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Tribal Warfare
09-07-2009, 12:36 AM
Chiefs have picked up the defense this preseason (http://www.kansascity.com/sports/chiefs/story/1428532.html)
By KENT BABB
The Kansas City Star

Todd Haley changed the subject. Late last Thursday, after another loss behind an unreliable Chiefs offense, the team’s first-year head coach shifted the conversation toward Kansas City’s maligned — but steadily improving — defense.

“Despite the results,” Haley said of the Chiefs’ 0-4 preseason record, “there were some encouraging things out there for us.”

The most encouraging thing might be that Haley said that, amid other issues to correct, the defense is ready for Sunday’s regular-season opener at Baltimore. With an unreliable offense weakened by a porous line, the Chiefs need as little to worry about as possible. Kansas City did address its offensive line Sunday, claiming former New England tackle Ryan O’Callaghan off waivers.

But with the work that remains, and the experimenting that has gotten the Chiefs this far, Haley’s confidence in the defense is a relief — especially considering how far the unit needed to go four months ago. That’s when Haley announced that the team was shifting to a 3-4 defensive front and that some established players would have to make some difficult — but necessary — transitions.

When Kansas City made its final roster cuts Saturday, trimming to the league-mandated 53 active players, three open-minded and tested players were among the survivors. Tamba Hali, Turk McBride and Andy Studebaker began the offseason as defensive ends before Haley and coordinator Clancy Pendergast implemented the 3-4 and moved the three players to outside linebacker.

There was a time during offseason workouts that McBride said he didn’t even think he was a “good” linebacker, let alone a defender who might make the Chiefs’ opening-day roster. There was a time that Hali couldn’t be counted on to drop into pass coverage without his feet getting tangled.

All three made adjustments, and because of that, all three made the team. And that not only gave the Chiefs a jolt of confidence, it allowed them to fine-tune the defense and waive players who once were considered essential, particularly if the new outside linebackers couldn’t adapt. Kansas City waived veteran linebacker Zach Thomas and safety Bernard Pollard on Saturday, not long after both players were considered likely starters.

Haley said last week that some defenders had made a “pretty steep transition,” and because of that and the growth of the defense as a weapon — the Chiefs had seven sacks in four preseason games, including two by Studebaker — the team could turn its attention to other needs.

“We’ve had some guys come in from other places who have shown they can be a part of this,” Haley said.

“There are definitely some signs, really from the whole team, that there are some guys who are starting to get it.”

Not that the Chiefs don’t have plenty of things to worry about. The offense remained a concern after Thursday’s preseason finale, and the weekend’s cuts elicited more questions about how Kansas City can strengthen its offense — and how quickly it can be done. The Chiefs parted ways with all but eight offensive linemen, leaving the starters and three backups before they were awarded the 6-foot-7, 330-pound O’Callaghan a day after the Patriots waived him. O’Callaghan, a fifth-round pick in 2006, started seven games in three seasons in New England. He missed last season because of a shoulder injury.

While O’Callaghan adjusts to his new team, most of the other Chiefs will have already undergone their changes. Haley is just glad the defensive side of the transition has begun to show progress.

“We’re at least starting to get a core of guys that understand what we’re asking of them; how we want it done,” Haley said. “The trick is going to be to get the rest of the fringe guys on board and thinking and doing the right things. Then we’ll have a chance.”

Practice squad

Seven players among this weekend’s roster cuts were added Sunday to the Chiefs’ practice squad.

Cornerback Jackie Bates, tight end Tom Crabtree, defensive ends Dion Gales and Bobby Greenwood, guard Darryl Harris, running back Javarris Williams and wide receiver Rodney Wright were assigned to the squad after they cleared waivers.

"Bob" Dobbs
09-07-2009, 12:51 AM
Well, at least it's good to hear that Haley thinks he can count on the D; more than before anyway. Right now, I'll take the positives where I can get 'em.