Newest DT hope
Dorsey primed to thrive where others have failed
By Rick Dean
June 12, 2008
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As he watched countless hours of Glenn Dorsey’s game film, on the long-shot chance that the most decorated defender in college football might somehow fall to Kansas City’s No. 5 spot in the draft, Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham kept coming back to the same thought:
What would this powerful, tough-to-block LSU defensive tackle do if given the freedom to attack on most plays?
The Chiefs and the rest of the NFL are about to find out.
Chiefs DT Glenn Dorsey
Stunned at their good fortune to find the defensive anchor of the 2007 national champions still on the board at No. 5, the Chiefs now are anxious to learn how Dorsey can help their defense when given the one-gapping green light to wreak havoc in opposing backfields.
Granted, they also need the kind of two-gap-controlling, run-stuffing play Dorsey provided for the Tigers. After all, Kansas City ranked a lowly 28th among NFL run defenses last season.
Still, the plan is to turn the 297-pound Dorsey loose to become a penetrating defender who can blow up running and passing plays before they have time to develop.
“When he came in for his (pre-draft) visit, we talked about him playing a lot of two-gap schemes (in college), a lot of read-and-react,” Cunningham said. “But what we’ll go for is penetration at the snap.
“The times I saw him do that on film, he was always in the backfield, always making the play. But it was only a small percentage of plays he got to do that. I rarely saw him with the freedom to just cut it loose. On third down they were like position rushers who kept the pocket tight and didn’t let the quarterback run, which you have to do in college.
“But in the NFL you go for penetration, make the quarterback move, disrupt his setup. Everything we do fits the things he wasn’t allowed to do. But we believe he can do all of that.”
A caution is in order here.
The Chiefs have been hoping for the same thing from a succession of unsuccessful DT draftees and free-agent signings for more than a decade.
They had high hopes for North Carolina’s Ryan Sims, a player they traded up to get with the sixth overall pick in 2002. They said many of the same things about Eric Downing, their third-round pick in ’01, and Junior Siavii, their top pick in ’04. The jury is still out on Turk McBride — who might see time at both tackle and end — and Tank Tyler, their second- and third-round draft picks, respectively, of ’07, who have yet to make an impact on an improving defense lacking top-tier talent.
That lack of playmaking defenders became even greater when the Chiefs traded NFL sack leader Jared Allen to Minnesota for a first-rounder — used as ammunition to move up to select versatile OL Branden Albert — and two third-round picks.
The move helped Kansas City’s draft, no doubt. But what did it do for Cunningham’s defense?
Dorsey’s transition to the NFL will go a long way toward answering that question.
His presence already provides Cunningham with some options.
He has moved DT Alfonso Boone outside to left end and shifted 2006 top pick Tamba Hali to Allen’s vacated DRE spot. If Dorsey can provide some consistent inside pressure — something the Chiefs haven’t had since the days of Dan Saleaumua and Joe Phillips in the 1990s — and Hali improves on his two-year total of 15½ sacks when rushing from the quarterback’s blind side, the Chiefs might be able to compensate for the loss of Allen.
“Might” being the operative word.
But even in the early days of spring workouts, the Chiefs have seen promise in Dorsey that their other failed DT draftees seldom flashed.
“Glenn is a guy by himself. He’s just a beast,” said Hali, who has played next to Dorsey in spring practice. “He can take over a game from that position, especially if a team is trying to run. I think he’ll give us some different ways to rush the passer and stop the run.”
Dorsey did all of that in Baton Rouge. He’ll be asked to do the same in Kansas City, but with a slightly different approach.
“I’ve done both (two-gap and one-gap) at LSU, and you have to be able to do both to get the job done,” he noted.
“But in a one-gap scheme, you can run loose and try to get upfield and create havoc in the backfield. You even get your name in the papers sometimes!” he remarked only half-jokingly. “I’m looking forward to that opportunity.”
In just a couple of weeks of minicamps and organized team activities, Dorsey already has gained a sense of what the transition from a college program — albeit a powerhouse program — to the NFL will entail.
“It seems like everyone’s always moving 100 miles per hour,” said the easygoing native of small-town Gonzales, La. “You wonder, ‘Where y’all goin?’ Everything moves at a faster pace, from the drills to the walk-throughs to the weight room. But I’ll get used to it.
“The size of the playbook is a little overwhelming,” he admitted. “But I’ve got some older guys like Tamba Hali taking me under his wing and showing me the ropes, so I’m fortunate there.”
His new coordinator seems confident that his prized draftee can translate all of what he did on the collegiate level — winning the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation’s best defensive player was just one of the numerous accolades he collected at LSU — to the professional ranks.
“The things that always amazed me were the athletic skills and balance he had,” Cunningham said. “He has a really good first step off the ball, and more than that, he uses his hands really well.
“People already have compared him to a guy I don’t want to name (it’s Warren Sapp), but they have the same quick hands. The first day after practice, I looked at (Dorsey’s) tape and thought, ‘There it is.’ His hands get off the ground so quickly and into the opponent. That’s why he dominates.
“What we’re looking for is the next step, and we saw a lot of snaps that said he’s ready to do that.”
Rick Dean covers the Chiefs for the Topeka Capital-Journal.