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 Chiefs DL

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PostSubject: Chiefs DL   Thu Aug 25, 2011 12:05 pm

Chiefs’ defensive line — a puzzle early on — is putting the pieces together
By KENT BABB
The Kansas City Star

P layers on the Chiefs’ defensive line have a handful of new
requirements in 2011. One is that they must be able to take a joke. With
light-hearted and sharp-tongued teammates like nose tackle Kelly Gregg
hanging around, those who lack confidence and poise may feel out of
place.

“You’ve got to have thick skin to be in our D-line room,” said Gregg,
signed during training camp after spending the last decade with
Baltimore. “You’ve got to be able to take jokes, and roll with the
flow.”

The other requirement is the kind of versatility on its line that Kansas
City didn’t possess during coach Todd Haley’s first two seasons. After
three offseasons of roster moves, Haley now has the defensive toys he
used to lack.

Veteran lineman Wallace Gilberry spent the offseason bulking up so he
could be seen as a more complete defensive lineman, rather than just a
pass rusher. The Chiefs drafted Allen Bailey in the third round in
April, and he is seen as a defender who could shift into several
packages and situations, moving from end to nose tackle, depending on
what the opposing offense is showing.

Haley said that, in addition to the three linemen expected to begin the
season as starters — Gregg and ends Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey — the
linemen who make the team and the active roster will be those with
several talents.

“Some of these guys,” Haley said, “during regular practice are working
one area, whether a sub or a base, and in that period, they’re getting
the other and are really just trying to develop the skills and the
technique to be a crossover guy.

“So that’ll be the key: Who’s the in-between guy? Because it’s going to
come down to roster, game day; how many are you taking, five or six?”

Haley admitted that early in training camp he thought his defensive line
was one of the team’s more fragile position groups. After all, many of
the likely contributors seem to have defined strengths but noticeable
weaknesses. Dorsey is undersized, despite settling well into the end
position after playing years at tackle. Jackson struggled his first two
years, despite looking the part and being drafted at No. 3 overall in
2009. Gregg, at 34, is experienced but aging. Bailey and nose tackle
Jerrell Powe are rookies. And Gilberry has, at least through his first
three seasons, been one-dimensional.

“Unknown, maybe, early on,” Haley said of his prospects for the line.
“How’s this all going to go, because you really don’t know what you
have. Now, we have a little more information to go on.”

One of the unknowns is how much Gregg can be counted on to last through
the season and maintain the high level he was known for with the Ravens.
Haley said he has told many of the Chiefs’ older players that it
matters little what they say; he’s looking for proof that their best
years aren’t behind them.

“You’ve got to show me you’ve still got it,” the coach said.

For his part, Gregg said he has worked in the preseason to prove that
age hasn’t made him slower or any less effective. He said part of his
job is to mentor the Chiefs’ younger lineman, in particular Powe, the
team’s sixth-round pick this year. Other chores are to keep up with the
youngsters’ energy and, though he’s more a base-defense defender than a
versatile crossover player, encourage his teammates to do all they can
to impress coaches and make an impact.

“A lot of times,” he said, “you get guys set in their ways — I just want
to play the run, I just want to rush the passer — but no, these guys
are willing to do anything you ask them. … Here, you’ve got to try to do
both, or you’ll be sitting there watching.”

Haley said that, after a tenuous first two weeks, he has become more
comfortable with a position group that has many question marks, a few
jokers and perhaps the fate of Kansas City’s 2011 defense on its
shoulders.

“The light goes on for guys at different times,” he said.

“I guess I’ve seen the light go on for a few guys here recently.”

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