RIVER FALLS, WIS. Dick Vermeil takes a simple approach to improving the Kansas City Chiefs.
"Every position has got to be played better for us to win," he said.
With just two days left before the team breaks training camp, Vermeil is still looking for the right mix to reach that goal. And while he's happy with the upgrade of talent at spots like wide receiver, he's concerned about other positions, such as the interior defensive line.
"I'm pleased with the outside rush. I'm not pleased with the inside rush," he said.
Vermeil said he's been very impressed with defensive end Eric Hicks. The coach said Hicks, who signed with the Chiefs as a free agent out of Maryland in 1998, is looking more like the player who recorded 14 sacks in 2000.
"He demonstrated that in the ball game the other day," Vermeil said about Hicks' performance in the Chiefs' first preseason game. "He's coming around that corner. To me, he shows a little more burst than I've seen him have in the past."
While Hicks has shown indications of leading a strong outside pass rush for the Chiefs, Vermeil said he was still looking for someone to step up and provide pressure inside. First-round draft pick Ryan Sims was expected to help the Chiefs in that area, but with the defensive tackle still not in camp, the inside pressure has been lacking.
"Duane Clemons (Tuesday) really was flashing, and John Browning has flashed, but we haven't had anyone flash inside as a pass rusher," Vermeil said, adding the Chiefs would likely move Browning inside in their nickel defense.
The Chiefs are hoping rookie Eddie Freeman and veterans Derrick Ransom and Eric Downing can give the line the push it needs inside. But Vermeil said with Sims still not in camp, the Chiefs would have to find other ways to put pressure on the quarterback.
"From blitz packages, from coverages that take away patterns so that the quarterback has to hold the ball," he said. "Right now, we don't have a true inside pass rusher that is ready to dominate."
Last season the Chiefs finished with a total of 31 sacks, the sixth-lowest number in the NFL. Clemons' seven sacks were a team-high. Vermeil said one player who's shown he's ready to help the Chiefs in the blitz packages and coverage is third-year cornerback William Bartee.
"I'm very impressed with him," the coach said. "I think he'll be an upper echelon player one day. Maybe this year."
Notes: Missing from action Wednesday morning were tight end Jason Dunn (back), wide receiver Marc Boerigter (appendix), wide receiver Marvin "Snoop" Minnis (foot), offensive tackle Willie Roaf (knee), tight end Billy Baber (ankle) and running back Jarmar Julien (ankle). Defensive end Rich Owens (knee) and defensive back Central McClellion (foot) also did not practice.