11 Days to Camp: Tamba Hali

Photos: John Rieger USA Today Sports

In what could become his final season in Kansas City, Pro Bowl Linebacker, Tamba Hali, still has some juice left in the tank. But with his contract expiring at the end 2015 and the Chiefs committing a first round pick on Dee Ford in May, what does the future hold for KC’s premier pass rusher?

A year ago the Kansas City Chiefs defense had a majestic meltdown. At the center of that meltdown it was clear not many defensive players stepped up when the game was on the line. One of those players was Linebacker, Tamba Hali. To this day, his post-season comments after KC’s embarrassing playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts still irks yours truly.

Hali is still one of the games elite pass rushers. However, in crunch time a year ago with the game on the line, he’s didn’t’ show constantly he could take over games defensively.

Kansas City might have that in Justin Houston, but his contract holdout could put a wrinkle in anointing him the Chiefs premier defensive player. Still Hali can still have an impact this season. How much of one might boil down to how driven Hali is to leave his mark in the NFL.

This off-season he said all the right things. In fact, he’s even taken the man that will likely replace him in the starting line-up next season, first round pick Dee Ford, under his wing. He even went to lengths to compare Ford to the late, Derrick Thomas.

The issue I’ve always had with Hali’s play on the field center on the fact he gets blown off the line of scrimmage too often. Add that with the fact he’s not that efficient in the run game nor covering tight ends or backs, that pretty much makes him a one-dimensional football player.

However that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, his job is to sack quarterbacks.

On the plus side, Hali, Houston and Ford have the power, if they can ultimately become the Three Musketeers of the defense, to combine for more than 30 sacks this season. In fact, should the trio average two per game, KC’s defense might become the primetime player it should have been last season.

The key to any great defense is the ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. KC’s front three will be better than a year ago. Add that with the highly skilled defenders Kansas City has at the linebacker position, it’s not a stretch they could become dominant.

The key though is Hali. Despite his thirty something age, he has to dedicate himself to becoming the games best pass rusher. There’s no question he can dominate a game but he never displayed that ability last season.

That makes the 2014 season a pivotal one for Hali and the entire Chiefs defense. As a unit, they’re going to face some of the NFL’s elite quarterback from September through December. That means Hali needs to become that fourth quarter sack master that thwarts drives and seals victory for his team.

Granted Houston and Ford can assist Hali in getting that accomplished this season. But the success of the defense, may hinge on Hali leading the charge.

Hali has always been a quiet leader. But this year, I’d like to see him get in the face of his teammates, be more vocal on the sidelines and show everyone his skills haven’t eroded so at seasons end, he doesn’t become an after thought and a likely cap casualty heading into the next off-season.

KC’s defense has plenty of talent to help the Chiefs win double digit games for the second consecutive year. But that won’t happen unless Hali guides his defensive mates into believing losing any NFL games, because of a lack of effort on defense, is even remotely acceptable under any circumstance.

In other words, excuses will no longer be tolerated on defense and there is nobody on that can deliver that message better than Tamba Hali.

Next Up: Knile Davis

Is this Tamba Hali's last season in a Chiefs uniform?

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