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3 Kansas City Chiefs A club beset by questions is counting on a Priest (Holmes) to deliver it from eternal limbo

Sept. 02, 2002
Sept. 02, 2002

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Sept. 2, 2002

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3 Kansas City Chiefs A club beset by questions is counting on a Priest (Holmes) to deliver it from eternal limbo

Assume, for the sake of the Chiefs' prospects this season, that
tight end Tony Gonzalez will end his holdout sometime in
September. His 80 or so catches are vital to the offense. Either
Gonzalez will give up his dream to play in the NBA and sign a
long-term contract with Kansas City, or he'll sign the one-year,
$3.05 million offer the team has on the table. It's hard to
imagine the man turning down at least $180,000 every Sunday.

This is an article from the Sept. 2, 2002 issue

Assume, also, that Trent Green won't be the mistake-prone
quarterback he was a year ago, when he was coming off major knee
surgery. Green had never turned the ball over much until last
year, when he led the league with 24 interceptions. But that was
after he had barely worked out with his new mates in the 2001
off-season. "I had some problems with accuracy," he says, "and
that came from not making the throws in minicamps and training
camp. I'm so much healthier this year."

Assume, too, that the offensive line--even with new left tackle
Willie Roaf hobbling through camp as he recovers from October
2001 knee surgery and John Tait struggling to play right tackle
for the first time in his career--will hold up. The interior line,
led by Pro Bowl guard Will Shields, remains a strength.

If Gonzalez, Green and the line do their parts, then the question
about the Kansas City offense comes down to this: Can Priest
Holmes repeat his 2001 performance--2,169 total rushing and
receiving yards--or was it a fluke?

Only Marshall Faulk had more yards from scrimmage last year than
Holmes, who, with 1,555 yards on the ground, became the first
undrafted player in 47 years to win a league rushing crown.
Holmes wasn't drafted out of Texas five years ago because he was
thought to be too small and too slow. But at 5'9" and 213 pounds
he showed the strength to plow inside and the quickness to get
around the corner. He was surprisingly hard to tackle, as was
evident when he rushed for 150 yards against Pittsburgh, which
had the NFL's best run defense.

The Chiefs seem concerned about Holmes's encore campaign.
"There's no doubt in my mind that he'll have a big bull's-eye on
his chest," says coach Dick Vermeil, entering his second season
with the team. "He's going to get a lot more attention from teams
than he did last year. I still think he can be a 1,300-yard
rusher every year, but I'm not sure he can have the same kind of
impact he had last year."

The doubts--not just Vermeil's but those of the fans and the
media--are music to Holmes's ears. "That inspires me," he says.
"The obstacles will be different this year, but I'm going back to
work, and I'll face every one of them head-on. I've always known,
even when I wasn't drafted, that greatness was attainable. Now
it's here, it's reality, and I'm never going to let it go."

Holmes has reason to believe in himself. For one, his career
rushing average before last year was 4.5 yards per carry, an
excellent number for a guy who couldn't nail down the No. 1 job
during four checkered seasons with the Ravens. For another, he
plays as if he's a couple of different backs in one body. "My
strength is being able to change hats," he says. "Tell me the
defenses we're up against, and I'll play each one differently. We
go against power, and I'll be elusive. We go against a quicker
defense, I can steamroll them."

The Chiefs will try to employ Holmes differently in the passing
game this season. Last year he caught mostly screens and swing
passes; now he'll run more patterns five and 10 yards upfield.
Vermeil hopes that will make the offense less predictable and
give the attack a new dimension. "We had 28 takeaways last year
and scored three touchdowns off them," Vermeil says. "That's
horse manure! I used to walk off the field last year so depressed
about our offense. I think we'll be better in all phases."

Of course, that depends on Gonzalez, Green, the line and--most of
all--Holmes. "I legitimized my place in the game last year,"
Holmes says. "When that happens, after you've had people doubt
you for years, you know there's no way you'll ever go
back." --P.K.

COLOR PHOTO: BRIAN BAHR/GETTY IMAGES Holmes's career 4.7-yard rushing average is reason to believe that '01 was no fluke.COLOR PHOTO: NFL PHOTOS MORTON

NEW TWIST

Weakness on the interior line last season forced right end Eric
Hicks to concentrate on the run, and his sack production sank
from 14 in 2000 to 3 1/2. Hicks should return to form. Two
rookie tackles will bolster the run defense, and line coach Bob
Karmelowicz has told him, "Don't be predictable. Don't make the
same pass-rush move two plays in a row."

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Chiefs

"Trent Green got better as the season went along last year. It
looked as if he got into a flow with the offense instead of
trying to force plays that weren't there. Still, he threw 12
fourth-quarter interceptions, the most in the league. That shows
terrible judgment.... Priest Holmes is Marshall Faulk without the
name. What a player--in the passing game and running inside and
outside.... They have to find a spot for Omar Easy, who's more of
a classic fullback than Tony Richardson is.... Somebody explain
how the Lions let Johnnie Morton get away. He's fast, and he has
more than 3,000 receiving yards over the past three years. He
gives the Chiefs some explosiveness.... The other receivers scare
no one. Marvin (Snoop) Minnis is tough but undersized, and Eddie
Kennison can't go near the middle.... The tackle spot could be
their Achilles' heel, with Willie Roaf worn down and John Tait an
underachiever.... The defensive line can't get enough pressure on
the quarterback. Duane Clemons is supposed to be their best guy,
but he's not fast enough around the corner, and he's coming off
knee surgery.... Moving Mike Maslowski into the starting lineup
at outside linebacker takes away the best special teams player on
a club that was awful in the kicking game last year.... Greg
Wesley is a big, physical and underrated safety. I'd blitz him a
lot more. He has a real mean streak."

SCHEDULE

Sept. 8 at Cleveland
15 JACKSONVILLE
22 at New England
29 MIAMI

Oct. 6 at N.Y. Jets
13 at San Diego
20 DENVER
27 OAKLAND

Nov. 3 Open date
10 at San Francisco
17 BUFFALO
24 at Seattle

Dec. 1 ARIZONA
8 ST. LOUIS
15 at Denver
22 SAN DIEGO
28 at Oakland (Sat.)

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL rank: 6
Opponents' 2001 winning percentage: .535
Games against playoff teams: 7

PROJECTED LINEUP with 2001 statistics

COACH: Dick Vermeil; second season with Kansas City (82-83 in NFL)
2001 RECORD: 6-10 (fourth in AFC West)
NFL RANK (rush/pass/total): offense 6/5/5; defense 27/14/23

OFFENSIVE BACKS PVR*

QB Trent Green 95
523 att. 296 comp. 56.6% 3,783 yds. 17 TDs 24 int. 71.1 rtg.

RB Priest Holmes 4
327 att. 1,555 yds. 4.8 avg. 62 rec. 614 yds. 9.9 avg. 10 TDs

FB Omar Easy (R) 376
45 att. 196 yds. 4.4 avg. 9 rec. 70 yds. 7.8 avg. 1 TD

FB Tony Richardson 101
66 att. 191 yds. 2.9 avg. 30 rec. 265 yds. 8.8 avg. 7 TDs

RECEIVERS, SPECIALISTS, OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

[PVR*]

WR Johnnie Morton[N] 91 77 rec. 1,154 yds. 4 TDs
WR Eddie Kennison 176 31 rec. 491 yds. 1 TD
WR Marvin Minnis 173 33 rec. 511 yds. 1 TD
TE Tony Gonzalez 55 73 rec. 917 yds. 6 TDs
K Morten Andersen[N] 271 29/30 XPs 23/28 FGs 98 pts.
PR Dante' Hall 380 32 ret. 7.3 avg. 0 TDs
KR Dante' Hall 380 43 ret. 22.5 avg. 0 TDs

LT Willie Roaf[N] 6'5" 312 lbs. 7 games 7 starts
LG Brian Waters 6'3" 315 lbs. 16 games 8 starts
C Casey Wiegmann 6'2" 285 lbs. 15 games 15 starts
RG Will Shields 6'3" 311 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RT John Tait 6'6" 316 lbs. 16 games 16 starts

DEFENSE

LE Eric Hicks 42 tackles 3 1/2 sacks
T John Browning 15 tackles 1 1/2 sacks
RT Ryan Sims (R)[N] 51 tackles 5 sacks
RE Duane Clemons 36 tackles 7 sacks
OLB Lew Bush 26 tackles 0 sacks
MLB Marvcus Patton 98 tackles 3 sacks
OLB Mike Maslowski 11 tackles 1 sack
CB Eric Warfield 66 tackles 4 int.
SS Greg Wesley 73 tackles 2 int.
FS Jason Belser 8 tackles 0 int.
CB William Bartee 36 tackles 0 int.
P Dan Stryzinski 73 punts 40.8 avg.

[N] New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 98)

"Somebody explain how the Lions let Johnnie Morton go. He gives
the Chiefs explosiveness."