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CosmicPal
07-05-2010, 10:53 AM
http://fifthdown.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/kansas-city-chiefs-2010-season-preview/

Kansas City Chiefs 2010 Season Preview
By ANDY BENOIT

Andy Benoit is the founder of NFLTouchdown.com and a writer for CBSSports.com’s N.F.L. blog. He can be contacted at andy.benoit –at – NFLTouchdown.com.

It happens every year. A dreadful team comes out of nowhere and achieves instant success. It’s like sex scandals for politicians: they’re so common that specific examples need not be cited. So instead, let’s just cut to the chase. Can the Kansas City Chiefs be this team in 2010?

This is a conversation to have with a diehard N.F.L. fan. A casual fan will look at Kansas City’s 10-38 record over the past three years and treat this as some sort of joke. But a diehard fan might appreciate the subtleties behind the possibility. The Chiefs assembled the conspicuous pieces of a sudden turnaround last season. They hired a new general manager, Scott Pioli. He brought in a new coach, Todd Haley. Haley installed new systems (shotgun spread offense, 3-4 defense). Then Pioli and Haley invested in a quarterback (Matt Cassel) and began cultivating their young talent (running back Jamaal Charles, and pretty much half the defense).
Kansas City Chiefs

These are the changes of a major rebuilding effort. You can certainly debate whether the right people have been tapped for these changes. But for the sake of this intro, let’s assume Haley is the right guy, and that his systems work. And let’s assume that, with experience and better players around him, Cassel can be what he was down the stretch for the Patriots in ’08.

If these building blocks are in place, it will be the subtle elements propelling the Chiefs over the top.

So what are these subtle elements, exactly?

Start with the rest of the coaching staff. The Chiefs made headway in their mission to become the Patriots of the Midwest by hiring Charlie Weis to coordinate the offense and Romeo Crennel to handle the defense. Hall of Fame defensive back Emmitt Thomas was brought in to take charge of the youthful secondary. Haley, an erudite play-caller, showed humility in turning the offense over to Weis.

When he took over before last season, Haley also showed wisdom in infusing his staff with other prominent assistants. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs coaches the linebackers. Renowned kicking instructor Steve Hoffman handles special teams. Bill Muir, who has been coaching for over 40 years, is in charge of the offensive line. And the assistant head coach and running backs coach is Maurice Carthon, once an offensive coordinator in Dallas, Detroit and Cleveland. Virtually all of Haley’s top assistants have held higher titles with other organizations.

Ownership – the Hunt Family – wants the organization to build through the draft. So instead of acquiring blockbuster veterans, Pioli filled the temporary cracks with cost-effective role players. He signed veteran center Casey Wiegmann to possibly replace Rudy Niswanger, who has been a liability. If the soon-to-be 37-year-old Wiegmann proves in training camp not to have lost a step, he’ll not only be an upgrade inside, but also a fantastic tutor for gritty third-round rookie Jon Asamoah.

Pioli essentially replaced athletically-depleted right guard Mike Goff (injured during the season and replaced after it) with former Colt Ryan Lilja (an undrafted free agent whom the Chiefs reluctantly cut six years ago). Adding a veteran center and new right guard stabilizes the interior of the offensive line, which aides the development of cornerstone left tackle Branden Albert. This, factored with the addition of running back Thomas Jones (Pioli’s last noteworthy veteran pickup), gives the Chiefs the inside running game they didn’t have a year ago.

For the passing game, instead of gambling with a big-name wide receiver (like, say, Terrell Owens or Brandon Marshall), Pioli spent $5.9 million guaranteed to re-sign playmaker Chris Chambers. He also spent a second-round pick on Dexter McCluster, a Percy Harvin-like multi-threat who gives the offense a much-needed dimension of creativity.

Little personnel moves like these could make all the difference. Kansas City’s detractors, of course, will argue that the team failed to make any adjustments on the other side of the ball. Minus the selection of safety Eric Berry at No. 5 over all, this is true. But unforeseen defensive talent could still emerge in 2010. If Berry is the star many expect, the Chiefs’ secondary will be one of football’s brighter young units. The linebacking corps is unimpressive as a whole but has two key pieces in unheralded star Tamba Hali and underrated rock-of-a-run-stopper Cory Mays.

Problem is, the linebackers are playing behind a three-man defensive line that gets manhandled every week. And defensive line is the area Kansas City has invested in most heavily. End Glenn Dorsey was drafted fifth over all in 2008. Tyson Jackson was drafted third over all in 2009. Playing next to nose tackle Ron Edwards, both miscast ends have been feeble anchors in this Patriot-esque scheme. This is the prime reason the Chiefs ranked 31st in run defense and total sacks last season.

But what if a subtle adjustment could suddenly improve the defensive line? Would we see a domino effect across the entire team? Would it be the climactic chapter in an out-of-nowhere success story? Or would it just be further evidence that, for a hapless club-win team, subtle changes aren’t enough?

Offense

The earlier assumption about Matt Cassel rediscovering his ’08 form might be a stretch. Last year, in his first season as a Chief and first as a quarterback playing with the burden of expectations, Cassel averaged a paltry 5.9 yards per pass attempt and threw as many interceptions as touchdowns (16). Like most struggling quarterbacks, Cassel is uncomfortable in a cluttered pocket and tends to focus on the rush more than on his receivers. His willingness to tuck the ball and run is as much a symptom of his uncertainty as his athleticism.

To be fair, Cassel did not get great pass protection. The total of 45 sacks that Kansas City surrendered was sixth most in the league. The addition of Ryan Lilja at right guard should stabilize the interior, but any drastic improvements for this line will have to come from the tackles. It’s time for third-year pro Branden Albert to take a quantum leap on the left side. The Virginia guard-turned-Kansas City tackle has been better than his critics claim, but not by leaps and bounds. Albert must improve his initial quickness and awareness. Right tackle Ryan O’Callaghan doesn’t have good enough feet to thrive at the pro level; offensive line coach Bill Muir needs to compel O’Callaghan to alter his technique in a way that minimizes the amount of collapse on his side of the pocket. Underwhelming former Dolphins guard Ikechuku Ndukwe is listed as the primary backup at tackle, which tells you the Chiefs are going to sink or swim with Albert and O’Callaghan. Ndukwe has no business being on the field unless someone is hurt.

Because Rudy Niswanger gets outquicked and pushed around in tight quarters, the Chiefs should do all they can to get third-rounder Jon Asamoah primed as the first option off the bench inside. They don’t appear to be eager to start veteran Casey Wiegmann. Asamoah would back up left guard Brian Waters, who, at 33, is still a Pro Bowl caliber leader.

Waters’s mobility and knack for locking and driving defenders should pay more dividends in ’10 now that Thomas Jones – who’s both a star and a journeyman – provides the Chiefs with an inside running presence. Jones’s arrival makes it necessary to keep lead-blockers Mike Cox and Tim Castille on the roster despite their limited skills.

Though Jones posted a career-high 1,402 yards rushing last year and is the only runner in pro football aside from the Rams’ Steven Jackson to currently have five-straight 1,000-yard seasons, it’s clear he’s here to work behind rising star Jamaal Charles. Few players who are strictly outside runners can average 5.9 yards per carry as Charles did in ’09, but even fewer players have Charles’s lateral agility and breakaway speed. Over the final eight games last season, the ’08 third-round pick from Texas ran for 968 yards.

Believe it or not, Cassel will be the third-highest paid quarterback in the N.F.L. this year ($11.75 million). This doesn’t mean Haley won’t turn to Brodie Croyle if the passing game stagnates. Croyle, however, is 0-9 as a starter. With an improved front five and a run game that defenses must respect, Kansas City has the ingredients for a serviceable aerial attack. Chris Chambers can stretch the field outside. Versatile second-round rookie Dexter McCluster can make plays from the backfield or slot. Tight end Leonard Pope (6’8”, 264) is an enticing red zone target, although third-round rookie Tony Moeaki offers a wider array of skills. Plus, there’s massive third-year pro Brad Cottam (6’7”, 269,) who was originally thought to be a blocker but has shown surprising fluidity as a pass-catcher.

The only question mark is Dwayne Bowe. Despite having 2,017 receiving yards over his first two seasons, immaturity, poor work habits and ho-hum speed have branded the former first-round pick a disappointment. Because the only backup receivers are Lance Long, Terrance Copper and special teamer Jerheme Urban, Bowe is getting a fair opportunity to turn things around. If he can use his uncommon strength and athletic acumen to become a reliable possession receiver, the Chiefs will have every major base covered in the passing game.

Defense

An adjustment to the defensive line must be made. The evidence is indisputable: this 3-4 scheme, which is predicated on power up front, can’t work with Ron Edwards as the nose tackle and Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson as the ends. Edwards is too average to command double teams. Dorsey and Jackson are both high-energy players who lack the size and strength to hold the point. That said, it’s too early to give up on either of the former top-five picks. (The Chiefs have no choice anyway, considering backups Wallace Gilberry and Alex Magee are both undersized passing-down players.)

So what kind of adjustment could be made? How about sliding one of the defensive ends to nose tackle in hopes of finding the next Jay Ratliff (the undersized but explosive one-gap penetrator for the Cowboys)? Jackson lacks the initial burst for this role, but Dorsey is an option. Are the odds of success encouraging? Not really. But those odds are greater than zero, which is what you get with the status quo.

Expect newcomer Shaun Smith to see some snaps both inside and outside. The 325-pounder doesn’t always play hard, but he at least has the size to keep blockers off the linebackers. This is a key with fifth-year inside linebacker Corey Mays, an undrafted journeyman who is an outstanding read-and-react run-stopper. Mays’s high football IQ allows him to take clever angles to the ball, which helps make up for the lack of speed from inside linebacker Demorrio Williams and outside backer Mike Vrabel. Williams will probably lose his job to second-year pro Javon Belcher. Vrabel signed a one-year contract to return for a 14th season, but it may be prudent to replace him with the third-year pro Andy Studebaker. Studebaker isn’t a tantalizing prospect, but he moves fairly well for his size.

Often, the more variations there are to a defense’s personnel packages, the worse that defense is. (A player is a specialist because he’s good in one area and perhaps bad in several areas; defensive personnel packages are all about specialists.) Outside linebacker Tamba Hali, a high-octane disruptor who plays with great quickness and leverage, is the only member of the front seven to stay on the field in nickel and dime packages. Every other front seven position is occupied by a passing down specialist. Gilberry and Magee fill the defensive end spots; Belcher and swift-running Derrick Johnson come in at inside linebacker, and fifth-round rookie Cameron Sheffield (an undersized defensive end at Troy) will likely replace Vrabel on the outside.

Aside from Hali (and maybe Sheffield), the Chiefs have no viable pass-rushers. Their 22 sacks were the second fewest last season, though at least that total more than doubled their N.F.L. record-low 10-sack output in ’08. A halfway decent pass-rush would do wonders for Romeo Crennel’s unit, especially considering that the young secondary is poised to blossom.

Third-year corners Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers both seem to improve each week. (Carr is the better of the two.) Javier Arenas was drafted in the second round for his return abilities, though coaches also expect him to handle the slot-defending duties that Mike Richardson, Travis Daniels, Maurice Leggett and Donald Washington took turns botching last year.

The Chiefs are counting on rookie Eric Berry to be an instant star. Berry, the heralded three-year captain at Tennessee, has already been compared to Ed Reed and Brian Dawkins, which, for a free safety, is not unlike being compared to a god. Berry’s range in coverage is vital because the Chiefs want to avoid putting strong safety Jon McGraw (or demoted strong safety Jarrad Page) in space.

Special Teams

Kicker Ryan Succop was Mr. Irrelevant last season, which was probably an epithet he welcomed considering his other option was to continue being called by his last name (pronounced suck-up). Succop missed only four field goals, three of them from 50-plus yards. Punter Dustin Colquitt gets good height on his kicks, which is partly why his coverage unit allowed just 7.1 yards per return (seventh best in the league). Coaches are giddy to see Javier Arenas, author of seven punt return touchdowns at Alabama, in the return game.

Bottom Line

A breakout season isn’t impossible. If Matt Cassel plays well, the offense will rank somewhere in the mid-upper range in most statistical categories. The issue is the defensive front seven’s lack of size and pass-rush prowess. There might be more talent here than meets the eye, but this All-Star coaching staff will have to work some magic.

Predicted Finish: 3rd AFC West

chefsos
07-05-2010, 12:22 PM
Well hell, I'm pumped. There were, by quick count, 16 "ifs" in that piece. Surprise team in the league if (there it is again) they all come to pass. I haven't decided yet if I'm kidding.

BTW, is this guy the only one who sees Carr as better than Flowers?

mcaj22
07-05-2010, 12:29 PM
Thought it was a decent read until I saw "Carr is the better of the two" and I realized I wasted my time.

CosmicPal
07-05-2010, 12:39 PM
Thought it was a decent read until I saw "Carr is the better of the two" and I realized I wasted my time.

Yeah, I was thinking the same when I came across that bit of error in judgment.

wasi
07-05-2010, 01:16 PM
I started questioning the writer when I read that Haley installed new systems including the shotgun-spread offense (3rd paragraph). Maybe there were pieces of it but the shotgun-spread offense was in KC before him.

Fish
07-05-2010, 01:19 PM
I would venture to bet this writer has gotten every single bit of his information from second-hand knowledge and has likely only seen Chiefs football while watching highlights on ESPN.

Fruit Ninja
07-05-2010, 01:27 PM
I would venture to bet this writer has gotten every single bit of his information from second-hand knowledge and has likely only seen Chiefs football while watching highlights on ESPN.

Considering he may have to cover every single team, thats not a huge stretch. He did fairly well though. He got alot of good points across that the average person from New York wouldnt know anything about.

Covering every damned team in the league is pretty damned hard to do. lol Unless you are Mecca of course.

KCtotheSB
07-05-2010, 01:30 PM
I would venture to bet this writer has gotten every single bit of his information from second-hand knowledge and has likely only seen Chiefs football while watching highlights on ESPN.

They show Chiefs highlights on ESPN?

Fairplay
07-05-2010, 01:32 PM
The article made me feel real good about this team.


I've come down from my high though.

Fish
07-05-2010, 01:43 PM
They show Chiefs highlights on ESPN?

Only when the Chiefs play an east coast team...

BigChiefFan
07-05-2010, 01:45 PM
Thought it was a decent read until I saw "Carr is the better of the two" and I realized I wasted my time.

Agreed. I thought it was a good summary of the team and expectations of the players, but the writer definitely failed at evaluating Carr as better than Flowers, at this point.

BossChief
07-05-2010, 01:45 PM
Holy mother of god!

"underrated rock-of-a-run-stopper Cory Mays."

"Corey Mays, an undrafted journeyman who is an outstanding read-and-react run-stopper"

"Carr is the better of the two."

:facepalm:

Baconeater
07-05-2010, 02:01 PM
They show Chiefs highlights on ESPN?
Sure, but they are highlights of what the other team did to them.

chefsos
07-05-2010, 02:17 PM
I'm just gonna assume the Carr/Flowers thing is a typo or brainfart or something.

Reaper16
07-05-2010, 03:12 PM
Flowers is clearly better but it isn't like there is that much difference between he and Carr.

KCrockaholic
07-05-2010, 03:22 PM
This was a pretty good article aside from the Corey Mays ball washing... Then I got to the part about Carr being better than Flowers, and then it was trash.

Cave Johnson
07-05-2010, 03:58 PM
You know, he was pretty spot on about suggesting our 3-4 should be more Dallas-like. And he wasn't far off of what many think our LB corp will look like on game 1 (Hali-DJ-Belcher-Studebaker). Makes up for the Carr and Mays garbage.

Oh, and thanks for reminding me that our nicklebacks last year sucked a bag of dicks.

MahiMike
07-05-2010, 04:50 PM
I was pumped until I read, "3rd in the AFC West?" The AFC West must be freakin awesome.

Marcellus
07-05-2010, 05:36 PM
Overall not a bad article but I'm not sure where the Carr, Mays, spread offense comments came from.

Weird how you can say many accurate in depth things about a team but then make odd and incorrect comments about other parts of the team.

OnTheWarpath58
07-05-2010, 05:38 PM
I was pumped until I read, "3rd in the AFC West?" The AFC West must be freakin awesome.

That prediction is likely the most accurate thing he said in the entire piece.

Marcellus
07-05-2010, 05:42 PM
That prediction is likely the most accurate thing he said in the entire piece.

May be true but I look at this year like I did last year. SD should win the division and the other 3 could finish in any order.

There is no real reason to believe Denver or the Raiders are going to be more improved than KC. All 3 could be average or turds.

OnTheWarpath58
07-05-2010, 05:58 PM
May be true but I look at this year like I did last year. SD should win the division and the other 3 could finish in any order.

There is no real reason to believe Denver or the Raiders are going to be more improved than KC. All 3 could be average or turds.

Agree on Denver, disagree on Oakland.

Christ, they've beat us at home how many years in a row now? With Jamarcus fucking Russell at QB?

They have the talent, they were just missing the QB.

Not saying that Jason Campbell is a sure-fire franchise QB, but he's capable of getting that team to 8-10 wins.

If we could stop the run, get to the passer, and had an even average QB, we'd get to 8-10 wins, IMO.

sandynme
07-05-2010, 06:11 PM
fuck anyone giving kc opinions from ny...thomas jones is gonna have to really show to wash the taste of the herman edwards experience from my memory

Brock
07-05-2010, 06:22 PM
fuck anyone giving kc opinions from ny...thomas jones is gonna have to really show to wash the taste of the herman edwards experience from my memory

Yeah, we need somebody really informed like Adam Teicher.

seaofred
07-05-2010, 06:32 PM
Can someone explain to me how Dorsey isn't strong enough to hold his position at DE, but would be an option at Nose. I would think you would need to be stronger to play nose than DE. Plus when Dorsey was a DT wouldn't that be more demanding than DE?

BossChief
07-05-2010, 08:06 PM
Can someone explain to me how Dorsey isn't strong enough to hold his position at DE, but would be an option at Nose. I would think you would need to be stronger to play nose than DE. Plus when Dorsey was a DT wouldn't that be more demanding than DE?First off, Dorsey did hold his point at end. Just watch the Cleveland game when he wasnt there to see the difference between a defender not holding the point and when Glenn was there he was.

Dorsey is a good 2 gap defender, but IMO would be a defensive league MVP quality defender if used in the Ratliff role and Ive been saying that for a long time now. Ever since before Romeo was hired and there was a possibility of Wade Phillips getting let go in Dallas if he didnt win a playoff game, I have been clamoring about it. Its a tough pill to swallow that in this defense there really isn't a role that can take advantage of Dorseys biggest strengths. Its kinda like when Oakland ran a 2 gap 3-4 for a couple years while Sapp played there and how he didn't fit, but did fine in his role. Sapp still complains to this day about that.

In our defense the nose plays heads up on the center (known as the 0 technique) and is responsible for the gaps to either side of the center (known as the a gaps, that is also why the sheme is known as 2 gap, the DL are responsible for 2 gaps each) and to take on the center and guard to the side the play is ran to and to be responsible for those gaps in run defense as well as getting a push on the pocket to not allow the quarterback to step up in the pocket to escape pressure from the OLBs. This role on teams is usually taken by big 350 pound guys that are very strong, not 295 pound guys like Dorsey that their game is predicated on speed and leverage more than anything.

Dorseys strength is his first step and ability to use leverage to his advantage to disrupt plays in the backfield because he can get his body into the gap before the opposing guard and center could get set up in their stance. His first step is just as lethal as Warren Sapps once was and we arent using that strength one bit at the moment. That is what made him top five draft pick worthy, not his ability to take on blockers (which he can do adequately) and shed them to make the play.

Its a shame that is the case, but it speaks volumes to the kids character that he is rolling with it and giving everything he has to becoming successful in his role and keeps his eye on the prize. I think those of us that have been paying attention see a guy with very special potential to be a difference maker, just not as much as he could be in a different role.

hope that helped.

milkman
07-05-2010, 09:00 PM
I stopped reading whe he called Corey Mays a run stopper.

Then I read the posts that talked about the writer saying that Haley brought the shotgun spread offense to KC, and that Carr is better than Flowers.

Holy shit!

LMAO

DeezNutz
07-05-2010, 09:07 PM
The Carr bit is dumb as fuck, but it's a little less ludicrous than all the posts last year about how the dude sucked and absolutely needed to be replaced.

milkman
07-05-2010, 09:09 PM
The Carr bit is dumb as ****, but it's a little less ludicrous than all the posts last year about how the dude sucked and absolutely needed to be replaced.

I agree.

He wasn't outstanding, but he didn't suck and still has potential to develop into a damn good #2 corner.

BossChief
07-05-2010, 09:22 PM
The Carr bit is dumb as fuck, but it's a little less ludicrous than all the posts last year about how the dude sucked and absolutely needed to be replaced.

paging Billay and Mike Brown...you two need to report to Deez' office on the double!

boogblaster
07-05-2010, 09:24 PM
Mays looked decent the first half of the season .. but DL and LB help is needed or soneone needs to improve .....

DeezNutz
07-05-2010, 09:49 PM
I agree.

He wasn't outstanding, but he didn't suck and still has potential to develop into a damn good #2 corner.

Absolutely.

Our secondary has a very real possibility of being fucking outstanding.