It stands to reason that with a 2-14 record, the Chiefs have many holes to fill on their roster. The vast majority of these holes lie in the trenches, and with the linebackers.
Through the draft and free agency, Scott Pioli and crew filled many of the gaping holes in this team's depth chart. Well, they temporarily filled them, it was more like a cheap Bondo job you'd find at a used car dealership.
Most people acknowledge that guys like Zach Thomas and Bobby Engram can not only play some football for another year or two, but they make a valuable contribution in the locker room. There is a place on every team for veterans who have been there and done that.
Thomas and Engram will immediately challenge, and probably get, starting positions on this team, both of which were positions of need for this team.
The problem is they are well past their prime, and both have lost a step or three. By the time the season starts both players will be 36, and on the extreme downside of their careers. On the surface it sounds like they are significant improvements, but don't be surprised if one or both get injured or yanked by the end of the season.
Mike Goff was brought in from the Chargers to fill the biggest position of need on the offensive line. He will be a significant improvement over guys like Wade Smith and Adrian Jones, who shared the starting RG spot last year. Goff is also on the downside of his career, but the RG spot was so awful last year anything will be a relief.
By the end of the season last year, it was apparent that a pass rushing defensive end was atop the priority list when it came to team needs. Since Pioli announcing the defensive paradigm shift, this specific position is no longer needed. The 3-4 defense has no need for this type of player.
What it did create a need for, however, was a new breed of defensive lineman. This need was so great that Pioli and company used their top two draft picks on filling this very position.
Tyson Jackson (first round) and Alex Magee (third round) should eventually become the 5-technique defensive ends now needed in this new 3-4 defense.
It was originally thought that a new nose tackle would be needed as well, however the coaching staff now has great optimism in Tank Tyler filling that role. He will need to add 20 or so pounds to truly be effective in this role, but he has already started on this new task of his.
Tank is a very strong individual, which is the key attribute of a nose tackle. At the combine in 2007, he had 42 reps on the bench press, which was good for top performer across all positions that year, and even three more than the top performer this past year.
Tank played nose tackle at NC State, and dropped from 325 to 305 once picked up by the Chiefs. Playing a Cover-Two defense at the time, which necessitates the defensive tackles be quick and light on their feet, the Chiefs asked him to drop the excess weight.
He should make the transition to into the 3-4 very well and develop into an above average nose tackle at the NFL level.
Linebacker was one of the Chiefs' weakest positions last year. When a scrub like Pat Thomas is your starting linebacker, its pretty obvious you have problems. This problem was only worsened by the move to the 3-4 defense, and the Chiefs did little to fix it. As mentioned earlier, Zach Thomas was brought in, but he will not be very effective on the field.
Mike Vrabel was brought in with Matt Cassel as part of the trade package with the Patriots. He played outside linebacker in New England and along with Zach Thomas, will be the only player with experience in the 3-4 defense.
Vrabel, along with Engram and Thomas, will give valuable insight in the locker room, but like the others, can only be a very short term fix. He will be 34 by the time the season starts, but still will be a serviceable player for another year or two.
It's the other outside linebacker spot on this Chiefs team that is really concerning. Presumably it will be Tamba Hali, former first round defensive end from Penn State. Hali has been a do-it-all defensive end for the Chiefs since he was drafted, but he is more of a Jack of all trades, master of none type of player.
Hali is not particularly quick, and switching to outside linebacker where he would have to drop back into coverage would not be beneficial for the Chiefs. The scouting report on him coming out of college specifically mentioned this deficit in his game also.
He is a hard worker and never gives up, but his short area quickness is severely limited and does not have the speed to run with anyone in man coverage. Teams would easily be able to exploit this weakness in Hali by making him cover either the tight end or running back in man coverage.
This outside linebacker spot might be the weakest on the team. The Chiefs had a total of 10 sacks last year. DeMarcus Ware by himself doubled this sack total. Eleven individual players had more sacks last year than did the entire Chiefs organization.
Getting pressure on the quarterback is one of the easiest ways to help the defense, and the organization did nothing to help this. There were several free agents available this off season who could have rushed the passer, but none of them were brought in.
Good pass rushers were available during the draft, and Pioli and the Chiefs chose to go in a different direction. Why? We do not know. What we do know, however, is that the Chiefs defensive backs are going to be getting no help from the front seven. This may lead to another very bad year defensively for the Chiefs and another drought in sacks.