Here we are, 2 ½ weeks until the start of training camp and the Arrowhead Addict group psychosis is already starting to set in.
I am sure some of our regular readers are taking a couple of weeks off. They, like the players and coaches, need a break before the season gets into full swing and they eat, sleep, breathe and crap Kansas City Chiefs Football. They are the lucky ones. Their time off is allowing them to keep their optimism firmly in place. They will return in a couple weeks refreshed and ready to declare a 16-0 season.
Those of us who remain are the real sick ones. It is the middle of July and we are still here debating, worrying and projecting about the best damn football team in the world. It could not be a slower time for NFL news yet we are here every day. Hell, just yesterday, Merlin sent me a “Merlin’s Mock” for the NFL Supplemental Draft on Thursday. A mock draft for the SUPPLEMENTAL DRAFT! The sad thing is, all he wrote in the email was “run stopper,” 750 times. That is it! He didn’t even sign it!
It is like we are all sitting alone a dark room. We know the room is empty and that there is no reason to be afraid of the dark but the simple fact that we have nothing but time inside our own heads to ponder the possibilities is causing us to create demons out of thin air. The primary worry of the skittish Chiefs fan seems to be the front 7.
Sure, there are things to be worried about. I see the logic. The front 7 is essentially the same as it was in 2009. The run defense was terrible last year. Our nose tackle situation is so bad people are starting to suggest we sign Jason Whitlock to plug up the middle. However, in all the panic about the front 7, we are forgetting there is a factor we may not be considering enough.
Time changes us. The Glenn Dorsey that lines up this fall is not the same Glenn Dorsey that lined up last fall. He will be more experienced, he will likely be in better shape and he will be a year older. He will have changed. The same goes with Tyson Jackson, Jovan Belcher, Andy Studebaker, Wallace Gilberry and Alex MaGee.
A lot of NFL teams evaluate their rosters by categorizing players as ascending, descending or static. Younger guys tend to be ascending as they are still learning and growing as football players and as men. Older veterans are descending. They have reached their peak and due to age will probably only get worse. Static guys have peaked and probably won’t get much better. They have a few years to go before they become descending players.
Here is an example:
Jamaal Charles: Ascending
Mike Vrabel: Descending
Jarad Allen: Static
Charles can improve and has plenty of room to do so. Vrabel is obviously on borrowed time and Jarad Allen is pretty much as good as he is ever going to get.
It took Jarad Allen 3 full NFL seasons to ascend to the level he is at now. Basically, it took him 3 years to become the best player he could be.
Some guys are playing at their peak from day 1. Some guys hit peaks and valleys. Some guys start out hot and burn out. Some guys are steady their whole career. There is no exact science.
The worries over the Chiefs front 7 are legit worries but I think they are premature. They are premature because many of the Chiefs front 7 can still be classified as ascending players. That doesn’t necessarily mean they WILL ascend but they could.
Let’s classify the front 7:
That means that the Chiefs 7 players who could be better this year than ever before. That is just in the front 7. Never mind still ascending Brandon Carr, Brandon Flowers, Javier Arenas, Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis.
Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson are likely leveling out though it is possible both could play better or worse than we have seen in the past. Their play will likely fall somewhere in the middle of their best and worst seasons. Shaun Smith is what he is. There doesn’t appear to be any surprises with him.
Vrabel and Edwards are on the decline.
As worried as some of you might be about the front 7, I encourage you to put your faith in time. The Chiefs are still a very young team full of ascending players. In the end, it won’t be how they played last year that will matter. What will matter is that they continue to improve.
I will leave you with this last little bit of hope.
Through the first 8 games last year, Tyson Jackson had 12 tackles, 7 of which came in the eighth game against the Jaguars. I the last 8 games, he had 26 tackles. Thus Jackson went from averaging 1.5 tackles per game in the first half of the season to 3.25 tackles per game.
While tackles aren’t the only indication of good play (Corey Mays was 2nd on the team in tackles last year and played like crap) it is a positive sign that Jackson started getting to the ball carrier more as the season went on. It shows, if anything, that he was playing better in the 2nd half of the season than he was at the beginning. It is way, way too early to say he has leveled out.
It would be nice if Scott Pioli was able to fill every single hole on the Chiefs defense with can’t miss players that would be sure to improve the overall run defense. Unfortunately, Pioli can only do so much each offseason.
To some degree, the Chiefs have to bank on players like Dorsey and Jackson because if they can’t, there will be too many holes for any GM to fill.
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