As this season mercifully heads into the home stretch, it is obvious that the Chiefs front office will not get to take much time off this winter. Regardless of how the team performs over the last four games of the season, Dick Vermeil's first year at the helm has been less than a scintillating success. Let's face it: there are problems - big problems - that have to be corrected this off-season if the Chiefs expect to be competitive again. This column will examine what the Chiefs have to do on the to fix the problems "on-the-field."
There are major problems at wide receiver. Whether due to injury or indifference (or both), Derrick Alexander has been a total bust in what should be a very WR-friendly offense. Sylvester Morris lost the entire year due to a knee injury he suffered in mini-camp. Therefore, he has virtually no experience in the new offense. Snoop Minnis has had his moments as a rookie, but he needs to hit the weights in the off-season and get much stronger physically. Larry Parker has shown improvement this season, but he's not someone you want starting. Dante Hall is too small to be anything more than a kick returner. Eddie Kennison is a just a body with a questionable attitude. One has to believe that several fresh faces will be brought in to shore up this group.
The offensive line has been inconsistent much of the season. Injuries have certainly played a major part, but the loss of long-time starters Tim Grunhard and Dave Szott left the group short on leadership. OLT John Tait, especially, seems to have been effected most by Szott's departure. His play has been tentative and he has been beaten regularly by speed rushers all season. Will Shields is a great player, but he has not been having one of his better years. Brian Waters has been a pleasant surprise since he stepped in to replace OLG Don Willis. C Casey Wiegmann appears to be a better athlete than Tim Grunhard was, but he's not as strong and, consequently, he is getting overpowered at the point of attack. Victor Riley should recover fully from the broken leg that's sidelined him for the past 7 weeks, but one has to wonder if he will ever get truly serious about football. As with most teams, the Chiefs are short of depth. Don't expect much change among the starters, but there will be a spirited competition for the backup spots.
Quarterback is another disaster area. Trent Green has not played well (an understatement, to be sure). Whether Green's problems have been the result of injuries or a lack of talent, remains to be seen. Right now, he looks tentative, makes poor decisions, and his mechanics are terrible. That the coaching staff has not replaced Green with backup Todd Collins, is a sure sign that there is zero confidence in Collins' ability. Joe Germaine will probably never be anything more than a clipboard guardian. The "help wanted" sign is in the window with flashing neon arrows pointing to it.
The defensive line is also badly in need of an overhaul, especially at defensive tackle. When you can't stop the run and you can't pressure the opposing quarterback, you need to find people who can. This is an area where bodies will be brought in by the truckload.
At linebacker, Lew Bush and Marvcus Patton have really started to slip due to age. Donnie Edwards has not had one of his better seasons, although it's hard to say why. I suspect that the defensive schemes may be a big part of it. Gary Stills and Larry Atkins are not getting enough playing time to determine if they are worth keeping or not. Glenn Cadrez has been serviceable in spot duty, but he's too old to be a long-term answer. Since the team is rebuilding, why isn't Mike Maslowski starting at MLB? All in all, this area needs better depth and younger starters (except for Edwards).
Jerome Woods and Greg Wesley have a lot of potential at safety, but both have been inconsistent this year. Eric Warfield has been inconsistent at CB, but there are flashes of talent. Why is Ray Crockett starting at the other CB slot? Replace him with William Bartee and let the youngster learn while playing. The backups are marginal at best. Obviously, this group would be better if the defensive line were doing a better job of applying pressure on the opposing offenses. However, better depth and more speed would certainly help too. I would not be surprised if the Chiefs' first round pick were used to select a top corner like Quentin Jammer.
The special teams laid an egg against the Raiders, but there has been some improvement since last season. More improvement, especially when it comes to kick coverage, would be welcome. Todd Peterson has hurt the team all season with his short kickoffs. A new kicker and several young, aggressive kamikaze-types are desperately needed.
We'll look at the "off-the-field" problems next time.