Posted on Wed, Aug. 01, 2007
RIVER FALLS, Wis. | You know, this Chiefs defense reminds me of the 1998 Dream Team Defense — yeah, the defense that had me loopy and fantasizing about the Chiefs finishing 16-0.
Yeah, that defense, the one with Derrick Thomas and Leslie O’Neal rushing off the ends, James Hasty and Dale Carter locking up receivers, Donnie Edwards running like a deer, Chester McGlockton anchored at the line of scrimmage and Reggie Tongue and Jerome Woods patrolling the middle of the field.
Yeah, the defense that caused Marty Schottenheimer to quit, melted down on “Monday Night Football” and made me get out of the prediction business.
Yes, sir, the 2007 Kansas City defense brings back all of those memories, but in a good way. These guys make me optimistic. They make me think the Chiefs could win 10 or 11 games and be a real threat at playoff time. I’ll never feel the way I did in 1998 again, but there’s nothing wrong with a little excitement.
“I do see similarities,” said Donnie Edwards, a member of the 1998 Dream Team Defense and the 2007 unit. “Man, we had two lock-down corners in James and Dale just like we have now with Ty (Law) and Pat (Surtain). With me, Napoleon (Harris) and Derrick (Johnson), we can all run. Jared (Allen) and Tamba (Hali) are two beasts.
“On paper, this could be a very good defense.”
On paper, the 1998 defense reminded me of the 1985 Bears. The Dream Team turned into a nightmare. It couldn’t stop the run or the pass. McGlockton, the big-ticket offseason acquisition, laid a gigantic turd. Derrick Thomas and Wayne Simmons had bad years.
“Man, I can’t remember what happened that year,” Edwards said. “It seemed like we had internal problems. I just remember the Denver game. What did we finish, 7-9?”
That would be correct. Just nine games short of my prediction.
That won’t happen this year. Not if Larry Johnson reports. This is going to be a very good defensive team. All that’s missing is a dominant superstar, an impossible matchup problem. Kansas City’s defense needs its Brian Urlacher, Deion Sanders, Derrick Thomas, Shawne Merriman, etc.
“Jared Allen is a very, very good football player,” Edwards said. “He’s definitely getting confident and getting the mindset to dominate.”
Yeah, Allen looks the part. Scared straight by the league’s substance-abuse program and looking for a Dwight Freeney-like contract, Allen appears primed to become a 15-sack game-changer at defensive end. He’s tall and lean and nasty, a bigger, stronger, half-step-slower version of Simeon Rice in his prime.
If not Allen, then Derrick Johnson might be ready to put it all together in his third season and become a Pro Bowl linebacker.
Here’s what we know for sure: Allen, Edwards, Law and Jarrad Page are going to create turnovers. Allen, Edwards and Law produce turnovers; it’s part of their football DNA. Page has the quick feet and instincts to get to the ball from his safety position.
Those four are good for four turnovers apiece. You can book that. It’s done.
If Hali and Johnson improve at all, we’re looking at a top-10 defense. If Bernard Pollard uses his massive frame to blow up receivers coming across the middle, then we’re looking at a top-eight defense.
The two rookies in the middle — Tank Tyler and Turk McBride — are going to give the Chiefs more than Ryan Sims, and they’re going to make Ron Edwards and James Reed better.
I’ll be disappointed if this isn’t a top-five defense.
“On paper, it looks like a great defense,” Donnie Edwards repeated. “But we have to play great on Sundays. You don’t become a No. 1 defense on talent alone. You have to get 11 guys to the football. You have to get on the same page. And in a 4-3, everybody has to get in their gaps and trust the other guys. If you’re not in your gap, that’s when the other team is off and running.”
I wish someone had told me that in 1998.