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3 Kansas City Chiefs

Sept. 03, 2007
Sept. 03, 2007

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Sept. 3, 2007

SI Players: LIFE ON AND OFF THE FIELD
2007 NFL Preview
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3 Kansas City Chiefs

Can a blend of veteran experience and youthful promise give this club something other than a Jekyll-and-Hyde identity?

WHAT'S NEW

This is an article from the Sept. 3, 2007 issue

> What exactlyare the Chiefs right now? Coming off an up-and-down season in which they edgedinto a wild card, they jettisoned longtime starting quarterback Trent Green,wanting to get younger across the board. So their four big free-agentacquisitions were a 34-year-old outside linebacker, Donnie Edwards; a28-year-old middle linebacker, Napoleon Harris; and two starting tackles,Damion McIntosh and Chris Terry, who are 30 and 32, respectively. Atquarterback they're straddling the line between ancient (Damon Huard, 34, theopening day starter) and fuzzy-cheeked (Brodie Croyle, 24, the presumedsuccessor). "I know who we are," said coach Herm Edwards in trainingcamp. "We've changed the face of our team, but we're still a cross betweena young team and a veteran team. This franchise has had 53 wins the last sixyears, which is good, but that's what this team was."

K.C. thinks itsretooled defense could be a top 10 unit. Coordinator Gunther Cunninghamwill move end Tamba Hali all over the front seven to maximize his rush skills,and over his shoulder often will be one of the fastest linebackers in football,Derrick Johnson. Free-agent vets Harris and Edwards, with Johnson, should givethe Chiefs their best linebacking corps in years. At safety two 2006 rookies,Jarrad Page and Bernard Pollard (who blocked three kicks last year), take theirhead-hunting games to the starting lineup. The Chiefs will have to play smart,low-scoring games and win the turnover battle.

WHERE THEY'REHEADED

> There areplenty of obstacles to success. This is the only team in the league that playsits first two and its last two games on the road. There's also a bull's-eye onthe shoulder pads of running back Larry Johnson, the main offensive threat; agreen quarterback, Croyle, pegged to take over at some point in the season; anda formerly strong offensive line that's now a patchwork.

The offense is allJohnson, all the time. He was wise to redo his contract in August because healmost surely won't have the same negotiating power after the season as he didbefore, running behind a line in which guard Brian Waters is the onlyoutstanding pro. Plus, there's no way a back can continue on the pace Johnsonhas kept up the past two years. After carrying the ball 140 times in his firsttwo seasons, mostly backing up Priest Holmes, Johnson toted it a combined 752times in 2005 and '06. Since the NFL went to the 16-game schedule in 1978, onlyEric Dickerson carried it more in back-to-back seasons, with 769 for the Ramsin 1983-84. Johnson is only 27, but if he continues bearing such a burden, hemay have only two or three dominant years left.

Herm Edwards sayshe'll keep LJ fresher this year by using a couple of relief pitchers--veteranMichael Bennett and surprising fifth-round rookie Kolby Smith fromLouisville--but let's see if that plan holds in late December if the Chiefs arestill in the playoff race. "Obviously he won't run it 400 times again,"Edwards says, "but whoever runs it, we've got to get 2,000 yards." K.C.rushed for 2,143 last year.

The Chiefs willplay it safe in the passing game, with Huard expected to give way to Croyle,the second-year player out of Alabama who'll get the chance to show he's thequarterback of the future. "I get the don't-be-a-gunslinger talk twice aweek," says Croyle. "If the big play's there, hit it. If not, checkdown to the back. I know that, and I'm ready. This is what I've been preparingfor since junior high school. It's not too soon."

There's amplereason to suggest that last year's 16th-ranked defense can get muchbetter--mainly because of four rapidly developing young players. DerrickJohnson, being mentored by veteran tackling machine Donnie Edwards, could havea breakout season pass rushing from the weak side. Page and Pollard are thebiggest combo platter in the NFL in the deep secondary. Both weigh about 225and are Polamalu-type big hitters. The question is, Are they mature enough andsmart enough to be good players and not just torpedoes?

But if this defenseis going to be great, Hali is the key. As a rookie out of Penn State he showedsuch consistent pursuit that Cunningham began playing him on both sides of theline and as a stand-up rusher at times, all to try to get him in the backfieldmore. The result: eight sacks and six forced fumbles. "If you want to begood in the NFL," Hali says, "there has to be something that separatesyou from the other rushers. With me, I think it's being relentless on everyplay." Hali will be helped by having a playmaker like Edwards commandingattention. After leading the 14-2 Chargers with 141 tackles last year, ahealthy Edwards looks to have a season or two left. He and Hali could form adangerous rush tandem.

Typical of thisteam, Edwards is 34 and Hali is 23. The Chiefs will need outstanding effortsfrom the old men and the kids to make a playoff run.

PROJECTED STARTINGLINEUP

WITH 2006STATISTICS

COACH HERM EDWARDS(48-48 in NFL), second season with Chiefs

OFFENSE

EDDIE KENNISON

POS WR

REC 53

YARDS 860

TD 5

LARRY JOHNSON

POS RB

ATT 416

YARDS 1,789

AVG 4.3

REC 41

YARDS 410

AVG 10.0

TD 19

DAMON HUARD

POS QB

ATT 244

COMP 148

PCT 60.7

YARDS 1,878

TD 11

INT 1

RATING 98.0

KRIS WILSON

POS FB

ATT 0

YARDS 0

AVG --

REC 15

YARDS 132

AVG 8.8

TD 3

DWAYNE BOWE(R)"NEW ACQUISITION"

POS WR

REC 65

YARDS 990

TD 12

CHRIS TERRY

POS RT

HT 6' 5"

WT 295

G 7

JOHN WELBOURN

POS RG

HT 6' 5"

WT 310

G 9

CASEY WIEGMANN

POS C

HT 6' 2"

WT 285

G 16

BRIAN WATERS

POS LG

HT 6' 3"

WT 320

G 14

DAMION MCINTOSH"NEW ACQUISITION"

POS LT

HT 6' 4"

WT 328

G 13

TONY GONZALEZ

POS TE

REC 73

YARDS 900

TD 5

DEFENSE

DERRICKJOHNSON

POS WLB

TACKLES 75

SACKS 4 1/2

INT 0

TAMBA HALI

POS LE

TACKLES 58

SACKS 8

RON EDWARDS

POS LT

TACKLES 20

SACKS 2 1/2

ALFONSO BOONE"NEW ACQUISITION"

POS RT

TACKLES 26

SACKS 2

JARED ALLEN

POS RE

TACKLES 77

SACKS 7 1/2

DONNIE EDWARDS"NEW ACQUISITION"

POS SLB

TACKLES 141

SACKS 2 1/2

INT 3

TY LAW

POS CB

TACKLES 65

INT 4

JARRAD PAGE

POS FS

TACKLES 35

SACKS 1

INT 3

NAPOLEON HARRIS"NEW ACQUISITION"

POS MLB

TACKLES 59

SACKS 2 1/2

INT 3

BERNARDPOLLARD

POS SS

TACKLES 10

SACKS 0

INT 0

PATRICKSURTAIN

POS CB

TACKLES 66

INT 1

JUSTIN MEDLOCK(R)"NEW ACQUISITION"

POS K

FG 28-32

POINTS 113

DUSTINCOLQUITT

POS P

PUNTS 71

AVG 44.3

NEWACQUISITION

(R) Rookie(college statistics)

2006 RECORD 9-7NFL RANK (Rush/Pass/Total): OFFENSE 9/22/16 DEFENSE 18/18/16

2007 SCHEDULE

SEPTEMBER

9 at Houston

16 at Chicago

23 MINNESOTA

30 at San Diego

OCTOBER

7 JACKSONVILLE

14 CINCINNATI

21 at Oakland

28 Bye

NOVEMBER

4 GREEN BAY

11 DENVER

18 at Indianapolis

25 OAKLAND

DECEMBER

2 SAN DIEGO

9 at Denver

16 TENNESSEE

23 at Detroit

30 at N.Y. Jets

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL rank T5

Opponents' 2006 winning percentage .516

Games against playoff teams 5

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Hali will be freed to unleash terror from any spot on the frontseven.
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