So the Chiefs went from one of the league's oldest teams to one of the youngest in the blink of an offseason.
Gone are defensive end Jared Allen, linebackers Kendrell Bell and Keyaron Fox, cornerback Ty Law, wide receiver Eddie Kennison, tight end Jason Dunn and offensive linemen John Welbourn, Casey Wiegmann and Kyle Turley.
In their places are a gaggle of rookies. The Chiefs draft was hailed as the best in the NFL, as it featured both quality and quantity. Bill Kuharich's handiwork as vice president of player personnel resulted in 12 draftees, including defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, offensive tackle Branden Albert, cornerback Brandon Flowers, halfback Jamaal Charles and tight end Brad Cottam. Every one of them is expected to be an immediate contributor, if not a starter.
But this is not a team that is ready to win now. There will be much learning and trial by error.
Even some of the "veterans" on this team are not exactly what you would call experienced. Quarterback Brodie Croyle has only six pro starts and has yet to prove he is a quality NFL player. Leading receiver Dwayne Bowe is in his second year. The playmaker of the defensive line, Tamba Hali, is a third year player. The starting safeties, Jarrad Page and Bernard Pollard, have only two years of experience apiece.
The Chiefs still have a few graybeards running around, though it might not be a pleasant season for the likes of Tony Gonzalez, Brian Waters, Donnie Edwards and Patrick Surtain.
Even the old guys will have to learn new tricks if they play offense, as the Chiefs have a new offensive coordinator in Chan Gailey. Aside from developing Croyle, Gailey's most important job will be finding a way to get halfback Larry Johnson running more like he did in 2006 (he set a franchise record with 1,789 rushing yards, which was second highest in the NFL that year) than he did in 2007 (he averaged 3.5 yards per carry before missing the final eight games with a foot injury).
Part of the plan for Johnson is keeping him fresh by working in Charles and Kolby Smith.
The Chiefs acted like they were awfully interested in drafting Matt Ryan, but Ryan was chosen before the Chiefs ever had a crack at him. No one would have blamed them if they had gone after a veteran quarterback to be their starter.
So the heat definitely is on Croyle to prove he can be this team's quarterback of the future. The team has simplified the offense mostly for him. Croyle has to show he can operate it and win games, or he likely won't have this chance again in 2009.
Overheard at camp
The Chiefs thought they were going to end up with a defensive end with their fifth pick in the first round, but a funny thing happened when defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey fell into their laps. They could not pass him up, so they will reshuffle their defensive line to accommodate him.
The plan is to move Alfonso Boone from defensive tackle to left end and play Dorsey at the three technique. Ron Edwards and Tank Tyler will share the nose tackle position, and Hali will move to right end from left to replace Jared Allen. On nickel downs, Turk McBride will take over for Boone at left end.
Comings and goings
Trading Allen was a bold move for the Chiefs. He led the league in sacks last year and probably is the best pass rusher in football.
In return, they received the draft picks they used to take Branden Albert, Jamaal Charles and safety DaJuan Morgan. The combined value of those players might never match the value of Allen, a rare difference maker. But the Chiefs had many needs, and this was the best way for them to address three of them.
The beauty of the Chiefs rebuilding project is expectations have been lowered considerably. If the Chiefs win seven games, the perception will be they had a better season than the Patriots if New England goes 18-1.
But the Chiefs probably won't win seven games. Five sounds more like it.
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