Chiefs Pre-Draft Prep/Defense

Wide receiver and the interior offensive line are the two areas on the Chiefs offensive roster that need help. They will be joined by several positions on the defensive side of the current roster to create a needs list for the eight Kansas City draft choices.

Here’s a look at the Chiefs defense and where it sits less than a day before the first-round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

NOSE TACKLE

  • Roster – Dion Gales, Anthony Toribio.
  • Without a contract – Ron Edwards, Shaun Smith
  • Level of Need? Great.

Edwards did not have a bad season in ’10, but he will be 32 years old in July and is average at best holding down the middle of the defense. Smith provided a big boost to the defense, but most of that playing time was spent at DE, filling in for the injured Tyson Jackson. He played well enough that he kept the starting job when Jackson was able to play again. Smith will be 30 years old in August and to expect a second season like the one he gave the Chiefs in 2010 would be unrealistic and would totally go against the profile of his career.

Toribio remains a mystery since he barely got on the field last season, playing very limited roles in just five games. Gales spent the entire season on the practice squad. He’s a marginal prospect.

With the 3-4 scheme there’s no doubt the Chiefs need a young nose tackle and need him soon. This should be a priority position in the team’s plans for the 2011 Draft.

 DEFENSIVE END

  • Roster – Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson.
  • Without a contract – Wallace Gilberry.
  • Level of Need? Moderate.

Although he’s playing out of position for his body and skills, Dorsey has made a solid transition to the 3-4 scheme over the last two seasons and had a good year in ’10. Jackson’s NFL struggles continued in his second year as he dealt with a knee injury. Once he came back and was closer to being 100 percent he finished up the season with what was his best football to date. That included his first sack of his career.

Gilberry remains the defense’s second best pass rusher behind OLB Tamba Hali. But he doesn’t get much of a chance to play on first down, as he finished the season with 7 sacks, but only 13 tackles. The way he’s been handled is similar to how the coaches have used RB Jamaal Charles in hopes of not wearing him down. Gilberry is a good 30 pounds lighter than both Dorsey and Jackson.

Smith and Gales can both play at defensive end if needed, largely on first downs or running situations.

Although without a contract, Gilberry’s ability to leave the Chiefs is hampered by the fact he’s only a three-year veteran and will not be an unrestricted free agent no matter the landscape of free agency facing the league in this strange labor environment.

As long as Gilberry is in the fold, finding a defensive end is a moderate need.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

  • Roster – Cameron Sheffield, Andy Studebaker, Pierre Walters.
  • Without a contract – Tamba Hali, Mike Vrabel.
  • Level of Need? Great.

This important position on the defensive side of the ball needs a highly rated body to join the roster in ’11. Hali now carries the franchise player designation and the total ramifications of that sit in the dark hole of the labor situation. Vrabel’s status is unknown, but it would be a shock if he returns to the roster as an active player. There is going to be an opening in the starting lineup.

That should be where Studebaker steps in and gets his chance. Obviously, those in charge think he can fill the role based on the contract extension he signed last year. Sheffield is the wildcard at this position, after spending the season on the injured-reserve list due to his neck/head injury suffered in the third pre-season game. At the end of ’10 season he said he’d been cleared to play and he expected to do in 2011. After a slow start in the off-season program and early in training camp, Sheffield was making things happen on the field just as he was injured. It’s unrealistic to see him being able to step into the lineup for Vrabel.

So there’s a spot open for an outside linebacker and it’s a hugely important addition. Hali needs some help in getting free of all the attention because of his pass rush. The Chiefs defense needs another playmaker.

INSIDE LINEBACKER

  • Roster – Jovan Belcher, Justin Cole, Derrick Johnson, Micah Johnson, Demorrio Williams.
  • Without a contract – Charlie Anderson, Cory Greenwood, Corey Mays.
  • Level of Need? Great.

Johnson and Belcher held down the starting spots, and D.J. had the best season of his career. While there are a lot of bodies on the inside, Belcher and possibly Greenwood appear to be the only potential starters. Both are undrafted free agents, Belcher going into this third year coming out of Maine and Greenwood in his second season coming from Canada. What Cole or Johnson brings to the fight is unknown, especially Johnson who did not join the team until the last month of the season.

Another potential starter is needed.

CORNERBACK

  • Roster – Javier Arenas, Jackie Bates, Brandon Flowers.
  • Without a contract – Brandon Carr, Travis Daniels, Maurice Leggett.
  • Level of Need? Moderate.

Carr will not be an unrestricted free agent so there should be no question about his return to the team. As the ’10 season played through, Carr got better and better. In the last five games, he broke up 12 passes, more than the 11 he stopped in the previous 11 games. Unless there’s something we don’t know, Carr should be an integral part of the K.C. defense in 2011 and beyond. Flowers started strong, but did not finish in the same manner. But he’s still one of the top players on the roster.

Arenas was the nickel back all season and was so-so in the role. He was great going after the QB on the blitz, picking up three sacks. But he gives up so much physically because his size that he struggles in coverage. Leggett was once a factor in the Chiefs secondary, but he’s now missed 22 consecutive games because of injury, including the entire ’10 season.

A team can never have enough good cornerbacks, so the Chiefs will always be looking at possible additions there, not only for defense but special teams work.

SAFETY

  • Roster – Eric Berry, Kendrick Lewis, Ricky Price, Donald Washington.
  • Without a contract – Reshard Langford, Jon McGraw.
  • Level of Need? Moderate.

Berry and Lewis proved to be productive additions through last year’s draft, with Berry going to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. McGraw struggled with various injuries last season and whether he will continue to be a factor on this defense remains to be seen. He’s 32 years old and will be in his 10th season and has lost a step.

Washington continues to be one of the disappointments of the 2009 draft class, appearing in 20 games over the last two years with 27 tackles and 13 more on special teams. Langford started the 2010 off-season strong, but injuries took the legs out of his season.

A replacement for McGraw is necessary and should be under consideration.

REVIEW/LEVEL OF NEED

  • Great – inside linebacker, nose tackle, outside linebacker.
  • Moderate – cornerback, defensive end, safety.

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