Jamaal Charles in the third round.

Kansas City was hoping a starting fullback would emerge in one of the minicamps, but none did. Most likely, either Oliver Hoyte or undrafted rookie Mike Cox will handle the job in ’08. Expect Gailey to sub the fullback for an extra tight end on most downs.

Defense

There will be growing pains on defense, though not quite as severe as on offense. This unit has surrendered fewer points every year since Gunther Cunningham returned as coordinator in 2004. This season, Cunningham will be pulling double duty by coaching the linebackers, something he hasn’t done since ’97. The added job won’t be too hard––linebacker is the only sturdy sector on the defense. All three starters from last year (middle ‘backer Napoleon Harris and outsiders Derrick Johnson and Donnie Edwards) return. Also in the fold is speedy outside backup Demorrio Williams, who signed from Atlanta.

Harris is as average as a ham sandwich, but the Chiefs can live with that. Johnson picks up some of the slack. He’s not fierce in traffic, though he’s deadly in space. He runs as well as any linebacker in the league, and the further he’s run, the harder he’ll hit. Compared to Johnson, Edwards is slow. But 13 years worth of wisdom compensate for most of his decline.

Kansas City’s front four won’t be as potent after the departure of Jared Allen. The arrival of Glenn Dorsey is a huge plus, but Allen may have been the most dominant defensive lineman in the league. Dorsey will focus on getting penetration as opposed to occupying blockers like he did at LSU. It’s curious that the Chiefs don’t line up 304-pound beast Alfonso Boone at his natural tackle position next to Dorsey. Boone is not a clogger, but his brute power makes him a natural disruptor inside. He could draw some of the attention away from Dorsey.

Instead, the Chiefs are using Boone at left defensive end to combat the outside run. That leaves the spectacularly mundane Ron Edwards in a starting role. If Tank Tyler could play, Kansas City would start him. However, the third-round pick from a year ago does not seem to have the professionalism to make it in the NFL. Tyler has potential as a pass-rusher, but he must drastically improve his strength and technique.

Allen’s departure moves third-year pro Tamba Hali over to the right side. Hali is elated about the opportunity because it will likely lead to more sacks. Indeed, he has the speed and tenacity to be an upper-echelon pass-rusher––he just needs to finish big plays (he had 7.5 sacks last season but let at least another five slip through his grasp). One concern, however, is that Hali’s relocation will mitigate his impact against the rush. The 275-pounder plays with masterful leverage and is one of the best run-defending ends––if not the best––in football.

Turk McBride will be the primary backup at defensive end (though he came into the league as a defensive tackle). When he’s playing with confidence, he shows excellent quickness. Defensive line coach Tim Krumrie needs to help McBride find his confidence more often. Putting him inside more could help.

The secondary can make or break this defense in 2008. Free safety Jarrad Page and strong safety Bernard Pollard need to elevate their game. Page was spectacular as a seventh-round rookie in ’06 but tailed off after assuming a fulltime starting role in ’07. Part of the problem is that the 225-pounder is a natural strong safety who is far more comfortable near the line of scrimmage. However, Page already has six interceptions to his name, so it’s not like he’s incompetent in coverage.

Pollard is very similar to Page. A natural thumper, he’s most effective near the box. The Chiefs willingly use their linebackers in coverage (Edwards is shrewd defending underneath and Johnson can run with most wide receivers, let alone a tight end). Nevertheless, Kansas City desperately needs Page and Pollard to improve their awareness and take better angles. There are no options behind either man. Third-round rookie DaJuan Morgan had only one full season of starting experience before leaving North Carolina State a year early, and veteran Jon McGraw has nowhere near the foot speed required to start in the NFL.

Cornerback Patrick Surtain is aging but not enough to be shown the door. His veteran experience is valuable. Brandon Flowers is a smart player but a rookie nonetheless. Nickel back Brandon Carr is well-sized but in need of significant polish. Also in need of polish are undrafted young veterans Tyrone Brackenridge and Dimitri Patterson.

Special Teams

Placekicking was a major issue for the Chiefs last year. They shuffled through three players (John Carney, Dave Rayner and disappointing fifth-round pick Justin Medlock) and never felt right about any of them. This year, they’re hoping that journeyman Nick Novak can handle the job. If he can’t, they’ll start praying about undrafted rookie Connor Barth. Punter Dustin Colquitt is coming off a very fine season. He averaged 45.5 yards per boot, with a net of 39.5.

Longtime Raven B.J. Sams was brought in to be the return specialist. DUI arrests and the occasional injury have blemished Sams’s career, but if he’s right, he’s a long-striding playmaker.

Bottom Line

2010. This, Chiefs fans, is when you can expect your team to win again. Until then, stay patient––there’s a lot to build here.

Herman Edwards is a bad coach

Edwards is not the league’s best coach, but he takes more heat than he deserves. Part of the reason is that he occasionally makes mistakes managing the clock, which is a very public error that all fans can see. But clock-management is only a small part of a head coach’s job description.

Edwards’s track record suggests he’s handling the rest of his business rather well. He’s gone to the playoffs four times since 2001, which ties for the fourth most amongst all NFL head coaches. Yes, he had a losing record with the Jets, but his numbers were skewed by a tumultuous 4-12 ’05 season that blindsided the entire organization. The year before that, Edwards had New York three points away from reaching the AFC championship.

Edwards’s record in Kansas City has been marred by yet another quick-striking rebuilding project. The Chiefs went 4-12 last season after the front office proved to be one year behind in retooling the roster. But before that, Edwards led this team to an unexpected playoff appearance, despite being without starting quarterback Trent Green half the year.

Perhaps most important about Edwards is that he is a man of character who garners respect from all his players. He played the game, and now, he teaches the game. There are worse coaches out there.

Open Thought

Kudos to the Chiefs and the people of Kansas City for facing the hefty bill of renovating Arrowhead Stadium and not succumbing to selling out on the venue’s naming rights. The stadium remodeling project is costing the Hunt Family $125 million, and taxpayers have been paying an additional 3/8th cent sales tax to come up with another $250 million. It would be very easy to sell the naming rights and lose the integrity of Arrowhead Stadium, but the Missourians seem to have wisely realized that the extra $4 or $5 million a year would not be worth it.

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