10 Reasons to be Optimistic About the Chiefs in 2010August 1st, 2010 by Lee Eldridge
I am so ready for football. And with the Chiefs this year, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic that this team is turning things around. As we compare this team to last year’s team, don’t just look at how they finished the season, but think about where they were a year ago today. The transformation is significant.
1. Coaching Staff: The Chiefs had wanted to hire Romeo Crennel a year ago to lead the defense, but the timing just wasn’t right. The Chiefs settled for Clancy Pendergast as defensive coordinator. Haley retained offensive coordinator Chan Gailey from Herm’s staff, but then fired him right before the season began. Enter 2010 where the Chiefs have added Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis and Emmitt Thomas, and the Chiefs now have one of the most highly regarded and accomplished staffs in the NFL.
2. Matt Cassel: If you follow the NFL closely, you’ll realize that typically when a quarterback changes teams, he struggles in his first year with his new team. In 2009 Cassel threw for almost 3,000 yards with 16TDs and 16 INTs. A mediocre season for an NFL quarterback. But take into account that the entire offense was learning a new system on the fly as the season began, the offensive line allowed a ton of sacks early in the season, and the team received disappointing seasons from their primary weapons in Larry Johnson and Dwayne Bowe.
Cassel has proven that he’s as tough as anybody out there. He seems to have the leadership qualities you’d want from your quarterback. What can we expect from Cassel this year? With Weis at the helm, new offensive toys, and a year in Kansas City, I think we should expect 3,500 yards passing, and hopefully close to a 2-to-1 TD to INT ratio. The jury is still out on Cassel, but I think he’s got the tools to be a competent starting QB in the league. Is that good enough? We’ll soon see.
3. Offensive Weapons: As the season began last year, the two primary weapons on offense were Larry Johnson and Dwayne Bowe. Johnson was a shell of his former self. And as the offensive line struggled, Johnson could barely find his way back to the line of scrimmage. Fans had hoped for a breakout season from Bowe, but were disappointed as he dropped ball after ball.
We all know the story now, but when Johnson was released, the offense came alive under speedster Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs picked up Chris Chambers midway through the season to anchor their receiving core. And during the off season, the Chiefs added running back Thomas Jones and rookies Dexter McCluster and tight end Tony Moeaki. Hopefully Dwayne Bowe can relax knowing that he’s now just a piece of the offense and will not be leaned upon to be the star. Bowe has tons of potential, but whether he develops into a consistent player or not, the Chiefs are much further along than they were a year ago today.
4. Offensive Line: Once the team settled in with five consistent starters, the line play improved last year. In the first 10 games of the season, the line gave up 37 sacks (3.7 per game). During the last six games, the line gave up only eight sacks (1.3 per game). In the first half of the season, the line couldn’t open a hole for Johnson. For the last half of the season, Jamaal Charles gained more yards than any back in the league except Chris Johnson. Much of that was due to the speed and elusiveness of Charles. But it was also due to the improved play of the offensive line.
During the off season, the Chiefs added veteran center Casey Wiegmann and guard Ryan Lilja. Both are a bit undersized, but experienced. And they drafted Jon Asamoah, who is capable of playing at center or guard. There will now be some competition along the line. They should be better this year.
5. Team Speed: The Chiefs have been painfully slow the last few years. General Manager Scott Pioli has focused on increasing the team’s speed, and I think in particular this will be obvious on special teams.
6. Happy Returns: The Chiefs haven’t had a legitimate threat on kick and punt returns since Dante Hall. Jamaal Charles gave the team a bit of a spark last year, but he’s too valuable on offense to risk on special teams. Enter rookies Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas. Both have speed and elusiveness, and should supply a spark to special teams. This will be an interesting battle during the preseason.
7. Eric Berry: You hate to heap too much pressure on any rookie but safeties are not typically taken so early in the draft. There are a handful of safeties who can change the game. Troy Polamula (when healthy). Bob Sanders (when healthy). Ed Reed. Brian Dawkins, though he’s at the end of his career. The Chiefs think they’ve drafted the next great safety. He will certainly add some explosiveness to the defense compared to the departed Mike Brown.
8. Ryan Succop: Last year, kicker Ryan Succop was Mr. Irrelevant as the last player taken in the NFL draft. But he proved to have the leg and mentality it takes to kick in the NFL. What was a big question mark last year appears now to be a position of strength.
9. Todd Haley: Haley made a lot of mistakes last year, but it was his first year as a head coach, and he certainly was given a team with a lot of holes. He really seems quite a bit more at ease this year. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the same fiery temper, but I’m OK with that. So long as he only loses his temper when it serves a larger purpose of getting this team over the next hurdle. The jury is still out on Haley as well, but I’m optimistic that he’s gotten this team headed in the right direction.
10. Year Two: The Chiefs’ leadership is young. Owner Clark Hunt, general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Todd Haley form the nucleus of the future of the team. This is the year we should start to get a glimpse of what they’re attempting to build.
I don’t expect the Chiefs to make the playoffs this year, but there are many reasons to believe they’ll be improved. And that’s good enough for today.