Posted by Will Brinson
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The Kansas City Chiefs aren’t -- as a certain former Chiefs coach-turned-analyst said -- the “story of 2010.” Maybe at the midway point of last year, but now? Come on. Still, watching the Todd Haley’s crew grow up right before our very eyes last year was definitely fun.
And definitely a reason to give tons of credit to Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis, the two coordinators that managed to get a slew of the Chiefs’ early-round draft picks to actually play to their potential. Glenn Dorsey, Derrick Johnson, Brandon Flowers, and Tamba Hali all blossomed on the defensive side, and Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe, Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki turned into fantastic offensive seasons.
Various talent levels aside, there were too many players who took a step forward in 2010 to simply call it a coincidence. Sustaining those levels, though, is the bigger problem.
The offensive skill positions are pretty well set for KC (depending on what you think about Matt Cassel anyway, and with the notable exception of a second wideout with wheels) and if they can bring back Brandon Carr, the secondary is going to be sick long-term, and possibly even as soon as next year.
But the Chiefs still need some help in the trenches, though. Defensively, Tyson Jackson played well before suffering an early season injury and Glenn Dorsey certainly made people in Kansas feel a little better about his top-five selection.
And offensively, well, it’s pretty obvious how good this team can be. The biggest question is whether or not Haley can stay out of his own way. (Or, alternately, if Weis really is that brilliant a playcaller -- 2011 will let us know to some degree.) Weaknesses in one particular area -- offensive line -- could put the risk of not repeating on the table.
1. Offensive Line
The key indicator that the Chiefs’ offensive line played better than it is in 2010 is the differential in yards per carry for Thomas Jones (3.7) and Jamaal Charles (6.4). That’s not to say the two backs are equal, because they’re absolutely not; Charles is many times better than Jones at this stage. But Charles also creates his own yardage to a significant degree, and made it easier for KC to be the top rushing team in the NFL. There’s enough talent at O-line in the draft this year to warrant beefing up early.
2. Wide Receiver
Chris Chambers, clearly, isn’t the answer to line up across from Bowe, who had one of the more dominant stretches by a wide receiver we’ve seen in a while across the middle of last season, despite the Chiefs not offering anyone that warrants not double-teaming the Pro Bowler. Putting a talented speedster on the opposite side of Bowe would boost the offense’s overall potent-ability and make life easier for Cassel.
3. Defensive Line
Though the defense produced some surprises from guys who previously underwhelmed, don’t be shocked if the Chiefs look to the defensive line with an early pick in this draft. There’s ample talent available in the early rounds (we’ve covered the depth at this position, no?) and stockpiling some big bodies will bode well for an overall defensive improvement in 2011.
2011 will carry the unusual burden of high expectations for Kansas City. On offense, that’s a distinct possibility if Charlie Weis’ presence really was that important to the development of his skill position guys (Cassel, Bowe and Charles, specifically). If Kansas City struggles to score points out of the gate, all fingers will be pointing at Todd Haley, who’s reportedly clashed enough with Weis to run the big guy out of Dodge and down to work for Will Muschamp in the college ranks.
Defensively, Crennel can help continue to restore his reputation if Jackson can step up and the Dorsey/Johnson can keep the redemption story rolling. Eric Berry, Javier Arenas, Brandon Flowers, and Carr should grow as well, so there’s absolutely some upside from last year’s defensive performance.
It’ll all come down to expectations, though. If some of the guys who performed so well last year regress, or the offensive performances in 2010 were a mirage built on Weis’ brain, there’s a good chance that 2011 looks more like a mirage than a blossoming team for a recovering franchise.
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