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Despite Draft Additions, Chiefs Defensvie Line Remains In Focus

Posted May 11, 2011

An eventual numbers crunch awaits the Chiefs defensive linemen

Chiefs Defensive Line Snapshot

Returning: DE Glenn Dorsey, DE Tyson Jackson, DT Anthony Toribio, DL Dion Gales

Draft Picks: DL Allen Bailey (3rd round), DT Jerrell Powe (6th round)

*Free Agents: DT Ron Edwards (unrestricted), DL Shaun Smith (unrestricted), DE Wallace Gilberry (restricted)

*Status based off 2010 free agency rules

A pair of new faces joined the Chiefs defensive line in April, but attempting to project a rotation for 2011 is still premature. Even after the draft, depth at each position across the defensive front is still in play. It will remain that way until the second phase of the NFL offseason begins.

Take a look at a snapshot of the Chiefs defensive line. At first glance, it’s easy to ignore the numbers game.

Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson both return on the edge with third-round pick Allen Bailey hopefully serving as a nice compliment. Wallace Gilberry, who would be a restricted free agent under 2010 free agency rules, is expected to be brought back and the Chiefs also drafted a nose tackle this year as well (Jerrell Powe).

That’s five players right there. If the incumbents can hold onto their positions, it likely leaves room for just one more defensive lineman on the 53-man roster.

Although the Chiefs have sometimes carried up to seven defensive linemen under Todd Haley, roster history implies that six players is the preferred amount to keep. Most times, just five are active on gameday.

So how will the Chiefs decide to fill out the defensive line?

Fan-favorite Shaun Smith will hit free agency whenever the league year begins and, despite his solid play in 2010, the Chiefs will have to examine whether or not he fits into next year’s plans.

With Bailey added to the mix, is there room for another defensive end? Are the Chiefs willing to roster seven defensive linemen? Can Smith settle in as a situational nose tackle?

It’s hard to imagine the Chiefs beginning training camp without a veteran competing for reps at nose tackle.

Even with the addition of Powe, nose tackle remains one of the Chiefs biggest defensive concerns. The position is a critical part of defensive personnel and there just isn’t much experience on the roster.

Having played just 65 snaps in 2010, Anthony Toribio remains the most experienced tackle under contract. Dion Gales could also factor into the mix, but has bounced back and forth between tackle and end over his two seasons with the Chiefs.

Re-signing Ron Edwards (or another veteran) seems like a logical solution to bolster the depth at nose tackle, but it might force the Chiefs to cut ties with a younger player when it comes time for the numbers crunch – especially if Smith also re-inks.

A rookie push could offer clarity, and Powe is definitely in a good position make his case for significant playing time, but we’ve yet to see any of the rookies in a Chiefs uniform. Plus, it’s also important to maintain realistic expectations for a sixth-round draft pick (I’ve provided a quick history lesson of Chiefs sixth round picks at the end of this article as a reminder).

Then, of course, there is a storyline that brought plenty of chatter last offseason – Dorsey as a defensive tackle.

We haven’t heard much chatter of Dorsey moving to inside this offseason, but the fact that the Chiefs waited until the sixth round to pick up an interior two-gap presence makes you wonder whether or not it’s still a possibility?

Here’s what Haley said about the possibility last year…

“We’ve been giving reps to a couple of different guys that have nose tackle possibilities,” Haley said in April of 2010. “I think a number of guys - Glenn Dorsey could play there if need be.”

General Manager Scott Pioli added his thoughts as well…

“I think Glenn is a unique player,” said Pioli. “He has the physical skill and body type to play numerous positions. I think what we will do, like we do with a lot of other positions, is we are going to collect as many good players as we can and then the players themselves will sort out who are going to be the best ones on the field.”

Dorsey’s value often goes underappreciated.

He played nearly 400 more snaps than any other defensive lineman last season because of his ability to stay on the field as an interior player in sub-packages. Just like Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali and Eric Berry, Dorsey rarely left the game.

Its unlikely Dorsey makes a permanent move to tackle, but his versatility could provide a bridge for some of the younger players to develop – especially if the Chiefs are comfortable with depth at defensive end.

With the NFL’s labor situation in its current form, we’re behind with roster observations. Free agent signings have yet to happen and a lack of organized team activities (OTAs) blinds us from our annual sneak peak at the depth chart.

For now, we’ll wait.

Controlling Expectations: Chiefs 6th Round Picks Since 2000

How much is too much to expect from Jerrell Powe in 2011?

2010: No 6th round pick

2009: WR Quinten Lawrence – Has been inactive seven times, on the practice squad a total of 17 weeks and made six game appearances over his first two NFL seasons.

2008: T Barry RichardsonBecame a 16-game starter in 2010 after starting just one game through his first two seasons.

2008: WR Kevin Robinson – Arrived injured; waived after just one season.

2007: OL Herb Taylor – Could never capitalize on play-time opportunities. Tendency to false start didn’t help. Made just one start and was gone after two seasons.

2006: OL Tre Stallings – Will Shields saw potential, but Stallings never developed. Played in just one game.

2006: WR Jeff Webb – Hung around longer than most expected. Best season came in 2007 with 28 catches for 313 yards and a TD.

2006: DE Khari Long – Played in just one game, but found a home in the CFL.

2005: T Will Svitek – Always good for a training camp scuffle, Svitek carved out a nice career as a reserve offensive lineman. He appeared in 16 games last season for Atlanta.

2005: WR Jeris McIntyre – Ever heard of the Bergamo Lions? McIntyre played in more games for the Italian club than he did for the Chiefs.

2003: DE Jimmy Wilkerson – Probably Kansas City’s best sixth-round pick of the 2000s. High-motor player was a valuable reserve and has eclipsed 100 career games played.

2002: No 6th round pick

2001: G Alex Sulfsted – Never played for the Chiefs, but started three games for the Redskins in 2002.

2000: T Darnell Alford – Played in three games for Kansas City, bouncing on and off of the practice squad.

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