Chiefs Get Offensive in 2010January 20th, 2011 by Lee Eldridge
I want to spend some time analyzing what the Chiefs accomplished in 2010, and what they need to do to improve in 2011. Today we’ll talk about the offense. This will include an overview of the various position groups, and the Chiefs’ own free agents.
By The Numbers
The Chiefs made some great strides on offense this year. We watched Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles become playmakers. We saw glimpses from rookies Dexter McCluster and Tony Moeaki of what they can be in the future. And we saw veterans Ryan Lilja and Casey Wiegmann come in and fortify the offensive line. Statistically, here are some numbers to digest:
Total Offense: #12
Total Points: #14 (avg 22.9 points/game)
It’s a little hard to put these numbers into perspective. And I think they’re a bit misleading. The Chiefs were effective running the ball, and ran the ball more times than any other team in the league. They were also pretty effective in scoring points. But early in the season they put little emphasis on passing the ball. It wasn’t until the loss at Denver that the Chiefs found they could trust Cassel and Bowe to deliver in the passing game. (I wrote this article earlier this year about the emergence of the passing game.) This season was largely about developing the team. As they continue to progress, the Chiefs must find better offensive balance.
Stat: Out of the top ten rushing teams in the league, half of them failed to make the playoffs. This list includes: Oakland, Jacksonville, New York Giants, Houston, Tampa Bay and Minnesota.
I’ve never believed that you want the top running game in the league. And I’ve never believed that you want the top passing game in the league. The best teams typically have balance, and can do both.
Stat: Out of the final four teams in the playoffs, none of them are offensive juggernauts. We could review any of the stats, but here are their numbers in points per game: Green Bay (#10 at 24.2 points/game), Pittsburgh (#12 at 23.4 points/game), New York Jets (#13 at 22.9 points/game), and Chicago (#21 at 20.9 points/game). Next time we’ll take a look at how these teams are defensively. Offense may be sexy, but defense wins in the playoffs. At least it did this year.
What do these numbers mean? They mean that the Chiefs’ offense is on par statistically with these remaining teams in the playoffs.
Let’s take a quick look at the Chiefs’ position groups, and what they need to do moving forward.
Quarterback: Matt Cassel, Brodie Croyle (free agent), Tyler Palko
The development of Cassel should put people at ease. He passed for more than 3,000 yards, which is OK considering the Chiefs put so little emphasis on the passing game. What was truly impressive was how he took care of the ball. His TD to INT ratio of 27/7 was spectacular. It will be interesting to see what the Chiefs do with Croyle. The fans want him gone after his ineffective play against the Chargers. But what I found interesting is that the Chiefs had a gameplan for Croyle much like they had in the season opener for Cassel. And early in the season, fans and media pundits were clamoring about how the Chiefs don’t trust Cassel. I think this could go either way, and will not be surprised if the Chiefs bring back Croyle. If they decide to move on, they will need to sign another backup quarterback, or take one late in the draft to develop alongside Palko.
Running Back: Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones, Dexter McCluster, Jackie Battle (free agent)
The Chiefs have quality and depth at running back. Charles is possibly the most explosive player in the league. Jones is strong and dependable. McCluster can make plays when given the opportunity. And Battle has plenty of potential. I hope they resign him, as he’s a good special teams player as well. I am completely onboard with how the Chiefs shared carries between Jones and Charles. I don’t believe that Charles has the body to withstand carrying the ball much more than he did this year. And I can’t imagine any reason why the Chiefs would consider drafting a running back this year.
Fullback: Tim Castille (free agent), Mike Cox (free agent)
The Chiefs shared time this season between Cox and Castille. Both are free agents. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chiefs resigned them both.
Wide Receiver: Dwayne Bowe, Chris Chambers, Dexter McCluster (yes I also put him in the RB group), Terrance Copper (free agent), Kevin Curtis, Verran Tucker, Jerheme Urban (IR), Jeremy Horne (practice squad), Quinten Lawrence (practice squad)
Bowe finally had his breakout season this year. He was phenomenal when given the opportunity to shine. McCluster is fine to have in the mix, but is not a starting wide receiver. I assume Chambers will be cut. Not sure what happened between Chambers and the Chiefs, but Kansas City is apparently through with him. He was inactive against the Ravens in the playoffs, and the Chiefs started newly signed Curtis. When you watch teams like the Packers, they have three to four receivers who are all capable of making plays. The Chiefs must upgrade the talent they have here, and they must find a starting wide receiver who can take some of the coverage away from Bowe. Would expect the Chiefs to consider a receiver high in the draft. They must improve their passing game in order to have a more balanced offensive attack.
Tight End: Tony Moeaki, Leonard Pope (free agent), Jake O’Connell, Brad Cottam (IR)
Moeaki during this rookie campaign put up better numbers than Tony Gonzalez in his rookie campaign. Very impressive. He runs good routes. He has great hands. And he seems to block pretty well. Not sure what they plan to do with Pope, who is a free agent. It would not surprise me if the Chiefs drafted another tight end this year. While not a great area of need, they can continue to look to upgrade this group.
Offensive Line: Branden Albert, Brain Waters, Casey Wiegmann (free agent), Ryan Lilja, Barry Richardson (free agent), Jon Asamoah, Rudy Niswanger (free agent), Ryan O’Callaghan (free agent)
The offensive line was better this year. It’s clear that Wiegmann and Lilja helped solidify the group. But personally, I’d like to see the Chiefs continue to upgrade the line. I was concerned early in the year with undersized players such as Wiegmann and Lilja anchoring the middle of the line. Waters is nearing the end of his career. Both of their right tackles are free agents. And the line was manhandled by several teams late in the season. I’d like to see rookie Asamoah starting in 2011. He’s a beast, though I’m not sure how you reshuffle the line to make that happen. He played guard in college, but he’s capable of playing center. I’d be curious if you could move Lilja over to center, and start Asamoah at right guard. Waters has also had some experience at center. Would also like to see the Chiefs consider a right tackle early in the draft.
Notes: I have not necessarily listed all practice squad players, or players who were on injured reserve.
Collective Bargaining Agreement
As a fan of the NFL, I hope they get the collective bargaining agreement in place soon. Do not expect any agreement until the last minute, or even later. I will be surprised if we get a lockout, but it’s not out of the question. Under the old rules, many of the Chiefs’ free agents would be restricted or exclusive rights free agents, which means that the Chiefs have some control over them. But without a collective bargaining agreement in place, it’s impossible to predict what will happen with the status of these players.
Free Agency and the Draft
I do not expect the Chiefs to be very active in free agency beyond resigning their own free agents. They made a few strategic signings last year with Lilja, Wiegmann and Shaun Smith. Expect more of the same this year. Substance over flash.
In the draft, fans will be clamoring for wide receivers and offensive linemen. Or possibly a backup quarterback. That’s all well and good, but in my opinion, the defense needs more infusion of talent than the offense. We will cover that next time around.