| Bowe shows promise, one of the few K.C. skill position players who does.
|G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images|
7 at New England
21 at Atlanta
5 at Carolina
26 at N.Y. Jets
2 TAMPA BAY
9 at San Diego
16 NEW ORLEANS
30 at Oakland
7 at Denver
14 SAN DIEGO
28 at Cincinnati
Derrick Johnson, Linebacker: Last year the former Texas star showed signs of fulfilling his first-round promise. Coordinator Gunther Cunningham, now doubling as linebackers coach, is spending significant time honing Johnson's skills, especially on the pass rush. A strong season will give Johnson leverage as he heads into his contract year in 2009.
After years of counting on veterans, Herm Edwards has a plan -- rebuild with youth. The payoff will have to wait.
Herm Edwards is surrounded 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 Dungy took over that team and hired Edwards to oversee the secondary.
The Bucs were coming off a losing season and were committed to building with
young players after years of relying on veterans. They featured two first-round
draft picks from '95: defensive tackle Warren Sapp and linebacker Derrick
Brooks, the foundations of a perennial playoff team and eventual Super Bowl
Now Edwards is thinking about his team -- how the Chiefs are coming off a
4-12 season, had two first-round draft choices and made a commitment to rebuild
with youth after years of relying on veterans. "When Tony and I got to Tampa, we
talked about 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, keep
reinforcing what we wanted, and eventually it was going to happen. I see that
with these kids."
Of the 80 Chiefs players who reported to camp this summer, 30 were in their
first year, while only a dozen had six or more years' experience. That was a
dramatic change from previous seasons, when the organization favored veterans
even though it knew there could be a price to pay. "It was like a carton of milk
[past] the expiration date," says one club official. "You try to get a couple of
[extra] days from it before it goes bad."
If the personnel evaluations were right, the new roster should have years of
shelf life. The Chiefs used their two first-round selections on the top
defensive tackle in the draft, Glenn Dorsey of LSU, and a highly rated offensive
lineman, Branden Albert of Virginia. Both are slated to start. With their 10
other selections in later rounds, the Chiefs added corner Brandon Flowers of
Virginia Tech, another who's expected to start early, and several reserves
who'll see significant playing time.
"You realize in this league, and in life, that if you don't stick to your
plan, you really don't have a plan," Edwards says. "It's easy to set forth with
a plan when you're sitting in an air-conditioned room and picking young players,
and then when you show up for training camp and the work starts of preparing
these guys to play, you quickly divert from that. You don't have any conviction.
I think this organization has conviction."
Linebacker Derrick Johnson, entering his fourth season, is viewed as one of
the team leaders. He supports the direction the Chiefs are taking. "We were 4-12
last season," he says. "We've got to do something different."
The primary goal is to establish a system in which the offense, defense and
special teams complement one another. Not surprisingly, Edwards mentions the old
Bucs as the model he'd like to follow. Those teams had a strong, ball-hawking
defense; a powerful, chew-up-the-clock run game; and consistent special
But Edwards has work to do to remake the Chiefs in that image. Third-year
quarterback Brodie Croyle is in his first season as the full-time starter. The
offensive line has new starters at four of the five positions, and Albert was
hobbled early in camp with a sprained foot. No one has jumped out as the
No. 2 receiver behind 2007 first-rounder Dwayne Bowe. At linebacker,
veteran Donnie Edwards was slowed in camp by a hamstring injury, and the middle,
where Napoleon Harris struggled 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 of replacing the production of Jared Allen, who was traded to
Minnesota after leading the league with 15 1/2 sacks.
"We look at the changes we've made as a good thing," says Croyle. "We can all
grow together, and at the same time we all have something to prove -- that we can
play in this league, perform at a high level and win games." Just like those
Bucs teams did. -- Jim Trotter