Evaluating the ChiefsDecember 26th, 2009 by Lee Eldridge
I had planned to write this after the season, but I think we’ve seen enough to take a look at the roster and start making some decisions.
Quarterback: Lots of people in Kansas City have been critical of Matt Cassel. I think it’s way too early to draw any conclusions. Early in the season Matt got no help from the running game or offensive line. He was hit more than any quarterback in the league. Now his receivers have forgotten how to catch the ball. The Chiefs lead the league in dropped passes. He’s frustrated. And he has every right to be. My two criticisms of him is that you’d like to see more accuracy on his deep ball, and you’d like to see him control his frustrations better. He certainly deserves more time, and hopefully he’ll get a better supporting cast. The Chiefs seem pleased with Brodie Croyle as the backup. And unless Matt Gutierrez loses the third spot, I don’t expect much to happen here during the off season.
Runningback: Jamaal Charles has been one of the few positives to come out of this season. But the Chiefs will need to find a complementary back who can touch the ball 5-10 times per game. Kolby Smith cannot seem to stay healthy. The Chiefs will need to add some depth through free agency or the draft. Have liked the addition of Tim Castille to the backfield. He is more of a threat from the fullback position than Mike Cox.
Wide Receiver: The carousel is spinning. Let me off! I still like Dwayne Bowe. Chris Chambers has really helped this team, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll resign with the Chiefs. Other than that, nobody else has earned a job next year. Help!
Tight End: I’m not exactly sure what happened here. Sean Ryan was Cassel’s favortie target early, and now he can’t get on the field. They picked up Lenoard Pope after he was dropped by the Cardinals, and he’s been fairly solid. Brad Cottam has all lthe physical tools you’d want, but couldn’t earn his playing time till late. Then he got hurt. And the team has carried four tight ends with rookie Jake O’Connell most of the year, who has done nothing but drop the ball when given an opportunity to play. Personally, I think the Chiefs are fine with Pope and Cottam. Unless they pickup somebody cheap in free agency to add some competition, I don’t see much immediate need here. At least, not with so many other pressing needs.
Offensive Line: The o-line was awful early in the year, and has stabilized some lately. They’ve found some rhythm working with Jamaal Charles in the running game. And they’re doing a better job of protecting Cassel. Having said that, I’m still hopeful that they’ll use a couple of their top picks on offensive linemen. Possibly even offensive tackle Russell Okung with their first pick. They can always move Branden Albert to right tackle. Then draft a guard with one of their picks in the second round. The Chiefs have not sufficiently addressed their offensive line over the years (see this post A Tale of Two Lines).
Defensive Line: This is a particularly difficult unit to grade right now. The entire defense is not getting the job done, and typically that starts up front. But defensive linemen take a few years to develop. Don’t ask me why. Rookies seldom make an impact here. And the best d-linemen are typically in their older 20s and early 30s. The Chiefs have to give Dorsey, Jackson and Magee more time to develop. They don’t have much choice. Hopefully they can find a backup nose tackle in free agency to push Ron Edwards.
Linebacker: Another tough unit to grade. Tamba Hali has been a bright spot, and has transitioned well to outside linebacker. I assume he’ll only get better. Mike Vrabel has brought some fire and leadership, but he’s certainly just about done with his career. Corey Mays and Demorrio Williams have been serviceable in the middle. And Derrick Johnson has found it difficult to earn playing time. I do think the team will likely need to address this position in the draft. Good defenses need a star linebacker, and I don’t see one on the club.
Cornerback: The Brandons (Flowers and Carr) have been pretty solid on the corners, but the team has struggled to find an effective nickel back. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see the Chiefs draft another cornerback this year. You can never have enough quality or depth at cornerback.
Safety: What had once looked like a position of strength has turned into one of our biggest areas of need. Fans have been extremely critical about the release of Bernard Pollard, though they seem to have selective memory about all the times Pollard was caught out of position the last couple of years and gave up big plays. Don’t be surprised to see the Chiefs draft safety Eric Berry with their first pick in the draft. He would be an impact player for years to come.
Punter / Kicker: One of the only positions on the team that appears to be in good shape. Dustin Colquitt is legitimately one of the top ten punters in the league, and rookie Ryan Succop has been solid as our kicker.
Returner: The Chiefs have not had a threat returning kicks or punts since Dante Hall. Charles has shown some flashes here, but you can’t expose your starting runningback in the return game. This must be addressed.
Coaching: Expect to see some shakeup on the coaching staff, starting with the two coordinators. Here’s what I would do!
Lots of work to be done.