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Chiefs have been sad sackers this season

The Kansas City Star

The day after the Chiefs traded Jared Allen this past April, coach Herm Edwards sat at a table and said he didn?t expect anyone to replace the Pro Bowl defensive end.

Allen?s personality was one thing, but those 15 1/2 sacks were another. It wouldn?t be fair to expect another player to have that kind of year, Edwards said. But he also said that someone would emerge as a reliable, if not dominant, pass rusher. Maybe that player would get to the quarterback 10 or so times, and that was OK with the Chiefs.

Six months later, Kansas City is on pace to finish with fewer than 10 team sacks, far fewer than Allen alone generated last year when he led the NFL. The Chiefs have three sacks in five games, tied with Cincinnati for the league?s lowest total. But the worst part might be that none of the Chiefs? starting defensive linemen has a sack.

?We haven?t gotten there like we?d like to,? Edwards said Tuesday.

Edwards said linebackers Derrick Johnson and Demorrio Williams might be used more frequently as pass rushers. The Chiefs prefer to be conservative in blitzing their linebackers, but it has become clear the defensive front needs help.

Tamba Hali, who replaced Allen at right end, has struggled with lingering knee problems and has been substituted at times in passing situations, usually by Williams.

It?s not what the Chiefs hoped for when they traded Allen, who has two sacks for Minnesota. And although Edwards expected some rough days when he filled the Chiefs? starting line with young players ? all four players have been in the league three years or fewer ? the Chiefs? pass rush is falling far below expectations.

Edwards said the linemen are getting close to quarterbacks, and whether or not that?s good enough, that?s all he has to talk about.

?At times,? Edwards said, ?we got there, but we didn?t sack him. If you hit the guy and disrupt the guy and he can?t throw it on time, that?s almost as good as a sack. If you can make the guy throw quick, you?ve got a chance.?

Hali said during the preseason he wanted double-digit sacks this season or he?d feel he was taking a step backward. He had eight and 7 1/2 sacks in 2006 and ?07, respectively, and Hali didn?t want to think he might be regressing. But he also acknowledged that moving to right end might be more difficult than he?d like. He?d be facing each team?s best pass blocker and frequent double-teams. Still, Hali said double-digit sacks would be his barometer for success this season.

Edwards said it?s too early to think Hali can?t handle the right side. The coach said Hali?s knee problems have slowed him the last three games, and some time off is crucial for the third-year end.

?This bye week comes at a good time for him,? Edwards said. ?We can get him back healthy. That?ll help us.?

In the meantime, the Chiefs will keep relying on linebackers to pick up the line?s slack. Johnson has two of Kansas City?s three sacks, and backup defensive end Alfonso Boone has the other. Turk McBride had three sacks in preseason games, but he hasn?t been a force during the regular season. The Chiefs? tackles, Glenn Dorsey and Tank Tyler, are run stoppers and aren?t counted on for many sacks ? although Kansas City would take sacks from any position at this point.

Edwards said linebackers would blitz more often as it becomes more painfully apparent the linemen can?t get into the backfield. That would mean taking Johnson and Williams out of their regular assignments. It also would mean gambling that the Chiefs? young secondary can continue protecting the defense when Edwards and coordinator Gunther Cunningham gamble on a blitz.

Edwards said Tuesday that the secondary has played well so far, allowing some catches but preventing most deep completions. That secondary, which includes rookie cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr, has kept the Chiefs close in at least two of the games, Edwards said.

But the coach admitted that expecting those young corners to be consistently flawless, especially while the defensive front struggles, would be unfair ? as unfair as expecting one of those linemen to become the next Jared Allen.

?It puts a lot of burden on them,? Edwards said. ?They?re doing a good job. For us not sacking the quarterback a lot, they?ve done pretty well. It?s a true testament to them when you think about it.?

Whether the Chiefs want to think about it or not, those youngsters might be tested often, at least until the defensive line solves its problems.

Source: [url=""] KC Star[/url]

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