|12-10-2006, 02:21 AM|
Join Date: Feb 2001
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MERRILL-Dominating defenses need that dominant personality (agreed, Chiefs are w/out)
Dominating defenses need that dominant personality
By ELIZABETH MERRILL
The Kansas City Star
The face of the franchise is gritty, mean and plastered all over billboards in Baltimore. Trevor Pryce thinks it’s fitting that one of the first things he saw when he came to town was Ray Lewis’ massive mug over stop-and-go traffic.
“I think it kind of fits the makeup of this city,” Pryce said. “The city’s real blue-collar. Baltimore is on one side of the tracks, and D.C. is on the other.”
Ask the Ravens whom the leader on their No. 1-ranked defense is, and it is unequivocally, undoubtedly Lewis. Been that way for years. All the great defenses have that face, that leader. In Chicago, it’s Brian Urlacher. Back in the Chiefs’ hit-em-in-the-mouth days of the 1990s, it was Derrick Thomas.
So Kansas City coach Herm Edwards is trying to build the next perfect group of beasts, and he was asked last week who’ll lead the way.
“The leader? I don’t know if there is one yet,” he said. “I think there are some guys who have the ability to do that …
“It comes. You just have to let it happen on its own.”
Or prod someone into it. That’s what Edwards did when he worked with Tony Dungy on Tampa Bay’s defensive makeover. The Bucs had Warren Sapp, and they built their defense around the massive 300-pounder. But when they needed a voice, they went to John Lynch, a ferocious hitter who was a third-round draft pick in 1993.
When first approached, Lynch, who eventually became the godfather for Edwards’ son Marcus, gave Edwards a look like he’d taken too many hits to the helmet.
“I don’t do that,” Lynch said.
“Yeah, you do,” Edwards said.
Lynch led, and the Bucs followed him to the playoffs.
Leadership was the topic du jour after the Chiefs’ debacle in Cleveland. They blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead, watched an unknown backup quarterback zing touchdowns, and lost the upper hand in the AFC wild-card race.
Had a Lynch or a Lewis been there, barking for focus in the frozen air off Lake Erie, the Chiefs wouldn’t have lost it, right?
“I think we’re making a big deal out of this after one game, and that’s not fair,” Edwards said. “Because before, nobody even talked about that. After one game, everybody’s saying, ‘Well, we need a leader.’ Well, we’ve played 12 games, and we’ve been OK. We’ve been very consistent for the most part.
“I think that’s another story we’re trying to conjure up.”
But Edwards knows there’s a difference between OK and great, a noticeable gap between the Ravens and the Chiefs. Asked whether a dominating defense needs at least one dominant personality, Edwards said, “Absolutely.”
Even the “No-Name Defense” would agree.
Manny Fernandez always hated that name. He was a defensive tackle during the Dolphins’ undefeated season in 1972, part of one of the NFL’s most dominant defensive runs in the early ’70s. In 1973, the Dolphins surrendered just 150 points in 14 games. But the name never seemed to go away.
“That’s what some clown put on us, and that’s what we got stuck with,” Fernandez said. “We had Nick Buoniconti, and he’s in the Hall of Fame. We had Jake Scott. He was better than chopped liver.”
Buoniconti embodied the defense’s no-nonsense, grunt mentality — undersized overachiever who needed more than two decades to get into Canton. Everyone knew he was the captain.
Back in the Chiefs’ day, Thomas could spark the defense without a peep. Chiefs president/general manager Carl Peterson wanted the franchise to get back to its defensive roots when he drafted Thomas in the first round in 1989, and by Thomas’ second season, he had 20 sacks.
With his sack-and-strip maneuver, Thomas bred a takeaway mentality that took Marty Schottenheimer’s teams to seven playoffs in eight seasons. The club has been to just one playoff since Thomas’ death in 2000.
“When we needed the big play,” Peterson said, “he would, it seemed, inevitably find a way to create it, be part of it, or make it.”
The current Chiefs do have a handful of Pro Bowlers on defense. Ty Law has been there five times and won three Super Bowls; Patrick Surtain and Sammy Knight have been to Honolulu. But Law was never a vocal player on those Patriots teams, and that pretty much sums up the personality of this defense.
But there are leaders who are developing, Edwards said. He points to Kawika Mitchell, a veteran linebacker whose job in the middle is to direct traffic. Mitchell was maligned in his first few years in Kansas City, became the target of some tough love under defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, and has blossomed into one of the most consistent players on defense.
He bristled at the notion that there are no leaders on the Chiefs’ defense.
“I would say whoever’s saying that doesn’t know what they’re talking about,” Mitchell said. “They don’t play football. We have leaders out there. We have people we look to. I think I can lead to a certain degree. I’m in the front of the huddle, so I try to do what I can do.”
Maybe Mitchell is almost there. Maybe it’s one of the rookies that Edwards loves to throw out there just to see what he can do.
“I don’t know if we’re missing it,” Edwards said. “It’s just different. Leadership is hard because obviously when you’re a leader, you’re standing in front and you put a lot of pressure on yourself as a player. Because all of a sudden, you’re really expected to play well. You’re going to be very consistent, and you’re going to say some things that are going to rub some guys the wrong way.
“In (great) defenses, it’s generally more than one guy. It’s one really strong one, and there’s probably about two or three others that are sprinkled in there.”
“It’s a mind-set. It’s not natural, but it can be developed. It’s a process, and you can’t rush it.”
|12-10-2006, 05:04 AM||#2|
Join Date: Jul 2005
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DJ can and will be a leader, a marquee player.
He just needs to stay healthy and continue to make big plays.
|12-10-2006, 07:48 AM||#3|
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Join Date: Sep 2006
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Its good to know that Kawika takes it to heart & lets it eat at him, that lets me know he really cares.
But i want an angry, focused motormouth out there, a shit talker that compells everyone to back him & his mouth up. Its not a perfect cure, yet i just feel that we are missing that 1 guy who exudes 'tude.
Think Joey Porter without the off-field BS.
I keep thinking that its Jared, but for some reason his fire doesnt seem to rub off the way it might with other guys.
What we do have right now is a very nice mix of youth & vets, so i call on the vets to start leading, not just by example, but with a lil' in yer face instruction.
But even without that guy their is too much experience & talent on D to EVER allow another cleveland steamer.