In light of the suspension handed down to Kansas City Chiefs’ outside linebacker Tamba Hali for Week 1 of the NFL season, head coach Romeo Crennel would do well to think about sitting Hali out for this Friday’s preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks. Somewhere along the line the defense will have to figure out what it wants to do without Hali and Friday is the best chance to find out.
This isn’t a normal case of losing one player and trying to replace him with a second-stringer that just might not be as good. Hali is the lynchpin of the entire Kansas City defense and having him out of the September 9th regular season opener against the Atlanta Falcons is going to require a radical restructuring of the defensive approach.
Justin Houston is a talented linebacker on the other side, but it’s not realistic for him to assume Hali’s role as the blitzer who wreaks havoc. It’s possible Glenn Dorsey could get some pressure off the edge, but in a 3-4 front that means some different schemes and looks to free him up. Crennel could choose to bring Eric Berry on blitz packages from his strong safety spot, but that presumes the corners can cover man-on-man—something that’s questionable at best, and unable to be tested with Brandon Flowers still nursing the foot injury. In short, for one week, the Chiefs are going to have to have a different defensive personality than the normally will.
It’s best to have Week 4 of the preseason as a time to sit the starters out, which makes the Seahawks game the spot to target for a trial run of what’s workable without Hali. The suspended player himself is a veteran and can keep himself in shape without playing—and if Crennel’s that worried about, just give Hali some snaps in Week 4 to keep him sharp. But September 9 is fast approaching, so find out now who can take on greater responsibility and adjust accordingly.
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