Herm Edwards needed a final-week victory and losses by three other teams
to do it, but Kansas City's new head coach got his team into the playoffs last
season for the first time since 2003. Luck ran out the following week against
Indianapolis, however, as the Chiefs managed just 126 total yards in a 23-8 loss
at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl champions.
Entering 2007, the most noticeable difference between this year's Chiefs and last year's
edition will be the face of the player behind center. Trent Green, the franchise's quarterback
for the past six seasons, was still technically a Chief at press time, but is almost certain to
be suiting up elsewhere this year. Veteran Damon Huard and last year's third-round pick Brodie Croyle will vie for the starting
role, with Croyle the early favorite.
Edwards hopes to mold the Alabama
product into a savvy quarterback capable
of managing his low-risk, run-heavy
That conservative strategy often
resulted in an offense that lacked explosiveness
in 2006, exemplified by the
Chiefs' failure to attain a first down
until the end of the third quarter in the
playoff loss to Indianapolis.
When free agency began, tackle Damion McIntosh was the only offensive
player to ink a deal. The team
grabbed LSU receiver Dwayne Bowe in
the first round of the draft, but spent its
other two first-day selections on defensive
For Kansas City to succeed offensively,
McIntosh must help anchor an offensive line that has lost perennial Pro Bowlers Willie Roaf and Will Shields to retirement in consecutive seasons. If the remade line
meshes well, Larry Johnson will have an easier time turning in another productive season,
which will take pressure off the inexperienced Croyle, should he become the starter.
Croyle's transition would be made much smoother if Bowe or fellow youngster Jeff Webb
can emerge as viable options to go with veteran pass-catching weapons, Tony Gonzalez
and Eddie Kennison.
Defensively, free agent pickups Donnie Edwards and Napoleon Harris will join Derrick
Johnson to form a strong linebacking corps, while safeties Jarrad Page and Bernard Pollard
are expected to move into starting roles in an effort for the team to get younger and faster
In the ever-competitive AFC West, Kansas City needs its young players to fill the voids
left by departed veterans like Sammy Knight and Kawika Mitchell. If Croyle proves to
be a quick study and Johnson can stay fresh after his 416-carry season, the Chiefs have
positioned themselves to be in the playoff race again this season.
5. (160) Justin Medlock, K, UCLA
Powerful, accurate kicker will replace Lawrence
6. (196) Herbert Taylor, OT, TCU
Smallish tackle is the only draft addition to a
questionable offensive line.
7. (231) Michael Allan, TE, Whitworth
Massive athlete with good hands and substantial
1. Donnie Edwards, LB (Chargers)
Former Chief whose playmaking ability
makes him one of the league's best outside
2. Napoleon Harris, LB (Vikings)
Terrific athlete will join Edwards and Derrick
Johnson to form a strong group of linebackers.
3. Damion McIntosh, OT (Dolphins)
13-game starter last year expected to anchor
left side of line.
1. Will Shields, G (retired)
A stalwart at left guard for the past 14
seasons, his presence will be missed both on
and off the field.
2. Kawika Mitchell, LB (Giants)
Void left by team's leading tackler should be
filled by Harris.
3. Sammy Knight, S
Second-leading tackler a victim of a changing of-
the-guard at safety.
1. WHEN WILL THE Brodie Croyle ERA BEGIN? Trent Green's severe concussion in Week 1 of the 2006 season spelled the beginning of
the end of his tenure in Kansas City. He never fully returned to form following the injury,
prompting Kansas City to re-sign Damon Huard and place Brodie Croyle on the fast track
toward becoming a starter. It's no secret that Edwards would like to see Croyle as the starter
as soon as possible, but the coaching staff will find it hard to disregard Huard's experience
and solid performance last season (11 TDs, 1 INT, 98.0 rating in nine games). The Chiefs
might elect to start the season with Croyle anyway, accepting that he will be inconsistent as
he adjusts to becoming a starter. Kansas City's receivers might take a slight dip in value for
the first few weeks of the year should Croyle be handed the starting job.
2. SEVERAL CONCERNS ABOUT Larry Johnson
Johnson's 416 carries last season created quite a stir in Kansas City, especially after
Herm Edwards vowed to avoid overworking his franchise running back. Four other players
in modern NFL history have carried the ball over 400 times in a season; three of them
suffered an injury the following year. Edwards has promised once again to ease Johnson's
workload, so look for Michael Bennett and rookie Kolby Smith to take some of the pressure
off Johnson. Contract demands from Johnson and his agent cloud the runner's status for
2007 even further, and he could stage a training-camp holdout to illustrate his displeasure.
3. WHICH YOUNG RECEIVER WILL EMERGE? Dwayne Bowe will receive most of the hype, but two other young receivers lurking on
the depth chart could surface as receiving threats for Kansas City. Jeff Webb, a second-year
pro out of San Diego State, impressed the coaching staff enough for Edwards to single him
out as a player who needs to be involved in the offense. Webb has the size (6-2, 211), speed
and hands to become the down-the-field target Kansas City's offense is lacking. Chris
Hannon (6-3, 203) spent most of last year on Kansas City's practice squad, but Edwards
would like to increase the Tennessee product's role in the offense as well.
4. NEW AND IMPROVED DEFENSE
Kansas City's defense ranked a respectable 16th in the league last season, but the defen- th
sively-minded Edwards hopes to move that figure into the single digits in 2007. Donnie
Edwards, Napoleon Harris and Derrick Johnson form one of the AFC's strongest group
of linebackers, but the defensive backfield is less settled. Ty Law and Patrick Surtain
continue to start at cornerback, but their advanced age is a cause for concern. Excitement
and expectations surround young safeties Jarrad Page and Bernard Pollard, who showed
flashes of brilliance last season but must prove they can handle increased playing time and
Rising: With Trent Green on his way out
of town, Brodie Croyle will have every
opportunity to win the team's starting quarterback
Falling: After two straight 1,000-yard
seasons, Eddie Kennison's numbers took
a dip last season. The veteran may continue
to see his role decline with Dwayne Bowe
now in the fold.
Sleeper:Jeff Webb has the physical
tools to emerge as a down-the-field threat in
Kansas City's offense.
Supersleeper: If anything ever happened to Tony Gonzalez, Kris Wilson (three touchdowns
in limited playing time last year) would likely
become the team's primary receiving tight end.
1. Donnie Edwards, LB
Playmaker led the Chargers with 141 tackles
2. Tamba Hali, DE
Led team with eight sacks as a rookie last
3. Jared Allen, DE
Six fumble recoveries and 7.5 sacks last season,
but will miss first four games
Article first appeared 6/13/07
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