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Old 04-26-2005, 09:11 PM  
ZootedGranny ZootedGranny is offline
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In defense, Chiefs get their men (Teicher article on Gun)

http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercu...s/11496020.htm

BY ADAM TEICHER

Knight Ridder Newspapers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - On Jan. 22 - he remembers the exact date because he entered it in his log - (KRT) - Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham handed president/general manager Carl Peterson his player wish list.

Written on the piece of paper were the names of linebacker Kendrell Bell, safety Sammy Knight, end Carlos Hall and four cornerbacks, including Patrick Surtain.

"I told Carl that if could get all of that done," Cunningham said, "I could go home and sleep at night."

After three agonizing months that included a self-imposed public silence ("I was paranoid and petrified I would say something wrong and mess the whole thing up," he said), Cunningham was finally able to sleep soundly by the end of last week.

After making the trade with Miami for Surtain, the Chiefs had accomplished everything on Cunningham's list - and to top it off, they added Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson in the first round of the draft.

For Cunningham, it was Christmas in April, only better. No holiday gift had ever helped him win a football game.

Cunningham was comfortable talking about it all Tuesday. Most telling was the broad grin he couldn't shake the whole time through.

"I guess the thing I equate it to is having a game plan," Cunningham said. "You make a lot of game plans in a season. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't. This one hit the jackpot. As far as I'm concerned, this is like a shutout win."

The names on Cunningham's wish list were there because they share a quality he believes will help the Chiefs get back to where they were defensively when he was their coordinator in the middle and late 90s, a quality that has been lacking in the Dick Vermeil era.

"My theme throughout all of this was to turn the calendar back and add the explosion that this city and this organization are used to on defense," Cunningham said. "Explosion is about speed. It's about suddenness in closing on the ball. All of these guys have that. Patrick and Sammy proved that with their turnovers. I saw Kendrell Bell single-handedly work over the Tennessee Titans offense. To me, he's a bigger Anthony Davis, and Anthony Davis had a lot of explosion, so he could make plays other people couldn't make.

"Carlos Hall has a lot of that, too. His best game is rushing the passer. So all four of those guys roll back the calendar, bring us back to the good old days. I never lost sight of what this defense brought to the table in the old days."

With his personnel wishes fulfilled, Cunningham's immediate job is to figure how the new guys fit with the old. Some are easy to figure. Hall joins Eric Hicks and Jared Allen in the rotation at defensive end. Knight is the starting strong safety and will oust one of the longtime incumbents, Greg Wesley or Jerome Woods, from the starting lineup.

Surtain joins Eric Warfield as a starting cornerback. Surtain reminds Cunningham of a former great Chiefs cornerback .

"He's the same as James Hasty, and not just through his play but his attitude," Cunningham said. "You ask Patrick Surtain about anything or anyone in the NFL, and he'll give you their bio. He studies the game, and that's how he plays. He'll see something, and then he'll pick your pocket. He has the instincts, the intelligence and the awareness. He's physical, too. He will tackle you in the running game."

Cunningham compared the athletic Johnson not to any former Chiefs, but instead to Pro Bowl linebacker Keith Bulluck of Tennessee. Cunningham coached Bulluck with the Titans.

"The thing he will do is touch a lot of balls in the passing game," Cunningham said. "He has an unusual knack for stripping the ball. But the best thing he does is close on the ball. Whether you blitz him or play him in coverage or whether he plays the run, he gets to the ball and he gets there fast."

Cunningham's specific plans for Bell, Johnson and the rest of the linebackers are sketchy and flexible. After the Chiefs initially indicated Bell would start in the middle, Cunningham tentatively has him as right outside linebacker and has Johnson competing with Scott Fujita_if Fujita is healthy - on the left side. Kawika Mitchell is the starter in the middle.

"What you have to do is work the player and understand each player," Cunningham said. "That's why we really don't have any depth charts around here. We take a good look at them and play the best ones. We can't give somebody a job because we think they can play. We have to know he can play."

That comment appears aimed mostly at Mitchell, who has been slow to develop since joining the Chiefs as a second-round draft pick two years ago.

"I saw an upside in Kawika at the end of the year," Cunningham said. "I think it's coming. For a lot of guys, it takes three years or more to play there unless you've got a rare guy."

However the Chiefs line up in their Sept. 11 opener against the New York Jets at Arrowhead, Cunningham is having fun tinkering. His defense is brimming with possibilities that didn't exist a few weeks ago.

"You've got to recollect your thoughts as a coach because the euphoria we feel as an organization and as a city_I'm not deaf and blind, so I can see everybody is excited_that euphoria has to be under control," Cunningham said. The next phase is about ready to begin. You have to keep your wits about you and not get too high or too low.

"I'm relaxed right now, but I need to get my game face back on."

ROOKIE FREE-AGENT ADDITIONS: Northwest Missouri State cornerback Gabriel Helms was one of six rookie free agents to agree to terms Tuesday with the Chiefs.

The others were Georgia Tech receiver Nathaniel Curry, Arkansas defensive tackle Arrion Dixon, Indiana (Pa.) linebacker Kris Griffin, Liberty running back Sam Gado and Montana tight end Willie Walden.

The rookies agreed to two-year contracts.
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Old 04-26-2005, 09:17 PM   #2
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"After the Chiefs initially indicated Bell would start in the middle, Cunningham tentatively has him as right outside linebacker and has Johnson competing with Scott Fujita_if Fujita is healthy - on the left side. Kawika Mitchell is the starter in the middle."

Could Boomer beat out Kawika in camp? lol
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Old 04-26-2005, 09:17 PM   #3
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Old 04-26-2005, 09:19 PM   #4
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Old 04-26-2005, 09:19 PM   #5
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Kawika starting in the middle?

I trust Gun, but he better be playing a whole lot better than he did last year if this actually pans out.
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Old 04-26-2005, 09:21 PM   #6
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Quote:
Cunningham's specific plans for Bell, Johnson and the rest of the linebackers are sketchy and flexible. After the Chiefs initially indicated Bell would start in the middle, Cunningham tentatively has him as right outside linebacker and has Johnson competing with Scott Fujita_if Fujita is healthy - on the left side. Kawika Mitchell is the starter in the middle.

The Kawika haters are gonna love that.

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Old 04-26-2005, 09:21 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reaper16
"After the Chiefs initially indicated Bell would start in the middle, Cunningham tentatively has him as right outside linebacker and has Johnson competing with Scott Fujita_if Fujita is healthy - on the left side. Kawika Mitchell is the starter in the middle."

Could Boomer beat out Kawika in camp? lol

Where did this quote come from ???
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Old 04-26-2005, 09:24 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cdcox
Kawika starting in the middle?

I trust Gun, but he better be playing a whole lot better than he did last year if this actually pans out.
Well, he did get better somewhat at the end of the season, so there's still a ray of hope for that area.

But then, remember, that Tennessee LB'ers were horrible before Cunningham came there, and made them a respectable LB's.

Here's hoping Gun can get it done.
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Old 04-26-2005, 09:26 PM   #9
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He's going to have a fast front seven and he's going to attack, attack, attack and keep attacking. Oh happy day.

I'm not surprised at the Davis-Bell comparison and Bell being projected at ROLB. I expect Hall to beat out Hicks. He's sounding more and more like a Gun favorite.
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Old 04-26-2005, 09:27 PM   #10
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The fact that Carl got Gun every player he wanted speaks volumes about what Carl thinks of Gun. You don't spend that kind of "jack" if you don't trust the guy. I don't think gun wanted, nor Carl paid for these guys to be a number 15 ranked defense.

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Old 04-26-2005, 09:29 PM   #11
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Old 04-26-2005, 09:29 PM   #12
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Bell, Mitchell, Johnson

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I am glad Gun saw what I and others saw at the end of the year last year in Kawika. I would switch Bell and Mitchell position wise though.
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Old 04-26-2005, 09:30 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Coach
Well, he did get better somewhat at the end of the season, so there's still a ray of hope for that area.

But then, remember, that Tennessee LB'ers were horrible before Cunningham came there, and made them a respectable LB's.

Here's hoping Gun can get it done.
I would agree if this were a young developing team. Unfortunately, we no longer have the luxury of waiting for players to develop. The schedule gets off to a tough start. If we don't want to start 2-5 we need vast improvement in LB play from opening day. I still think Fujita, Bell and Johnson project to be our three best (healthy) LB. We need all 3 of them on the field. Maybe Gun doesn't think Fujita will be ready by opening day?
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Old 04-26-2005, 09:32 PM   #14
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Not to nitpick the validity of the story, but if Bell was the guy the Gunther always wanted why did KC pursue Hartwell so hard? Bell was the consolation prize.

Anyway, it's good to see Gunther happy. I'm glad he plans on playing Bell on the outside where he can be used best - rushing the QB. I mentioned earlier today that I had hoped the Chiefs could find a veteran MLB. With Mitchell as the pencilled in starter I hope they do find one.
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Old 04-26-2005, 09:33 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cdcox
I would agree if this were a young developing team. Unfortunately, we no longer have the luxury of waiting for players to develop. The schedule gets off to a tough start. If we don't want to start 2-5 we need vast improvement in LB play from opening day. I still think Fujita, Bell and Johnson project to be our three best (healthy) LB. We need all 3 of them on the field. Maybe Gun doesn't think Fujita will be ready by opening day?
It's possible that Fujita might not be ready until training camp or so. I just am pretty sure that Barber will be on the PUP list by the time TC starts. How he'll recover, I don't have a clue. It's also possible that in some passing downs where Kendrell can be in the MLB on some blitz packages and all that.
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