- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
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Through April 20, "SportsCenter" will put every NFL team "On The Clock." Scouts Inc. will break down each team and look at what questions still need answering.
The Chiefs made the playoffs last season, but they were clearly overmatched against the Colts and made a quick postseason exit. Damon Huard will be the quarterback this season, and his main job will be to avoid mistakes and hand the ball to Larry Johnson. Johnson is a force, but the Chiefs ran him into the ground. He set a league record last season with 416 rushing attempts. Kansas City relies on Johnson far too much, and his offensive line is declining. The defense has shown signs of improvement, and further improvement should be on the horizon in Herman Edwards' second season.
The Chiefs retained Huard to steer their ship. He played well and managed the game effectively while Trent Green missed eight games. Kansas City locked up perennial Pro Bowl TE Tony Gonzalez before free agency began, which was absolutely huge for an offense lacking weapons. The Chiefs were an excellent red-zone passing team, and Gonzalez was the main reason why. His game hasn't declined and he will be Kansas City's go-to guy once again next season. The Chiefs also signed Damion McIntosh from Miami to play left tackle. He is a far cry from Willie Roaf, but is a decent addition and an upgrade over what they played with last season. On defense, the Chiefs were very aggressive in upgrading their starting linebackers by signing Donnie Edwards and Napoleon Harris. They will team with Derrick Johnson, who has the looks of an excellent young linebacker, to create a formidable starting trio. The Chiefs recently signed ends Jimmy Wilkerson and Alfonso Boone to bolster their defensive line. Boone should have more impact as a two-down run defender and clogger in the middle. Boone looks like a good fit. Ron Edwards also was re-signed to take reps at defensive tackle.
MLB Kawika Mitchell probably will not be retained after Kansas City signed Harris and Edwards. Harris fits Kansas City's Cover 2 scheme better than Mitchell did. OT Jordan Black signed with Houston but was more or less replaced by McIntosh, which is pretty much a wash. It seems likely that Green will not be back with the Chiefs and rumors continue to fly about his likely destination. He will be 37 when the 2007 season opens and his game showed obvious decline after his serious head injury in the 2006 regular-season opener. His decline was particularly apparent in Kansas City's playoff loss in Indianapolis. With the infusion of proven linebackers, Kendrell Bell still might be released to open more cap space. Just this past week, Kansas City released SS Sammy Knight and OT Kyle Turley. Knight was released to pave the way for younger players, and Turley simply isn't big enough to play the position and was a failed experiment.
For a playoff team that has not been ravaged by free agency, Kansas City has quite a few needs at this point of the offseason. Its offense was ineffective on third-and-long situations and desperately needs to find a true No. 1 wide receiver. The offensive line is not what it once was and the Chiefs need an infusion of young talent. They also need to make sure Michael Bennett gets more touches. Johnson will have a short career at this pace. There are still murmurs that Priest Holmes could return, but that has to be considered a long shot. A hammer fullback to pave the way also is a priority. On defense, the Chiefs badly need a difference-maker at defensive tackle. The Chiefs are also old at cornerback and need a young player to immediately compete for substitution package playing time. Kansas City's defense was much stronger in the second half of games and often struggled early on. The coaches must figure why this occurred and get it corrected.
1dMel Kiper Jr.
2dEric D. Williams