- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
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A weekly look at a player whose performance must improve in 2011.
With the third overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, Kansas City selected Tyson Jackson. It was Scott Pioli's first draft pick after being hired to rebuild the Chiefs. With his background in New England, Pioli probably envisioned Jackson as the leader of Kansas City's 3-4 defense from his end position much like Richard Seymour was for the Patriots. Seymour is bound for the Hall of Fame. Thus far in his young career, Jackson doesn't resemble Seymour in the slightest.
Considered by many to be custom-made to play defensive end in a 3-4 coming out of college, Jackson was simply dreadful as a rookie. He consistently got washed out of the play in his first season while trying to hold the point in the run game. And he did very little disrupting of quarterbacks.
To his credit, Jackson did fight a knee injury for much of the first half of his second season. His play noticeably improved once he regained his health down the stretch in 2010. He is only 25 years old. Maybe the light has come on for him and there are much more good things to come. Kansas City had better hope so. But still, Jackson isn't a dominator against the run by any stretch of the imagination and has recorded only one career sack in two seasons. Remember, though, that he was the third overall pick in the draft.
In the 2008 draft before Pioli arrived, the Chiefs selected Jackson's LSU teammate Glenn Dorsey fifth overall. Dorsey was custom-made for Herm Edwards' penetrating Cover 2 scheme as a true 3 Technique defensive tackle. But Dorsey was forced into the Chiefs' 3-4 scheme after just one season in the league. In 2010, Dorsey stepped up his game quite a bit. He is clearly the best defensive lineman on the Chiefs' roster, and the best might be yet to come.
In this past draft, Pioli used a third-round pick on Allen Bailey. Bailey and Jackson have similar physical tools, but Bailey's production never matched his potential at the University of Miami. If Bailey does reach his potential, he could challenge Jackson for playing time before long.
Another guy to be aware of in Kansas City is Wallace Gilberry. Gilberry isn't a household name and will be a restricted free agenct once a collective bargaining agreement is reached. But Gilberry can really rush the passer. Of the Chiefs' defensive linemen, he is clearly the best in this capacity. He might not be equipped for every-down usage at end in this scheme, but on passing downs Gilberry can line up next to Dorsey with Tamba Hali and Justin Houston as the edge pass-rushers. That could be an extremely effective front four on throwing downs.
Gilberry's opposite is needed at nose tackle. Ron Edwards is the starter, but he is an unrestricted free agent. Shaun Smith is up for free agency as well. He can play the nose or end, which certainly adds to his value. Edwards and Smith both play the run well but offer very little in getting after the passer. Kansas City used a sixth-round pick on Jerrell Powe, who has more ability than that draft slot would indicate. But the rookie probably can contribute in a rotation only on early downs as he learns the finer points of the position. Kansas City has a lot of money to spend under the expected salary cap and could be a major player for Aubrayo Franklin while letting Edwards or Smith -- or both -- walk. Franklin is one of the best nose tackles in football and could be the last piece needed for Kansas City's defense to rank among some of the better units in the league. But the Chiefs also need much more from Jackson.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com. Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL