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3 Kansas City CHIEFS

Sept. 01, 2008
Sept. 01, 2008

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Sept. 1, 2008

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3 Kansas City CHIEFS

After years of counting on veterans, Herm Edwards has a plan—rebuild with youth. The payoff will have to wait

HERM EDWARDS issurrounded by red and gold, yet all the Chiefs coach sees is orange and white.Those are the colors the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wore in 1996, when Tony Dungytook over that team and hired Edwards to oversee the secondary. The Bucs werecoming off a losing season and were committed to building with young playersafter years of relying on veterans. They featured two first-round draft picksfrom '95: defensive tackle Warren Sapp and linebacker Derrick Brooks, thefoundations of a perennial playoff team and eventual Super Bowl champion.

This is an article from the Sept. 1, 2008 issue

Now Edwards isthinking about his team—how the Chiefs are coming off a 4--12 season, had twofirst-round draft choices and made a commitment to rebuild with youth afteryears of relying on veterans. "When Tony and I got to Tampa, we talkedabout what we were going to do: We were going to draft players and play them[soon]," Edwards says. "We were going to be positive with them, keepreinforcing what we wanted, and eventually it was going to happen. I see thatwith these kids."

Of the 80 Chiefsplayers who reported to camp this summer, 30 were in their first year, whileonly a dozen had six or more years' experience. That was a dramatic change fromprevious seasons, when the organization favored veterans even though it knewthere could be a price to pay. "It was like a carton of milk [past] theexpiration date," says one club official. "You try to get a couple of[extra] days from it before it goes bad."

If the personnelevaluations were right, the new roster should have years of shelf life. TheChiefs used their two first-round selections on the top defensive tackle in thedraft, Glenn Dorsey of LSU, and a highly rated offensive lineman, BrandenAlbert of Virginia. Both are slated to start. With their 10 other selections inlater rounds, the Chiefs added corner Brandon Flowers of Virginia Tech, anotherwho's expected to start early, and several reserves who'll see significantplaying time.

"You realizein this league, and in life, that if you don't stick to your plan, you reallydon't have a plan," Edwards says. "It's easy to set forth with a planwhen you're sitting in an air-conditioned room and picking young players, andthen when you show up for training camp and the work starts of preparing theseguys to play, you quickly divert from that. You don't have any conviction. Ithink this organization has conviction."

LinebackerDerrick Johnson, entering his fourth season, is viewed as one of the teamleaders. He supports the direction the Chiefs are taking. "We were 4--12last season," he says. "We've got to do something different."

The primary goalis to establish a system in which the offense, defense and special teamscomplement one another. Not surprisingly, Edwards mentions the old Bucs as themodel he'd like to follow. Those teams had a strong, ball-hawking defense; apowerful, chew-up-the-clock run game; and consistent special teams.

But Edwards haswork to do to remake the Chiefs in that image. Third-year quarterback BrodieCroyle is in his first season as the full-time starter. The offensive line hasnew starters at four of the five positions, and Albert was hobbled early incamp with a sprained foot. No one has jumped out as the No. 2 receiver behind2007 first-rounder Dwayne Bowe. At linebacker, veteran Donnie Edwards wasslowed in camp by a hamstring injury, and the middle, where Napoleon Harrisstruggled at times last year, is a question mark. And on the defensive line,Tamba Hali moves from left end to right end in his third season in hopes ofreplacing the production of Jared Allen, who was traded to Minnesota afterleading the league with 15 1/2 sacks.

"We look atthe changes we've made as a good thing," says Croyle. "We can all growtogether, and at the same time we all have something to prove—that we can playin this league, perform at a high level and win games." Just like thoseBucs teams did.

PROJECTEDSTARTING LINEUP WITH 2007 STATISTICS COACH HERMAN EDWARDS (52--60 in NFL),third season with Chiefs

OFFENSE

Dwayne BOWE
POS WR
REC 70
YARDS 995
TD 5

DamionMcINTOSH
POS RT
HT 6'4"
WT 328
G 15

Larry JOHNSON
POS RB
ATT 158
YARDS 559
AVG 3.5
REC 30
YARDS 186
AVG 6.2
TD 4

Adrian JONES --New ACQUISITION
POS RG
HT 6'4"
WT 296
G 7

Brodie CROYLE
POS QB
ATT 224
COMP 127
PCT 56.7
YARDS 1,227
TD 6
INT 6
RATING 69.9

Rudy NISWANGER
POS C
HT 6'5"
WT 301
G 12

Mike COX (R) --New ACQUISITION
POS FB
ATT 6
YARDS 48
AVG 8
REC 12
YARDS 82
AVG 7.7
TD 0

Brian WATERS
POS LG
HT 6'3"
WT 320
G 16

Devard DARLING --New ACQUISITION
POS WR
REC 18
YARDS 326
TD 3

Branden ALBERT(R) -- New ACQUISITION
POS LT
HT 6'5"
WT 316
G 13

Nick NOVAK* --New ACQUISITION
POS K
FG 5--10
POINTS 25

Tony GONZALEZ
POS TE
REC 99
YARDS 1,172
TD 5

DEFENSE

DerrickJOHNSON
POS WLB
TACKLES 93
SACKS 4
INT 2

Brandon FLOWERS(R) -- New ACQUISITION
POS CB
TACKLES 86
INT 5

Turk MCBRIDE
POS LE
TACKLES 13
SACKS 1

Jarrad PAGE
POS FS
TACKLES 54
SACKS 0
INT 3

Tank TYLER -- NewACQUISITION
POS LT
TACKLES 11
SACKS 0

Pat THOMAS
POS MLB
TACKLES 9
SACKS 0
INT 0

Glenn DORSEY (R)-- New ACQUISITION
POS RT
TACKLES 69
SACKS 7

BernardPOLLARD
POS SS
TACKLES 89
SACKS 1
INT 2

Tamba HALI
POS RE
TACKLES 59
SACKS 7 1/2

PatrickSURTAIN
POS CB
TACKLES 58
INT 2

Donnie EDWARDS
POS SLB
TACKLES 106
SACKS 2
INT 1

DustinCOLQUITT
POS P
PUNTS 95
AVG 45.5

New ACQUISITION(R) Rookie (college statistics) *2006 statistics

2007 RECORD 4--12NFL RANK (Rush/Pass/Total): OFFENSE 32/20/31 DEFENSE 28/5/13

SEPTEMBER
7 at New England
14 OAKLAND
21 at Atlanta
28 DENVER

OCTOBER
5 at Carolina
12 Bye
19 TENNESSEE
26 at N.Y. Jets

NOVEMBER
2 TAMPA BAY
9 at San Diego
16 NEW ORLEANS
23 BUFFALO
30 at Oakland

DECEMBER
7 at Denver
14 SAN DIEGO
21 MIAMI
28 at Cincinnati

SCHEDULE STRENGTH
NFL Rank: 26
Opponents' 2007 winning percentage: .453
Games against playoff teams: 5

UNIT GRADES

SI.com's NFL personnel expert Michael Lombardievaluates the Chiefs' units.

QB D
Arm strength, durability among Croyle's questions.

RB B+
Johnson can still be effective, but needs help from the OL.

WR C-
Bowe's a fine player, but little experience around him.

TE B+
Gonzalez remains very good; rookie Brad Cottam has talent.

OL D
Massive rebuilding begins with first-round pick Albert.

DL B
Rookie Dorsey can be a star, fill the hole left by Jared Allen.

LB C
Edwards makes plays; Johnson had his best year. Who's the MLB?

DB D
Lack coverage corners, so expect to see lots of zone.

ST C
Grade hurt by unsettled situation at placekicker.

SPOTLIGHT

Derrick Johnson
LINEBACKER

Last year the former Texas star showed signs offulfilling his first-round promise. Coordinator Gunther Cunningham, nowdoubling as linebackers coach, is spending significant time honing Johnson'sskills, especially on the pass rush. A strong season will give Johnson leverageas he heads into his contract year in 2009.

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SI VAULT

EXCERPTED FROM SI
November 24, 1969

WHEN IT comes to camouflage, the Vietcong are a bunchof taxi squadders compared to coach Hank Stram and his Chiefs. Stram is theDoge of Deception, the Maestro of the Mask as it is currently worn in the worldof pro football formations. And nowhere was the murky art more evident than inShea Stadium as Kansas City bedazzled the world champion Jets.

-- Robert F. Jones

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Free access to all CHIEFS stories and photographs from the SI archives, plusvideo clips.

PHOTOG. NEWMAN LOWRANCE/GETTY IMAGESSOLO THREAT Bowe shows promise, one of the few K.C. skill position players who does.PHOTOWD/ICON SMIPHOTONEIL LEIFER (COVER)PHOTO