The Kansas City Chiefs emphasized speed on defense this offseason and likely will have five new starters: linebackers Kendrell Bell (signed from Pittsburgh) and Derrick Johnson (first-round pick from Texas), free safety Sammy Knight and cornerback Patrick Surtain (both from Miami) and defensive end Carlos Hall (Tennessee).
They had to do something fast. The Chiefs finished first in total offense but 31st in total defense. That comes on the heels of finishing 30th and 29th in total defense the previous two years.
Surtain and Knight each started for Miami and helped the team finish No. 2 in the NFL against the pass. "It didn't take us long to fix the Chiefs' offense and we didn't use a draft choice other than the one we gave up for [quarterback] Trent [Green]," Coach Dick Vermeil said. "I feel good. I really do. Of course, I'm always optimistic."
The changes have come quickly: linebacker Scott Fujita, who led Kansas City in tackles each of the past two years, is now second-string.
The offense looks to be good again. Running back Larry Johnson (581 yards rushing), the backup to Priest Holmes (892), had a 97-yard touchdown run in the third preseason game. Tight end Tony Gonzalez led the AFC with 102 catches.
A potential problem is feisty place kicker Lawrence Tynes, a native of Scotland. He missed three field goals in two preseason games and also was charged with breaking a bouncer's nose in a fight after training camp ended in River Falls, Wis.