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Coach
04-24-2005, 07:57 AM
There is reason for concern. The last time I was this pleased with Chiefs general manager/president Carl Peterson was shortly after the Oakland Raiders hoodwinked the Chiefs into acquiring Chester McGlockton.

OK, so there will be no 16-0, Super Bowl proclamations emanating from this column space. But we will take a few moments to congratulate Peterson and owner Lamar Hunt on a marvelous offseason. There is reason for ample optimism.

Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson, despite his unfortunate association with Greg Robinson, was the absolute right draft pick at No. 15. The Butkus Award winner, two-time All-American wasn't supposed to last 15 picks on Saturday. He was supposed to go in the top 10.

He slipped because teams looked past his gaudy statistics, his tremendous size (6 feet 3, 243 pounds), uncanny athleticism, lightning speed (sub-4.7), crowded trophy case, big-play capability and instead concentrated on what he didn't show in college.

He never demonstrated a consistent willingness to take on blockers at the line of scrimmage. The knock on Johnson is that he's an undisciplined, finesse linebacker. He cherry picks and sidesteps, looking for highlight hits and turnovers.

To a degree, Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil acknowledged, Johnson was “coached that way” at Texas.

What that means is that Johnson was one of the nation's top high school recruits in 2001 and an unbelievable athlete when he hit the college campus. When he signed with Texas, I'm sure Mack Brown and his coaching staff looked at Johnson's 10.5 100-meter speed and 48-foot triple-jump range and assured Johnson that he would be completely turned loose in Texas' defense.

The Longhorns didn't sign Johnson so he could take on blockers. They signed him so he could make tackles, run sideline to sideline, create turnovers and give Herbstreit and Corso someone to hype. In college, that's a weak-side linebacker's job. The back-side linebacker is — by design — the most dangerous defender on the field.

Johnson probably didn't get a lot of coaching in college. “You just go make plays, baby,” was more than likely the extent of Johnson's college coaching. That's not a knock on Mack Brown or Greg Robinson. When a kid is that big of a freak, that much of a man among boys, you're best served by taking the restraints off of him.

“He's the most productive linebacker in the draft,” Peterson said.

Vermeil hinted that the Chiefs will try to reel in Johnson's freelance tendencies. The NFL is all about “gap control,” particularly now that everyone wants to be Bill Belichick and win with a team concept rather than riding a few superstars.

“I don't know if he'll be ready to line up and play in the league opener, but there'll be a day he'll line up and play a lot of football in Kansas City,” Vermeil said of Johnson. “First he's going to have to learn the scheme. You do so much more in pro football than you do in college. … It takes time to develop.”

Vermeil is right and wrong. What I love about Johnson is he brings an intangible to the Chiefs defense that all of Kansas City's offseason defensive acquisitions bring. Johnson, like Patrick Surtain, Kendrell Bell and Sammy Knight, is a playmaker with a proven resume. You don't have to guess whether Johnson can make big plays. You just have to turn on any game film.

“It's part of how he plays the game,” Vermeil said. “He makes big plays.”

Johnson can't make big plays standing on the sideline next to Vermeil.

“I hope he does line up for the opener,” Peterson said.

Johnson should. Vermeil indicated that Johnson will compete with Scott Fujita for a starting spot. The Chiefs don't play their outside linebackers strong and weak. They line them up right and left. Johnson could play either side.

I love the pick. I love all the additions to Kansas City's defense. Peterson aimed for proven performers who have shown an ability to make big plays, and that's exactly what he got, which is exactly what the Chiefs needed.

To reach Jason Whitlock, call (816) 234-4869 or send e-mail to jwhitlock@kcstar.com. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com

HC_Chief
04-24-2005, 08:01 AM
I also love this pick. Carl hasn't drafted a guy that I absolutely wanted them to nab since Tony G. I'm also thankful Carolina took the S, making our choice clear: take the best LB available, rather than yet another safety whom we then convert to another position.

Bob Dole
04-24-2005, 08:03 AM
Bob Dole doesn't read all the articles about every other team's top pick each year, but Bob Dole would be willing to bet that ours is the only one that consistently, year after year, quotes the head coach questioning whether the kid we picked first will be ready to play his first season.

Hey coach. It's your staff's ****ing <b>job</b> to have the top pick ready to contribute. Stop making excuses in advance and get the job done.

the Talking Can
04-24-2005, 08:07 AM
I will punch DV in his coochie if Johnson doesn't start the first game of the season.

Tuckdaddy
04-24-2005, 09:36 AM
He will start on opening day. No way around it, he's our first pick and was the 15th pick out of hundreds. Not starting him would be completely stupid looking at our LB depth chart.

I do wonder why Fox did not get a real shot but DJ will start IMHO.

bricks
04-24-2005, 10:45 AM
Let's hope Carl can sign him on time FIRST, you know before training camp, and, then we can take it from there.......

Count Zarth
04-24-2005, 10:46 AM
Let's hope Carl can sign him on time FIRST, you know before training camp, and, then we can take it from there.......

I was thinking about that last night. ROFL

Here we go again!

KCChiefsFan88
04-24-2005, 10:46 AM
Is there really that much difference in playing on the weak side versus playing on the strong side (or as Vermeil calls it left side versus right side) in the 4-3?

If Fujita and DJ are the most talented options the Chiefs have at outside LB (which I think they are) why not start them both?

morphius
04-24-2005, 10:46 AM
Bob Dole doesn't read all the articles about every other team's top pick each year, but Bob Dole would be willing to bet that ours is the only one that consistently, year after year, quotes the head coach questioning whether the kid we picked first will be ready to play his first season.

Hey coach. It's your staff's ****ing <b>job</b> to have the top pick ready to contribute. Stop making excuses in advance and get the job done.
The only thing I can think of is that he just expects all first rounders to hold out missing too much of camp.

Well, that and DV is an old fart who doesn't like young whipper-snappers...

RINGLEADER
04-24-2005, 10:48 AM
I've never understood Vermeil's iron-fisted reluctance to start rookies. That said, I don't see how he doesn't start considering half our LBs could be in street clothes at the season opener.

wazu
04-24-2005, 10:52 AM
I don't think Vermeil minds playing rookies. I think he just says these things so that the rookies don't roll into camp thinking they don't have to earn a starting spot.

htismaqe
04-24-2005, 11:02 AM
I don't think Vermeil minds playing rookies. I think he just says these things so that the rookies don't roll into camp thinking they don't have to earn a starting spot.

It's the Bobby Knight thing. Vermeil is old school.

When Isiah Thomas arrived at Indiana, Knight kicked him out of his very first practice and sent him to the showers before he even touched the ball.

Thomas later asked Knight about it, and Knight said he just wanted to make sure that EVERYBODY understood that no one player, no matter how good, is bigger than the team.