It may be hard to believe that the Kansas City Chiefs, whose records the last 3 years were 4-12, 2-14 and 4-12 are ahead of the curve on, well, anything.
Still, in today’s NFL, if you want a chance of going to the Super Bowl, chances are you are going to have to go through a guy named Brady, Manning, Favre, Rivers, Palmer, Rodgers, Roethlisberger or Brees.
Soon we may be adding names like Flacco, Ryan, Cassel, Freeman, Sanchez, Bradford, Stafford and yes, maybe even Tebow.
The point is, the NFL is now, more than ever before in its history, a QB driven league.
Sure, the QB has always been the most important position on the team but with the way offenses are putting up numbers these days, the Chiefs need a defense than can keep up during the track meet. Pioli nearly has them ready.
Heading into the 2010 draft, I felt pretty darn good about the Chiefs secondary. They had Brandon Flowers who appears to be on the verge of a breakout, Pro Bowl season. They has Brandon Carr who continued to improve in his second season being the other starting corner. The strong safety position clearly needed addressing but Jarrod Page would be healthy at free safety and I was sure the Chiefs were gunning for Berry.
We all know what happened next. Pioli stacked his secondary taking Eric Berry, Javier Arenas and Kenrick Lewis. The rookies join Carr and Flowers, along with Donald Washington and Travis Daniels as a very athletic, speedy backfield.
Don’t scoff at names like Daniels, Washington and Leggett.
Daniels was a 4th round pick by the Dolphns back in 2005. He had a pretty decent rookie season with Miami, racking up 61 tackles, 1 pick and 13 passes defended. He was struck by the injury bug in his 2nd year and his career quickly went south. He was traded to the Browns for a 7th round pick in 2008 and was later cut. The Chiefs got him off the scrap heap.
Still, it seemed not a day went by where Daniels didn’t have an interception during OTA’s. In fact, Daniels had been practicing so well that by the end of OTAs he had unseated Maurice Leggett as the other starting corner. (Flowers is still rehabbing his shoulder). If Arenas is to be the Chiefs Nickel then Daniels look s like he has a legitimate shot at being the primary backup corner.
Daniels may seem like a broken down CB who never worked out but he is only 27 and if he continues to excel in Romeo Crennel’s defense, he could be one of KC’s surprise players in 2010.
Washington was a 4th round pick by Scott Pioli in the 2009 draft. He did not play very well last season at CB but coach Todd Haley has gone on the record as saying that Washington was playing from behind.
“We hadn’t seen Donald at this point and we have talked about that before that Donald kind of had a setback right out of the gate just coming from where he was coming and their rules. Donald is a guy I am really excited about. As I have said, the one and two and three year players have to develop and have to force the arrow up for you to become a good team. He is one of those guys who the coaching staff, and more specifically myself, is expecting him to really make a jump. He is doing everything that he has to in order to put himself in a place to succeed. We talked about moving him over there to safety and I would never look at that as a negative thing, I think it is an extremely positive opportunity for him to get into the mix there and compete and hopefully find his way to the front of the lineup.”
Washington was widely regarded as the most athletic CB at the NFL Combine in 2009 and now the Chiefs have moved him to safety, a position the feel needs more depth. More from Haley:
“The big thing with moving him over to safety was just about trying to give him the best opportunity to succeed and at the same time looking out for the team in the best possible way. The corner position is getting better every day and I feel good about it. The safety position was obviously a spot from last year that has to get better. I am excited about him being in that mix of guys, both new and returning guys, to get into the mix, push the competition up and the best man wins.”
Washington will get a chance to use his athleticism to make the safety position better. It is no secret that Eric Berry will be one of the starters but with Jarrod Page holding out, the free safety position is up for grabs. Washington may not be able to unseat draft pick Kendrick Lewis who currently appears to be the starter but he could add nice depth to a position that dearly needs it.
Washington has all the physical tools. If he continues to adjust to the pro game then watch out.
Lastly, Legget is a bit of a mystery. He came in during the Herm Edwards era. Leggett won the Mack Lee in 2008, an award the Chiefs give to their top rookie.
Many on the Chiefs claim Legget was the fastest player on the team last year but he had trouble catching on as a punt returner and as the nickel CB before landing on injured reserve. He is another athletic, speed guy hoping to find a place as a backup corner or safety. Leggett has been down before and come back from the dead so don’t count him out.
Scott Pioli has assembled a defensive backfield chalk full of talent and speed. The only think these guys are lacking is the all important experience factor.
What the Chiefs have working in their favor is that they have veterans Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr to anchor the young defense.
Building a team is all about developing your own young players and draft picks. No GM and no amount of money can bring in enough veteran free agents to build a Super Bowl winning team. You only need look at the Washington Redskins to learn that.
The Chiefs could be on the verge of something special but for the team to get to the next level, the improvement has to come from within. If the Chiefs secondary continues to improve, left by Flowers and Carr, the team could have one of the best pass defenses in the league. Perhaps not in 2010, but soon.
If a strong secondary is what the Chiefs will need to defeat a league moving more in more in the direction of the spread offense, Pioli has them ahead of the curve.