Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cassel-mania: Kansas City Chiefs Season Preview

2008 Record: 2-14

Kansas City expressed confidence in Herm Edwards and his ability to lead a rebuilding effort. However, after trading veterans like defensive end Jared Allen, Kansas City fielded one of the youngest teams in the league in 2008. Kansas City's biggest contribution to the 2008 season may have been knocking out Tom Brady in the first week of the season.

For as bad as Kansas City was last year (26th in scoring offense, 29th in scoring defense, 24th in total offense, 31st in total defense), 9 of their 14 losses were by less than 10 points. Of these 9 losses, 7 were one-possession games (7-points or less). Even though Kansas City was terrible, they were still in a majority of their games. What does this mean? That the young players on their roster are starting to grow into their own and may be starting to form a competitive team.

After former Steelers offensive coordinator Chan Gailey took over, the offense opened things up and Tyler Thigpen showed some promise out of the spread. Thigpen will be the backup this season to Matt Cassel this season, assuming that Brodie Croyle continues his trend of getting hurt, like he has every year since the Chiefs spent a first round pick on him. Getting Cassel and Mike Vrabel from New England for a second-round pick was a great move by their new front office, led by former Pats executive Scott Pioli.

New head coach Todd Haley (former Arizona offensive coordinator) obviously won't be afraid to throw the ball. With Dwayne Bowe set to enter his 3rd year, he will play a key role in the development of the offense. Troubled running back Larry Johnson, who was very vocal about wanting to leave at the end of last season, has been a very quiet, team player in camp thus far. Jamaal Charles, in his second year out of Texas, has plenty of speed and will be an excellent 3rd down back. All these signs point to moving in the right direction for Kansas City. They brought in veterans Bobby Engram and Amani "It is not a malignant" Toomer to help the passing game. Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez was traded to Atlanta, which means the tight end position will likely be primarily a blocking position this year to help Kansas City's questionable offensive line.

The big question here is: Can Cassel continue the success he had last year with a younger team with a weaker offensive line and less talented receivers? Cassel is talented, and will likely have a very good year, but he probably won't have the same type of success he did in New England. That being said, Kansas City has the potential to make a run at this division title.

Did I just say that? Yes, I did. Let's think about it for a minute here. Oakland is a mess. Denver is a joke. Who does that leave? San Diego. In two games last season, Kansas City lost to them by 1 point each game. This team may be closer to challenging San Diego than we think. Does this mean they're going to put up an 11- or 12-win season? Probably not. But the AFC West has a tough schedule with the NFC East and AFC North. However, Kansas City gets the benefit of playing the last-place teams from the AFC East and South. Between Jacksonville and Buffalo, KC may be able to get more wins than San Diego can against Miami and Tennessee. Answer me this: would it be impossible for Kansas City to put up 9 wins this year?

On defense, Kansas City is going through the transition from a 4-3 last season that registered a league-record low 9 sacks on the season to a 3-4 alignment. They spent the 3rd overall pick on DE Tyson Jackson from LSU, showing that they are dedicated to this 3-4 scheme in the long run. Last year's first round pick, Glenn Dorsey, who was a tad small to be a 4-3 DT, will be an excellent fit as a 3-4 defensive end. Dorsey has the motor to get upfield and disrupt the run game, and the ability to get in the gaps to shut down the run game. The Cheifs had a terrible linebacking unit last season, with the exception of Derrick Johnson, now have a core of solid veterans, who may be a step slow, but are smart playmakers and will be a vast improvement over last season. The big question will be former Penn State DE Tamba Hali's ability to translate into a 3-4 OLB. The rest of the linebacking unit shakes down as Derrick Johnson, Mike Vrabel, and Zach Thomas.

In the secondary, second year corner Brandon Flowers showed solid potential, finishing 5th on the team in tackles and had 2 picks and 2 fumble recoveries last season as a rookie. Safeties Bernard Pollard and and Jarrad Page are tackling machines, finishing 1st and 3rd on the team in tackles last season. Pollard led the team in fumble recoveries with 3 and Page led the team in interceptions with 4. Both safeties are 25 this season, meaning there is a huge potential for the steep learning curve to kick in this year. Brandon Carr will start at the other corner. Carr, like Flowers, is 23, and was 4th on the team in tackles last season, adding 2 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries. With all this youth in the secondary, they have the potential to shock the world and develop into a very, very good pass defense, assuming the front 7 gives them some help.

Ian's Prediction: 9-7

Call me crazy if you want to, but look at their defense. There are veterans in the middle at linebacker, arguably their weakest position last season. The secondary was rittled with rookies and young players last season, but as almost all young players say, it's night and day difference between the first and second year in the league. Besides San Diego and Philadelphia, does anyone on their schedule have a truly terrifying passing game? Pittsburgh has a capable passing game, and Dallas and Denver will likely see a setback this year. If their front 7 can hold their own, their offense with a rejuvinated Larry Johnson and Dwayne Bowe, may have just enough to get them over the hump and be this season's Atlanta Falcons. Kansas City also ends the season with Denver, Buffalo, Cleveland, @ Cincy, @ Denver, giving them the potential to put together a solid win streak and make a run at the playoffs.

John's Prediction:

No comments: