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The Top Gun Returns


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Welcome back, Gunther. I hope you stocked up on antacids and spare bulbs for the film projector because you, my friend, are going to be real busy and what you’re going to see is not a pretty sight.

Things have changed since you left. Your defenses were noted for being stingy against the run. The one you’re getting now couldn’t stop a geriatric with a walker from gaining 100 yards. Opponents shredded the “D” this season for 2,344 yards (146.5 yards-per-game average). Nine opposing rushers enjoyed 100-yard+ games, including one who went for 218.

The pass rush is anemic. Don’t let the 36 sacks recorded by the defense fool you because most of them came in the second half of games (where KC had a big lead and teams were forced to pass). The play of the secondary improved this past season but is still inconsistent.

If all that isn’t enough to keep you busy, then you can figure out what caused the defensive collapse in the first place. If the defensive schemes were at fault, then I have every confidence that you will tailor your defenses to take full advantage of the players’ strengths. If the players were primarily at fault, however, then you must quickly identify the weak links that need replacement.

Given that two of the defensive starters may become free agents in March, your analysis can begin with Jerome Woods and Eric Hicks. Woods is, in my opinion, a very good free safety. However, he’ll be 31 before next season starts and that’s an age where a player starts to slow down – sometimes rapidly. Hicks will be entering his seventh season and should be in his prime. However, his sack totals generally hover in the 3.5 – 5 range. He did have that 14 sack season in 1999 and a nine-sack season in 2001, but are those two seasons an aberration or are they an indicator of what he can really do? If he can’t provide consistent pressure on the opposing QB, then it doesn’t make sense to re-sign him if he expects serious money.

William Bartee is also a potential free agent. So far, he has been a classic case of the “look like Tarzan, play like Jane” syndrome. Maybe you can do something with him.

You might want to have a talk with the Strength & Conditioning coaches after watching a few reels of film. The defensive linemen were really getting out-muscled toward the end of the year and one has to wonder whether improvements in the weight program are needed.

Well, you don’t need someone like me to point out what needs to be done. You know your job and I have every confidence that there will be a marked improvement in the defense next season. By the way, the truckload of antacids will be arriving shortly.






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