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Wile_E_Coyote
08-05-2005, 10:26 AM
In Chiefs' defense, many renovations necessary
Larry Weisman, USA TODAY
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/chiefs/2005-08-04-kc-defense_x.htm


RIVER FALLS, Wis. — This is the house that defies repair. The money pit. The property with incurable defects. Replace the windows, and the roof leaks. Patch the roof, and the foundation cracks. Pour cement, and the sewer line backs up. Anyone check the windows? The wiring? The kitchen sink?

This manse gone to seed is the Kansas City Chiefs defense. It creaks, it reeks, but renovations never cease. Once more, the architects of the franchise conspire to return it to its former sturdy stature.

"We all want to fix the defense," coach Dick Vermeil says. "Sometimes it's not that easy."

They have tried just about everything. Kept an embattled defensive coordinator and gave him new players. Fired the defensive coordinator, brought in a new one and kept the old players. They have refreshed the roster again with players acquired in trades, free agency and the draft.

Two years ago they finished 13-3, powered by an offense capable of scoring nearly every time it handled the football. That potency offset a defense that finished 29th (among 32 NFL teams) in total yards allowed. Last year they slipped to 7-9, the defense slid to 31st (last against the pass) and the club allowed 435 points. The Chiefs lost two games scoring 31 points in each.

Vermeil, 68, is in the final year of a contract. Whether he stays may depend on a defense that could have five new starters.

To shore up their injury-ravaged group of linebackers, the Chiefs signed free agent Kendrell Bell and used a first-round pick on Derrick Johnson.

They signed free agent safety Sammy Knight and traded for cornerback Patrick Surtain, whose 25 interceptions during the last five seasons are third most in the league.

They traded for defensive end Carlos Hall, a speed rusher with 131/2 sacks in his three-year NFL career (with the Tennessee Titans).

"We want to be a physical defense," says Knight, quickly making an impression as a leader. "We want to hit people in the mouth."

The root of rot

When Chiefs President Carl Peterson began to resurrect this fallen franchise in 1989, he hoped to hire his mentor, Vermeil, as head coach. Happy in retirement since leaving the Philadelphia Eagles after the 1982 season, Vermeil declined.

Peterson turned to Marty Schottenheimer, and Schottenheimer, with Gunther Cunningham coordinating the defense (1995-98), fielded teams that twice led the league in scoring defense (1995, 1997).

Cunningham followed Schottenheimer as head coach but was replaced after two years by Vermeil. He had coached the St. Louis Rams to victory in Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000, retired and sat out a year. The Chiefs began to recast their personality.

"Coaches normally have a bias or experience on one side of the ball or the other," Peterson says. "My first two coaches here were defensive guys. When I hired Dick (in 2001) and having been with him in Philadelphia and at UCLA, I knew he was an offensive coach. So the emphasis began there."

The Chiefs traded a first-round pick to the Rams for quarterback Trent Green in 2001 and gave them their No. 2 choice as compensation for luring Vermeil back to the game. They sent a third-round pick to the New Orleans Saints for left tackle Willie Roaf in 2003, seeking better protection for Green.

The offense flourished, but the defense declined.

After the 2002 season, the Chiefs plunged into free agency and signed defensive end Vonnie Holliday, linebacker Shawn Barber and cornerback Dexter McCleon. Holliday is gone, Barber comes off knee surgery and McCleon figures to start because Eric Warfield faces a four-game substance-abuse suspension.

Those imports did not help defensive coordinator Greg Robinson keep his job, even after the 13-3 run that ended in the playoffs in a 38-31 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in which neither team punted. In spring 2004, the Chiefs brought back Cunningham, then an assistant with the Titans. Rather than shop the free agent market, the Chiefs poured money into their own players — defensive end Eric Hicks, defensive tackle John Browning and safeties Jerome Woods and Greg Wesley— with modest results.

Woods is on the bench, and Wesley is moving to free safety with the addition of Knight. Hicks, who put up a career-best 14 sacks in 2000, has 10 during the last two seasons. Browning is solid.

"Some people said we stood pat, and maybe it looked that way," Peterson says, "but we thought that we were making the right decision" spending on their own players.

This time they compiled a wish list of players who could add speed, intelligence and a penchant for creating turnovers.

Surtain gives the Chiefs a corner who can play man-to-man. Knight lacks top speed but always is around the ball and brings a keen understanding of schemes and angles to a leaky secondary.

Bell, the NFL's defensive rookie of the year in 2001 with the Pittsburgh Steelers, is a blitzing threat if he stays healthy. He missed 13 games last year with a groin injury. The Chiefs see Johnson as a sideline-to-sideline tackling threat.

"I think that once we get a little further into the preseason and into the season we will be able to put more of a mark on how the defense really is and their attitude. But I can tell you the face of the defense has changed," running back Priest Holmes says.

"You see marquee guys and some younger guys like DJ (Derrick Johnson), and they can outrun most of the guys who were here. Once you bring in speed, it causes the other guys to speed up so they don't get left behind."

Let's talk

What Knight noticed first when he looked at game tapes of his new team was a lack of communication on the field. He saw opponents using the same play in a game twice against the Chiefs and beating them with it both times on different sides of the field.

Why didn't one defensive back tip off the other? "Whenever you have a lot of breakdowns," Knight says, "it's normally from a lack of communication."

He and Surtain know each other well after the last two seasons together with the Miami Dolphins. Knight also played with reserve cornerback Ashley Ambrose (in 1999) with the Saints.

Such simple phrases as "I got him" when a running back shifts out of the backfield and lines up as a receiver help the players adjust their assignments.

"I've always been vocal because I feel in order to be successful, everybody has to be on the same page," Surtain says. "That's when breakdowns happen, that's when big plays happen. I might not be vocal in the sense of 'I'm going to kick your (butt),' but I'm vocal in terms of communicating with my teammates."

It's a start, and even the offensive players sense a change.

"We were coming off the field on Tuesday, and (wide receiver) Dante Hall said to me, 'Gun, they're smart, a lot smarter than they were a year ago. It's all the little things,' " Cunningham says.

"It comes from Sammy Knight and Pat Surtain and the new guys we picked up. There's a lot more talking, a lot more communication, a lot more being on the right page. They're starting to get the idea."

Tuesday was a good day. Even Vermeil smiled as he spoke about the annual defensive makeover.

"I like to come off a practice field once in a while and the defense has dominated. That doesn't happen around here very often," he says. "They were disruptive and having fun being disruptive. Our offense has been so successful and the defense has been struggling and ... it's hard to come off the field enthused about the defense."

Confidence builds incrementally. The Chiefs have a lot to learn, many parts to assimilate and a wound in their psyche that only success can heal.

"You feel like a second-class citizen when you have the No. 1 offense and the No. 32 defense year in and year out," Hicks says.

Surtain wants to see his guys making big stops at key moments and an end to scoreboard shootouts.

"We're trying to bring the mentality to the defense that 21 points should be enough and that we should win some games on defense," he says. "And we have the personality and the mentality to do that this year."
http://images.usatoday.com/sports/nfl/_photos/2005-08-04-chief-johnson-fr.jpg (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/chiefs/2005-08-04-kc-defense_x.htm)

Dr. Facebook Fever
08-05-2005, 10:39 AM
I'm ready for some football.



:drool:

Tribal Warfare
08-05-2005, 12:01 PM
people say the team is aging, but that's the offense. The defense is generally young

TEX
08-05-2005, 12:38 PM
"We're trying to bring the mentality to the defense that 21 points should be enough and that we should win some games on defense," he says. "And we have the personality and the mentality to do that this year."

I'd be willing to bet that IF the CHIEFS hold every opponent to 21 or under, they would win at least 14 games. And if they extended that into the playoffs, they would win an actual playoff game... :hmmm:

StcChief
08-05-2005, 01:11 PM
"We're trying to bring the mentality to the defense that 21 points should be enough and that we should win some games on defense," he says. "And we have the personality and the mentality to do that this year."

I'd be willing to bet that IF the CHIEFS hold every opponent to 21 or under, they would win at least 14 games. And if they extended that into the playoffs, they would win an actual playoff game... :hmmm:
What he said.

in this day and age of high scoring O. holding a good team to 21 you will win most games. You'll beat all the bad teams.

13,14 wins are not out of the question.

ragedogg69
08-05-2005, 01:13 PM
i must be the only one worried that this could be the year where our offense shows its age. in the beginning last year, it was no where near what it had once been.

htismaqe
08-05-2005, 01:18 PM
What he said.

in this day and age of high scoring O. holding a good team to 21 you will win most games. You'll beat all the bad teams.

13,14 wins are not out of the question.

13 wins is ABSOLUTELY, IRREVOCABLY OUT OF THE QUESTION.

Raiderhader
08-05-2005, 01:30 PM
"We're trying to bring the mentality to the defense that 21 points should be enough and that we should win some games on defense," he says. "And we have the personality and the mentality to do that this year."

I'd be willing to bet that IF the CHIEFS hold every opponent to 21 or under, they would win at least 14 games. And if they extended that into the playoffs, they would win an actual playoff game... :hmmm:


Heck, if we old EVERY opponent to 21 or less, we'll go undefeated. Even on it's off days, the O should be able to handle 21 points.

Raiderhader
08-05-2005, 01:30 PM
13 wins is ABSOLUTELY, IRREVOCABLY OUT OF THE QUESTION.


What he said.

J Diddy
08-05-2005, 01:34 PM
i must be the only one worried that this could be the year where our offense shows its age. in the beginning last year, it was no where near what it had once been.

I'll believe it when I see it.

Pants
08-05-2005, 01:34 PM
What he said.

in this day and age of high scoring O. holding a good team to 21 you will win most games. You'll beat all the bad teams.

13,14 wins are not out of the question.

You must not mention that number!

J Diddy
08-05-2005, 01:34 PM
13 wins is ABSOLUTELY, IRREVOCABLY OUT OF THE QUESTION.

Oh ye of little faith..

Pants
08-05-2005, 01:35 PM
What worries me a lot is how our O-Line always seemed to crumble at the very end of a lot of the games and give the other team an easy sack or hurried passed resulting in an INT. Anybody know what I'm talking about?

Mr. Laz
08-05-2005, 01:51 PM
They have tried just about everything. Kept an embattled defensive coordinator and gave him new players. Fired the defensive coordinator, brought in a new one and kept the old players. They have refreshed the roster again with players acquired in trades, free agency and the draft

they never tried changing the defensive position coaches

TEX
08-05-2005, 01:53 PM
they never tried change the defensive position coaches

EXACTLY! :clap:

TEX
08-05-2005, 01:54 PM
What worries me a lot is how our O-Line always seemed to crumble at the very end of a lot of the games and give the other team an easy sack or hurried passed resulting in an INT. Anybody know what I'm talking about?


And it mostly started and ended with Welbourn or Bober getting totally man-handled. :shake:

htismaqe
08-05-2005, 01:56 PM
Oh ye of little faith..

Faith? Faith has nothing to do with it.

Chest Rockwell
08-05-2005, 01:57 PM
Faith? Faith has nothing to do with it.

Awww, come on, quit raining on their parade.

Don't you enjoy watching the roller coaster go up?

CLICK...CLICK...CLICK...

ptlyon
08-05-2005, 01:59 PM
Faith? Faith has nothing to do with it.

Oh sure she does! (http://www.chiefsplanet.com/BB/showpost.php?p=2607666&postcount=11)

whoman69
08-05-2005, 02:06 PM
I heard the story about the defense is better for the last two years. I'll wait until I see it on the field.