It's SHOWTIME For the Defense!!!

Within hours the Kansas City Chiefs will officially embark on the 2005 season. For fans, media, management, coaches and players the long offseason is finally over. Today the Kansas City Chiefs will face the New York Jets and all the new parts and pieces assembled since March will finally be on display.

It's hard to believe that the season is upon us so quickly. Since the 2004 season ended January 2nd when the Chiefs were embarrassed by the San Diego Chargers second and third units, today marks a chance to wash away the memories of a disappointing season.

That can and should happen today.

But that would not even be possible if ownership and management had not made the commitment to upgrading the personnel on defense. In what had been missing a year earlier, people in the organization stood up and said that we need to upgrade the talent on the roster. Kansas City did that by adding 10 new defensive players.

The Chiefs with little salary cap room managed to sign veterans Kendrell Bell, Sammy Knight and DeWayne Washington through free agency. They made key trades acquiring Patrick Surtain and Carlos Hall. In the NFL Draft they secured the rights to Derrick Johnson, Dustin Colquitt, Boomer Grigsby, Khari Long and were fortunate to grab Kris Griffin as an un-drafted free agent.

For some of these new parts, its not known what kind of impact they'll have on Sunday against the Jets. It's safe to say that without them, the Chiefs 2005 campaign might have been sentenced to death before it even began.

But that can't be said now. On paper and on the practice field this team appears faster and stronger. When the first unit was on the field in the preseason, for the most part, it dominated their opponents outside of the Minnesota Vikings game.

However that was then and this is now. The Chiefs enter this game with questions and soon they'll have the answers they are seeking about their new defense.

The key to this game and the season is for the defense to become middle of the pack. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham started the offseason with a scowl on his face but that changed through last week. In preparation for the Jets game he was a bit more jovial and walked with a quiet confidence. He even joked with the media in the hallways after practice.

That's good news for Chiefs fans.

Last year Cunningham didn't have a chance to play the kind of in-your-face defense that was so dominant for the Chiefs in the 90's. He knew the horses were missing and now he has them. They were long over due in getting to him but now Chiefs fans will get to see a real defense.

The key to the Chiefs resurgence defensively will rest solely on their ability to create turnovers. It will also be critical that the Chiefs play defense behind the line of scrimmage. Last season Kansas City just couldn't take the ball away. That resulted in the defense being on field trying to prevent touchdowns on seven or eight minute drives. That resulted in a tired crew in the fourth quarter where this team led or was tied in 14 of 16 games.

But for the first time in the Dick Vermeil era, this team has more depth at every position on defense.

However that means very little right now. The coaching staff has done everything they can do. Now it's up to the players.

That mans Bell has to shed the injury problems that have plagued him the last three years and rookie linebacker Derrick Johnson needs to be the disrupter everyone believes he can be. Middle linebacker Kawika Mitchell has to continue to grow as a leader and become a playmaker.

Surtain and Knight have to continue to snare turnovers. Jared Allen, Carlos Hall, Jimmy Wilkerson and Eric Hicks have to put pressure on the quarterback. Inside Ryan Sims and Lional Dalton must push the line backwards.

If all or part of that happens, the defense should be able to improve enough to give the Chiefs a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. As the season progresses, their ability to bond and grow together, could push them over that hump and give them a real opportunity to get to the Super Bowl.

Today's test will likely be their toughest over the first half of the season. The Jets have a balanced and skilled offense. In watching this unit since April, they appear ready and focused. To a man, they're tired of talking about the last two seasons where they struggled. They are ready to get on the field and smack another team right in the mouth.

At 12:00 noon, they'll get that opportunity.

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