There’s a dirty word in professional football. No, it’s not the word, “steroid”. No matter how tightly the NFL polices its substance abuse policy, there will continue to be players who get caught using a banned substance from time to time. Nor, is it one of the words which might be heard on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,“ which apparently offends Tony Dungy. It’s the one word coaches avoid, and players rarely acknowledge, although some veterans will jump ship if they suspect it might be used to describe their team. We’re talking about the “R” word: rebuilding.
The major complaint: it takes time. Fans don’t want to sit through every game wondering when their team will be competitive again. Players in the peak of their careers don’t want to waste their few remaining football seasons on a mediocre team. These are a couple of the reasons the Kansas City Chiefs waited so long to get the process started as they hoped for a couple key players to turn around the franchise — but those individuals didn’t show.
So, here we are — like it, or not — in year two of a rebuilding project, most likely with more to come. Once we take the first step and admit that the Chiefs are rebuilding, it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the ride. We can expect to see the Chiefs beat a team, or two, they aren’t supposed to defeat this year. We may even see a dominant performance here and there. Seeing the flashes of what a team is becoming can be exciting.
Read about the light at the end of the tunnel after the jump:
We might be able to see the end of the tunnel this year. One philosophy in building a winning NFL team says that a team should be able to run the ball, and stop the run. Perhaps the Chiefs are completing this formula ahead of schedule.
The Chiefs started work on the first part of that equation last year, and now, they have three very good running backs in Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones and Jackie Battle. Dexter McCluster will also contribute the occasional spark to the ground game. I don’t think anyone realizes how good Charles will be this year, but he’s averaging 7.7 yards per carry with limited action in the preseason — he’s only going to get better when it counts. As the proven Jones gets acclimated to a new offensive line and the big guys up front continue to improve, so will Jones’ average. Battle is now performing like a back who could be a starter on other teams. DC’s around the league are having nightmares over KC’s ground game, and they have yet to see it run under Charlie Weis’ schemes.
That leaves us with the other side of the formula: KC’s ability to stop the run.The first two opportunities to see the front seven in action this year was inconclusive, yet encouraging. KC has young players who are gaining valuable experience every game and Todd Haley has said in recent press conferences that he feels his players are “getting it”. In a recent interview, Derrick Johnson seemed impressed with the play of the defensiveline during the Tampa game.
“My D-line played exceptionally well”, he said, “there were a few times where I’m thinking I’m going to make the tackle, and the guy’s stopped for a no gain, and that’s a good thing. I mean if D-line can do that, I’d give up a few tackles for that any day.”
Wouldn’t we all?
The proven ability Romeo Crennel has to use the secondary in run support will pay dividends. All that we’ve seen so far indicates that he has a couple athletes in Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis, who will be able to fill those roles for him.
Yes, it’s going to take more time, but the progress is starting to show. Although it might be rocky in the beginning, look for the defense to progress quickly toward this by mid-year. By then, maybe for the Chiefs, “defense” will no longer be a dirty word.