TSN: Chiefs camp dish: Cunningham isn't a magician

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  1. LaTunaNostra

    LaTunaNostra He Made the Difference

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    Chiefs camp dish: Cunningham isn't a magician

    August 18, 2004 Print it

    In-depth analysis of Chiefs training camp from River Falls, Wis.:

    The hottest topic is the team's new-look defense. After last season's playoff debacle vs. Peyton Manning and the Colts, the Chiefs fired coordinator Greg Robinson and replaced him with their former head coach, Gunther Cunningham.

    The problem is, they didn't give him any new veteran players. They have the same problems of the past: a terrible front-four pass rush, blitzers who can't get to the quarterback in time, and corners who struggle in man-to-man coverage.

    The Chiefs have designs of a Super Bowl run, but the only way that will happen is if they move their defense from the bottom of the NFL to at least the middle of the pack. That will be a big challenge.

    Cunningham's inspirational speeches and "new" schemes (which they won't be) will not solve the past problems and they will continue to struggle on that side of the ball.


    Going into the draft, the Chiefs needed to take an edge pass rusher early, but they couldn't resist using their first second-round pick on Junior Siavii, who will provide depth inside within the tackle rotation. Siavii, a talented, athletic and physical player, has impressed in camp and could pay big dividends. . . .

    Another impressive player worth keeping an eye on is Kris Wilson, a rookie tight end also drafted in the second round. Wilson gives the Chiefs a chance to go to a two-tight offense and has flashed the skills to be a vertical threat.

    With many teams doubling up on Tony Gonzalez, Wilson could have a big year, catching 30-to-40 passes. He has shown in camp that he can get the job done and quarterback Trent Green likes him already. . . . .

    Second-year pro Jimmy Wilkerson, who was taken in the sixth round in 2003, has shown flashes of promise as a pass rusher. He looks great so far and the Chiefs have their fingers crossed that he could emerge as a dynamic performer.


    The Chiefs are attempting to make a smooth transition on their offensive line after losing right tackle John Tait. The way the Chiefs have reconfigured their scheme, most of that responsibility will be on John Welbourn, whom they picked up in a trade from Philadelphia.

    The Chiefs are betting on Welbourn to have a big season and for their offense to have the success it had with Tait, Welbourn will need to come through. . . .

    The other position under scrutiny is quarterback. Not Green, but his backup, Todd Collins. The Chiefs decided a few years ago that Collins would be good enough if Green went down with an injury.

    From what we have seen, we don't believe he is. Collins hasn't played in more than mop-up duty and if something happens to Green, the Chiefs will be in trouble.


    The Chiefs were not very active in the open market this year. Their most visible move was the acquisition of offensive tackle/guard Chris Bober (Giants), whom they immediately signed after losing Tait to the Bears.

    The team is counting on Bober and Welbourn to fill the void left by Tait's departure, and just like Welbourn, Bober will need to deliver for the Chiefs to justify their decision to let Tait go.


    Cornerback: Eric Warfield and Dexter McCleon vs. Julian Battle and William Bartee. Coming into camp it looked pretty certain that Warfield and McCleon would hold down the starting jobs, but Battle and Bartee are giving each of them a run for their money. Cunningham likes big, physical corners and both Battle and Bartee are making an impression in that capacity.

    Wide receiver: Johnnie Morton vs. Samie Parker. Parker, a promising rookie from Oregon, has jumped the learning curve and is beginning to challenge Morton. Morton had some problems with dropped passes last season but still can get good separation.

    Parker, however, can flat-out fly. He can provide the Chiefs with the true vertical threat they haven't had since Derrick Alexander.

    This battle is just getting going, but look for it to continue as the season progresses.

    The War Room is a team of football scouts that analyzes NFL and college players, coaches and teams for the Sporting News.

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