Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs

NFL Team Column
By Larry McCammon
2010 NFL Draft Results
2011 NFL Draft Results

5 August 2012

Kansas City’s 2012: The A, B, Cs of Success

The Chiefs lost to Denver in the “Peyton Manning” sweepstakes. Actually, that’s an understatement. They were at the front of the pack with a full contract offer in hour one; yet, for whatever reasons, Manning disregarded GM Scott Pioli’s offer and went for the team that kissed his butt the most... our rivals, the Denver Broncos. Well, Mr. Manning... I hope you understand that you’ve just made good friends with KC’s Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.

The national sports media have already crowned Denver as the favorite to win the AFC West and even a solid bet for the Lombardi Trophy. I do admit that if Peyton is his same old self, he will help the Broncos create havoc in the division. However, I’m sure that whatever team Peyton would have signed with would have received the same pre-seasonal distinction of the team to beat. And since Chiefs’ owner, Clark Hunt was unable to reel in the biggest free agent fish in the last decade, many have the Chiefs floppin’ about the “weak” West Division of the American Football Conference. And with that thought, we take a look at what the now healthy and revamped Kansas City Chiefs have for their fans in the upcoming season.

The “basic fundamentals” are the biggest cliché you hear when someone talks about winning. The team must understand and execute the basic fundamentals of the game, in order to be successful... or the team the sticks to the basic fundamentals of football, on a consistent basis throughout the season, will play that last game in February. Well, I think the Chiefs have their own basic fundamentals to worry about. And I too believe that if Kansas City figures out these three ABCs, they will have the best shot of taking themselves to that final game.

A... Attitude & Attack. After the debacle of the 2011 season ended (which started in a preseason of poor preparation by former Head Coach Todd Haley and the first of three torn ACLs by Safety Eric Berry); the Chiefs spent the last three games playing their hearts out for the new Head Coach, Romeo Crennel. The passionate fire that Haley initially brought to the Chiefs, helped discipline and wake up a lazy team of All-Pros that Coach Herm Edwards left on his way out. Todd told Dwayne Bowe and Derrick Johnson that they both were not the stars that they thought they were. And through this hard-love approach, was able to peel back the superficial layers; exposing the true athletic and mental talents of these two Chiefs.

However, Haley’s constant barrage at his team slowly wore thin. Players were no longer getting fired up for games; they were getting pissed off during them. And by the end of Week 13, General Manager Scott Pioli had had enough of Coach Haley’s stubbornness as well; letting him go and putting Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel in his place. The Chiefs won 2 of their 3 final games, and while that’s not a lot to go on, the fans could see that the players weren’t feeling pressured to win by their new head coach... they were feeling the want to win for their new head coach. Romeo may have the heart of a teddy bear (and the looks), yet he also has the rings of five Super Bowls.

He seemed to bring out the right attitude needed to win and the players infused their physical talents with that attitude. For 2012, that attitude will be a key towards the team’s success. Even with all the injured players of 2011 back healthy, the mental healthiness will be the deciding factor for this team returning to the form of 2010.

One of the weaknesses that must improve for success in the AFC West is the ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Chiefs were last in the division in sacks gained in 2011, with OLB Tamba Hali being the only true sack artist on the defense. In order for Kansas City to compete against the likes of Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers, and Carson Palmer, they must produce a defense that places the opposing signal caller in a hurry. Even if the sacks don’t statistically add up, that .5 seconds earlier in the pass rush will create much needed pass-route timing issues. Former Defensive Coordinator Crennel must unleash the “attack” mentality. He must let his top defensive backs (Brandon Flowers, Stanford Routt, and Eric Berry) show what they’re made of through man-to-man coverage, by sending a multitude of blitz packages into opposing backfields. A youthful, yet experienced, top defense at the end of the 2011 season; they must be allowed to open the throttle and attack the rival QBs for success in 2012.

B... Bowe & Baldwin. Dwayne Bowe has yet to sign the Chiefs’ Franchise Player Tag: a guarantee of roughly $9.5 million dollars to the wide receiver for the 2012 season. The deadline for a franchised player and his team to negotiate a new contract has passed. Neither team, nor player, can gain any contractual ground according to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. So, all Dwayne has to do is sign the Tag and he could break his ankle tripping over his coffee table tomorrow- and Clark Hunt would owe him every cent of that nine million. That’s the only true beauty with the Franchise Tag, is that the player doesn’t have to worry as he normally would with regular non-guaranteed contracts. Funny thing though... training camp is running at full speed, but Dwayne Bowe has still not signed and is not in camp. What can he possibly be thinking?

It’s arguable that Bowe has been the best receiver on the Chiefs’ roster for quite some time. Tony Gonzales led Kansas City in receptions for years, yet he was a Tight End. Andre Rison and Eddie Kennison were both very solid for KC, yet they weren’t drafted and grown here. And then there was Carlos Carson and Stephone Paige... 25 years ago. Dwayne Bowe has been the great hope for the vertical game in this town and has shown the ability to make great plays and put up great numbers... sometimes. He has also shown the ability to drop easy end-zone passes (versus the Colts), and not even try for high-pressure passes (versus Pittsburgh last year). Plus, it took a couple years of former coach Todd Haley’s “hard love” to get Bowe on track and in the professional state of mind (if Todd did anything great at Arrowhead, that was it). This has made Bowe the type of player at his position that seems to always be left out of the conversation when talking about the league’s best.

And this probably leads to the stalemate negotiations that took place between GM Scott Pioli and Dwayne’s agent this offseason. Bowe wants #1 Receiver money and the Chiefs want consistency at their #1 Receiver position. No matter what is being said, or not said, behind closed doors; we do know that Dwayne Bowe is a very good player that deserves a very good salary. And with the reasonable apprehensions from KC’s front office on paying a guy that might not live up to the steadiness they seek, they decided to award Dwayne with guaranteed money... leaving this season for Bowe to show that he deserves a big-time contract.

But, what befuddles me in this situation is that Dwayne isn’t in camp. Nothing- and I do mean nothing- can be gained by not signing the Tag and simply showing to training camp. It’s in the rules that nothing can be negotiated towards a new contract now. A deadline has passed for both parties. The Chiefs are willing to make Bowe the second highest paid receiver in 2012, next to Vincent Jackson’s ridiculous $11 million; but, somehow Dwayne still hasn’t signed. I’m not sure what his agent is telling him to make him so adamant about continuing to holdout- when he technically can’t holdout. We all saw how a lack of training camp last year affected this team.

Having the young WR Jon Baldwin (who has shown his great physical talents for the game) on the other end of the offense would make this a very threatening duo to opposing defenses. And if Scott Pioli has brought one good thing from New England, it’s that no one player is above the team. So, if Dwayne Bowe wishes to keep his head where the Sun doesn’t shine, instead of out on the field where all his teammates are each hot afternoon in St. Joseph, MO (along with many very willing young receivers); he might just put himself back on the bench where Todd Haley had him a couple years ago, due to a “me first” attitude. And if it comes to that, it may be another critical “injury” to start of this season- just as real injuries affected the Chiefs in 2011.

C... Cassel & Charles. The last time this Chiefs team was successful was when both QB Matt Cassel and RB Jamal Charles were successful as well. In 2010, Matt Cassel put up 27 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. Along with this he had a 93.0 passer rating, placing himself in the top 8 quarterbacks for the season. That same year Jamal Charles become a star, finishing with 1,935 yards from scrimmage, 8 touchdowns, and an astonishing 6.38 yards per carry (falling short of the all-time record of 6.40 set by Jim Brown). Then in 2011, Jamal Charles exited in week 2 with an ACL injury and Matt Cassel was finished with a broken bone in his throwing hand in week 9; leaving the already reeling team with no offensive power, falling only one win short of the post-season.

With a defense looking to jump up the ranks this season, the team will be testing their success just as much with their franchise quarterback and running back. Whether Dwayne Bowe decides to join the rest of them, these two players will determine if Kansas City can improve on their dismal drop in points per game, from 22.9 in 2010 to only 13.2 in 2011.

While many will say that Matt Cassel could be on the chopping block, his 5th offensive coordinator during his career may allow him a bit more latitude with General Manager, Scott Pioli. Kansas City fans have been riding Cassel hard lately and his solid composure through it all could be a positive sign for this coming year. He must be better on connecting his longer passes (15+ yards). Any Chiefs’ fan will tell you that they hold their breath every time Matt looks to go long... and sees another pass fall behind a down-and-out route.

Kansas City made a big signing with going after RB Peyton Hillis. He not only serves as an alternative to the slashing Charles, yet is an insurance policy as well. As most fans wouldn’t mind to see Hillis produce his stats of 2010 (1,654yds and 13TDs); they are really hoping to see Jamal Charles return to 100% after his 2011 injury. A healthy and productive Jamal is the key to the success of Cassel. While Matt is not a Hall of Famer, he is a sturdy signal-caller that can use his leadership, passion, and stability to keep the offense productive. If an intimidating running game from Charles does not evolve, then the pressure on Cassel’s average arm could prove detrimental.

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28 March 2012

Kansas City Chiefs: Free Agency + Mock 2.0


Well, the free agency season is winding down and I will say that I am very happy with Kansas City’s activity this year. Yes- they did pursue QB Peyton Manning. Manning was not interested (for reasons unknown), and GM Scott Pioli had to take the checkbook elsewhere. And in being distracted, the Chiefs were able to focus on multiple positions; especially filling holes and/or upgrading within the roster.

Injuries plagued the team early last season. For insurance and depth, the team signed RB Peyton Hillis and TE Kevin Boss. They countered Brandon Carr’s departure, by signing CB Stanford Routt to take his place. They applied the franchise tag to WR Dwayne Bowe, yet I believe an extended contract will come to fruition before season’s end. As Denver was focused on wooing Manning, KC snagged one of their backup quarterbacks, former Notre Dame QB, Brady Quinn. And they addressed one of the weakest links on the team, Right Tackle, by signing a very good offensive lineman from Houston, Eric Winston.

They cleaned up very well. And that will put Kansas City in a good position on Day 1, sitting with selection #11. They will not have to reach for a need and can consider the best talent available. So, here’s my revamped mock draft, following all the recent offseason activity...

Rd 1 (11): David DeCastro- OG, STAN: Over the last few years, the KC offensive line has degraded. And with that, we’ve realized that a team has zero offense- no matter the skill players- if no one is there to block. Best player at #11.

Rd 2 (44): Vinny Curry- DE/OLB, Marshall: With Peyton Manning signing with divisional rival Broncos, it’s more pertinent than ever to have a consistent pass rush... and that’s what Curry did at Marshall.

Rd 3 (74): George IIoka- S, Boise St: Just as Hillis was brought in as insurance to Jamal Charles at Running Back, so should a top Safety be brought in for Eric Berry. And if Berry returns at 100%, this pairing could be deadly!

Rd 4 (107): Alameda Ta'amu- NT, WASH: We all know that KC’s rush defense needs help; and it starts with the 3-4 NT eating up the blocks. I’m not blushing over Dontari Poe. I think Ta’amu is a beast and is worth just the same, yet can be selected in a later round.

Rd 5 (146): Audie Cole- ILB, NCst: The Chiefs still have a couple Linebackers to pair with Derrick Johnson, yet nothing to write home about. Cole is a blue-collar ILB that would be a solid value in the 5th.

Rd 6 (182): Kellen Moore- QB, Boise St: Matt Cassel is the immediate future. It could change with newly acquired Brady Quinn or last year’s draft pick, Ricky Stanzi. But, with all the de-value of Moore due to his “size”, Kansas City would be mindless to not grab the winningest QB in NCAA history. Plus, he has a 70% career passing percentage!

Rd 7 (218): Bobby Rainey- RB, W.Kentucky: Teams tend to under-value Running Backs that don’t play at a “big” school... especially if they’re not big themselves. I think this will allow Rainey to fall into the late rounds. He could put on 10-15 pounds and become a human highlight reel.

Rd 7 (238): Duke Ihenacho- S, San Jose St: With the growing staple of receiving Tight Ends, it’s more important now for the “centerfielder” to have coverage skills. I already have KC selecting a Safety in the third round; yet, the nickel package is becoming more prevalent. He has good size, long arms, and isn’t afraid to get in a tussle.

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21 January 2012

Kansas City Chiefs: Mock Draft 2012

As the Kansas City Chiefs finished the season son a decent note, but out of the playoffs; it prompts us to look ahead early to the 2012 NFL Draft. Barring any key free agent acquisitions before April 26th, here is my first Chiefs specific mock draft. Please enjoy and be prepared for several “touch-ups” throughout the wait...

1 (11th)= David DeCastro-
OG, STAN: It’s clear that the patchwork line needs youth for the future. Plus, it seems all season long that running right was not the option with the current personnel in place.

2 (44th)= Chris Polk-
RB, WASH: With the early loss of Jamal Charles, we learned fairly quickly that a stud running back is just as important as a star QB. This guy fits your more traditional halfback mold... just in case (remember the Larry Johnson pick in 2003?).

3 (76th)= Alameda Ta'amu-
NT, WASH: Not inclined to use another 1st round selection for a 3-4 defensive lineman, it still seems that KC needs that run stuffer in the middle. At 6’3”/337Lbs... this is a big man.

4 (109th)= Audie Cole-
ILB, NCst: While it’s the job of the front three linemen to take up opposing blockers, it’s the responsibility of the two inside linebackers to make the key tackles. And with Belcher being average at best, it would start to seal up a rising defense with a solid tackler.

5 (141st)=Duke Ihenacho-
S, SJst: Injured Eric Berry? Injured Kendrick Lewis? Huge problems. This pick could be a sleeper, beings he’s out of a smaller school.

6 (174th)= Case Keenum-
QB, HOU: This guy is a stud. And since his program gets no respect, he should still be around to pick up. And with the everlasting QB debate for the Chiefs, at least one pick has to be for a passer with potential.

7 (206th)=Ladarius Green-
TE/WR, LaLaf: With starting Tight End, Tony Moeaki, out again with an injury, the middle of the field for receptions suffered. Ladarius is a “tweener” that can definitely pick up the hot route help.

7 (226th)= Markus Zusevics-
OT, IOWA: With much attention going to OT Riley Reiff out of Iowa, this guy could slide under the radar and give KC the much needed depth that was missing in 2010.

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4 October 2011

KC-22, MIN-17: Finally, But...

            Kansas City finally played a game well... at least enough during the 2nd half to finish a game like they should have the previous three games.  That being said, I think there’s a more important issue being discussed within fan water cooler circles.

            KC isn't really playing well, even with their first win.  And the immediate reaction is all the rhetoric of "Suck4Luck", or something equivalent.  This is all fine and dandy if you think creating losing mentality for your team is a good thing; but, even drafting Andrew Luck (Stanford) or Robert Griffin III (Baylor) or Kellen Moore (Boise State) won't answer the following question:  Why is KC playing this way?

            KC had it "best" game following the complete loss of Moeaki, Berry, and Charles; and another crappy 1st half versus the Vikings.  Although Cassel could be the biggest upgrade needed towards this team having consistent success in the future; it doesn't answer why this team had lost 9 straight (including preseason games).  It doesn't answer why KC looks absolutely horrid on offense, and the offensive play calling leaves much to be desired.

            And if the answer is the lack of Charlie Weis again- I'm gonna puke.  Bill Belichick clearly kept the offensive schemes that Charlie left him with in New England, so there's no reason to think that a former OC himself (Todd Haley) wouldn't do the same.

            The porous defense, which has shown some moxie over the last two weeks, is still considered one of the bottom five in the league. And if Cassel continues to throw most of his passes high and away, this offense will only get better if ladders are given to the wideouts.  And one would have to wonder if the conditioning coach should be fired after 3 of the top 10 players are out with ACL injuries.

            Look, a team that wins the division- and being as young and talented as the Chiefs are- shouldn’t come out as flat and unproductive as Scott Pioli’s team has.  There was a lack of impressive free agent movement and tons of cap money left on the table.  There was a change of training camp standards by Coach Haley through his “conditioning” only method.  And there was a hiring of a 34-year position coach in Bill Muir for Offensive Coordinator.  I’m not sure that any of that was Matt Cassel’s fault.

            Finally, Cassel has looked pretty high school-like this season, yet is it the choices being made by the QB or is it the lack of confidence by his coaches or is it the game plans created for the entire offensive scheme?  This many variables make it hard to say replacing Matt fixes everything.  Would it be nice to have a top-tier quarterback selected by Kansas City, raised by Kansas City, and franchised by Kansas City to deliver us to the Promised Land?  Of course!  But, to say that intentionally pointing the Chiefs in the direction of losing or hoping for the worst record in order to snag Luck or Griffin is just the worst possible idea for a fan that wants a winning team.  Teaching or developing a losing mentality- especially on such a promising young squad- is simply irresponsible.

            Something's wrong and drafting a top QB may only solve 1 problem... and I'm not sure it will be the right problem.

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28 September 2011

KC-17, SD-20: It Came Down to Cassel

            A missed field goal and a last-second interception kept the Chiefs from upsetting the heavily favored San Diego Chargers.  This Kansas City team was determined this last week to not get another beating that left them 10-89 in the points arena the last two games.  Well, they backed up their desire to not falter and gave themselves a decent chance to win against a very good football team.

It was apparent from the start that KC was going to do whatever it took to keep the ball out of Phillip Rivers’ hands.  They ran the ball like it was 1992... without the same results, of course.  There were passes from Cassel, yet only for 2, 3, or 4 yards at a time.  And at one point, I remember seeing a statistic that the Chiefs had run 16 plays for 29 yards.  Really?  They were going to stay with that game plan?  Yep.  And they did.  As a matter of fact, Dwayne Bowe did not get a pass his way until the 2nd half.  And that was after some more mediocre running.  Dexter McCluster is really trying to fill the role of Jamaal Charles.  He didn’t ask for it, yet he’s doing everything the coaches ask of him; so that Kansas City can keep the “scat-back” playbook going.  And I love Thomas Jones’ toughness at 34 years old, yet I’m not too sure he has the speed anymore to break away.  Yet, if he can continue to be a leader in the locker room- he should stay on the field.

And the biggest surprise of them all was the way the defensive squad came to play.  44.5 points surrendered in the first 2 games... if it was up to them, that wasn’t going to happen anymore.  The defense was going to give their offense a chance.  And the scheme set by Romeo Crennel was apparent.  Kansas City brought the pressure as much as they could.  They knew that Rivers was the type of quarterback that could complete passes within a zone heavy defense, so why not just throw someone in his face?  Couldn’t hurt... right?  Well, they got 2 forced fumbles, 2 sacks, and 2 interceptions for their efforts.  That’s a stat line a defense will take every week.  That’s the team coming together, saying they’ve had enough.  And it was very nice to see.  Plus, the Chiefs kick and punt return game even gave KC a chance to win this game.  They averaged 29 yards per kickoff return and even had a 39-yard punt return.

So, into the last minutes of the 4th quarter, the Chargers, leading by 3, in an attempt to put the game away, were pushing the Chiefs back.  And on 4th and 1, in KC territory, the Chargers opted to go for it... and the Chiefs’ defense stopped it about 1” short.  I’m not kidding... about 1”.  It was awesome!  The Red & Gold were in it late and came through big.  Now, Matt Cassel and Company had just over 1 minute to put themselves in field goal range, or possibly even win it.  And as we all were watching, I remembered that KC had done something different this game, then from the first two... they hadn’t made any silly turnovers.  They took care of the ball, even when it seemed counter-productive.  They stayed away from forcing any long passes downfield, if it was unnecessary.  And here they were, game in hand, as the visitors, against a team that many odds makers had given a 14.5-point spread.

Back to the final moments, sitting in Charger territory, as Cassel was apparently given a screen pass to execute (on the replay you can notice all the WRs blocking their opponents), there was that silly mistake that had evaded the Chiefs for 59 minutes.  The inside screen to Dexter McCluster, 3 yards away, was not there.  It was crowded and the play was not going to work.  The Chargers had jumped into the area and the best thing to do was to get the ball out of the vicinity.  But, as much as Cassel tries to be the guy, he seems to be missing the coolness it takes to play- and get paid as- the most important position in all of sports.  He threw the pass to McCluster anyway.  He threw the pass anyway, but also didn’t even hit Dexter- who was only about 8 feet away.  He missed DMC by two or three feet behind him... hitting San Diego Safety Eric Weddle in the hands.  Interception.  Game over.

It stinks.  My buddy said that it would have been better to just get blown out as they had the previous two games.  And as I respectfully understand- yet disagree, I feel his pain.  As every Chiefs’ fan wonders what has happened to their defending AFC West Champions, many still believe this team has what it takes to at least be competitive (especially with the 3 key injuries to Moeaki, Berry, and Charles).  And just when we needed to be the safest in order to give us the chance, Cassel proves his critics correct... that he just doesn’t have “it”.  He always seems to get flustered or panicky at the wrong times.  And what’s even worse is that if KC management decided to go another direction at QB, it would take a lot of time for that process to mature; wasting timely talent already on the field.

I’m not sure how to handle this type of problem.  Are the Chiefs just trying to get through this mess of a season with something to hang their hats on?  Do they really believe in the players to turn this around, as Coach Haley inferred during the post-game press conference?  Or will the players slowly lose faith in Matt Cassel’s ability to come through when needed?  It’s all a lot to evaluate and take in.  And as a devote fan of Kansas City, I hope I can have the same faith in Cassel that Haley and Scott Pioli have in him.  But, right now, I can’t see this team ever taking it to the next level with him.  I really hope that I am in the wrong.

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21 September 2011

CHIEFS: Why Have You Changed?

Dear Chiefs,
We’ve been seeing each other for a long time now. I don’t want to age us, but we go back to the times we both knew Bill Kenney in his last season, cheered on one of the best journeyman QBs while he had a pin in his finger, and both cried when we heard about DT and after the “no punt” playoff game. We’ve spent some late nights together on the East Coast, as well as some early mornings in an empty downtown Honolulu. Through it all, we’ve been the best of friends- always there for each other no matter what happened. And I don’t think I’ve ever- not one single time- not picked you to win in my office pool. I guess you’ve made me into a homer.

But...
But, yesterday something changed with you. Actually, something changed a couple weeks ago, or even a couple months ago. You’re not the same person I knew... even from last year. Last season you took control of your own destiny by winning the AFC West with a promising group of youthful talent. You worked with your new boss, Scott Pioli and Todd Haley, to bring the playoffs back home. Sure, it was a tough loss, but you’re young again. There are lessons to be learned when you get your stride back.

However, I think there’s something you’re not telling me. I think there might me someone else- or maybe “something” else that’s going on with you. Why are you letting those other guys take advantage of you? Giving up 89 points over the first two games of this season (while only scoring 10) is not what you promised me. You told me last year that things would get better and that all I had to do is trust you. Well, I’m starting to doubt that trust. Have I done something to wrong you? Why have you changed? For the most part, you’re still the same person I knew in 2010. What caused this?

Was it the lockout? Every other team had to deal with it. Did that guy- Todd- put you up to something? Did he try to change you before the season started? Or was it Scott not giving you everything you needed during Free Agency, in order to make you the best you? You can talk to me. Does Bill Muir bore you? Is all that leftover cap space making you nervous about the future? I know I might not feel wanted if the season started with $30 million still sitting around. Or do you simply miss Charlie? I know Matt Cassel and Tyson Jackson keep breaking their promises to you, but it’s not my fault. They’ve been doing the same things to you for the last couple of years, but you won’t be an adult and just tell them to leave you alone.

Something happened and I deserve to know. I go out of my way to buy you those fancy parking spots at Arrowhead! What is it... $27 each time? Or how about when I go out of my way to tell all my friends how great you are? That you’ve changed and now you’re better? Nope- just the same results. It’s the same empty rhetoric during the post-game pressers. Maybe, it simply goes back to your Dad. I like your father, yet if he’s not raising you right, then maybe it just won’t ever be right for us. I know your Grandpa would be rolling in his grave for the way you’ve been acting lately...

Look, I care very much about you- and I always will. I just need to see more dedication. I know it’s been tough losing close friends like Tony Moeaki, Eric Berry, and Jamaal Charles. But, what would they say? They would want you to go out there each Sunday and give it your all... fight for us. You have an opportunity to show what’s best about you- that rugged Midwest character. Don’t let me down. Don’t give in no matter how hard it gets. And don’t allow the struggles of injuries or management’s confusion tear us apart. You’re better than that. I’ll see you next Sunday, okay?

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15 September 2011

CHIEFS: Week 1 Delivers Warning

Bills- 41, Chiefs- 7. This was by far the worst home game by Kansas City that I have ever personally watched. I’m not too sure if I’ve ever seen a worse away game either. I could go into all the statistics from yesterday’s game, yet I’m not too sure if that would bore you- or simply make you cry. I would rather talk about three cautions that came to mind by the end of the match up versus Buffalo... that was clearly recognizable by the middle of the 3rd quarter.

1.) THE PLAN: Coach Todd Haley’s plan during the post-lockout to spend the majority of time on conditioning during training camp, vice heavy contact drills, appears to be for naught. While this is still only the first game of the season, and 50% of all teams lost this week, Kansas City was the absolute worst team to be on a professional field Sunday. Safety Eric Berry will be added to the IR list most likely, after a devastating cut block made on his left knee early in the game by Bills’ WR, Stevie Johnson. Added, in the sense, that the Chiefs top rookie TE, Tony Moeaki, went the same direction from an injury in the 4th preseason game. Although it’s possible that Haley’s overzealous conditioning focus might pay off later in the season, the fact that the team wasn’t ready to play hard-nosed and aggressive football was clear as day.

On several occasions the Chiefs’ players were on top of the Buffalo ball carriers, but couldn’t perform a proper tackle to save their life. And the lack of communication when covering drag and seem routes in the Secondary was so apparent that Bills’ Head Coach Chan Gailey (who was fired two seasons ago by Haley just prior to opening day) kept using the same offensive play calls for positive yardage. How insulting is that? How much confidence will the players have for the remaining 15 games, when their coaching staff had two months to get them prepared for the home opener... and failed miserably? So much for the preseason not really being a sign of things for the regular season.

2.) THE PLAY CALLS: The offensive play calling was atrocious... absolutely horrible. Kansas City led the NFL in rushing yards per game in 2010, behind a solid run offensive line and the talents of Running Backs Jamal Charles and Thomas Jones. 164 yards per game last year allowed Quarterback Matt Cassel to use the play-action pass towards a 93.0 passer rating for the season. By the end of yesterday’s 3rd quarter (when everyone in the world knew that the game was officially over), the Chiefs had only run the ball 12 times. Yes... 4 times per quarter played. And at the end of the 60 minutes, KC had a total of 18 rushes; finishing with an very good 6 yards per attempt.

You might ask, “It sounds like the Chiefs were producing on the ground... Why didn’t they run the ball more earlier?” Well, you wouldn’t be the only one. Even after the defense allowed two quick Buffalo touchdowns in the 1st quarter, the logic would seem to take back control of the game by pounding the rock. This would slow the tempo of the Bills’ passing attack and would remind their defense that it’s going to be a long day trying to stop the shifty ground game. Not a chance.

What fans starting booing at in the 2nd quarter was not the $27 parking at Arrowhead; it was the lack of handoffs, the off-target passing of Cassel, and the forced bubble screens to hybrid Dexter McCluster. I mean, they were calling the same plays during 3rd and longs that seemed only designed to initially gain a couple yards. Not until the 3rd quarter did Haley, and his new offensive coordinator Bill Muir, even attempt to stretch the field with the talents of Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston. And at game’s end, Dwayne Bowe was visibly frustrated at the lack of aggressive play calling throughout the game.

Matt Cassel’s yards gained per pass attempt were 2.8 yards. That’s a bad day for rushing attempts... let alone trough the air from the defending AFC West champions. Either Haley doesn’t trust Cassel with his arm, or he doesn’t want to be a run-first team. In both cases, this type of coaching will not yield victories in 2011... or any other year.

3.) THE CAP: According to NFL.com, the Kansas City Chiefs lead the league in the most Salary Cap space, with $32,759,542.00. And with the place KC currently find's itself (Tony Moeaki and Eric Berry out for the season with ACL injuries); it’s no one's fault but GM Scott Pioli's. He's the one that signs off on the draft choices selected, the amount of money spent/held during free agency, and the oversight of his head coach.

To be so far under the salary cap is great if you only cared about the bottom line. And I understand that he wants to build a team of "good characters" first. But, injuries do happen and if your team has so much money still sitting in the piggy bank, when that kind of cash could have landed 1 or 2 premium players (and/or several solid acquisitions for backups)- well that's on him. He may very well be NFL Executive of the Year twice over (and I’m a huge supporter of him), but sometimes the ego needs to be checked a the bank door. Now, long after free agency is done, Scott will need to search for something other than tossed away rookies and leftover journeymen. And to add to the gripes, Mr. Pioli is still riding the Tyson Jackson hope at 3-4 DE.

Teams are running Jackson’s way and gaining with little effort. It may be time to accept the fact that Tyson was a reach and eventual bust at the 2009 NFL Draft as the 3rd overall pick. The best way to make up for that? Pay for a top-notch free agent to fill his shoes. Fans can be very forgiving at times.

To round out the Pioli Effect, the lifeblood of this team’s talented youth falls squarely on the General Manager’s number one bet- Coach Haley. If the Haley experiment fails, he better convince Mr. Hunt that a blank check is needed in order to hire Bill Cowher, Steve Mariucci, or John Gruden. Because, with Jamal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Tony Moeaki, Rodney Hudson, Eric Berry, Tamba Hali and others- Kansas City can’t waste precious time is what the current bounty could produce for the near future. The team is NOT is rebuilding mode.

The season is long from over. And many teams trip out of the gate, to only find their footing as the games progress. Yet, for Kansas City to be one of those teams, they will need to better prepare their players for each game. They will need to be less cute through gimmicky plays; and go with their strengths first. And they will need to understand that the Kansas City Royals way of doing business hasn’t produce a playoff berth in 26 years; and that sometimes buying a Pro Bowler or two during the offseason is not detrimental to one’s constitution. Just ask the Patriots.

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6 September 2011

CHIEFS: The 2011 Prediction

     Here we go, fans!  A nice simple article breaking down the season match-ups, how I think their going to go, and showing all the naysayers that we don’t need a soft Strength of Schedule to contend for a consecutive division title!

     I strongly believe in what Coach Haley is developing in Kansas City.  It’s not a “star-studded” event, like in Philly.  It’s going to become more of a blue-collar squad, where match-ups will be the focus of the coaching staff; and the players’ strengths will be used versus each opponent, each week.  And even with the tough 5-game stretch during Week’s 11 through 15, they will not falter.  With that, the wife’s psychic horoscope tarot card reading says...

Week 1: vs. Bills = W:  27-24 (1-0).  Buffalo will sling it into KC’s strong secondary.

Week 2: @Lions = W:  24-17 (2-0).  The Lions can’t contain the running back screens.

Week 3: @Chargers = L:  17-31 (2-1).  San Diego will give us a wake-up call.

Week 4: vs. Vikings = W:  24-13 (3-1).  Pressure on McNabb in Arrowhead.

Week 5: @Colts = W:  27-20 (4-1).  Manning might be back.  But, Indy’s defense lacks.

Week 6: BYE

Week 7: @ Raiders = L: 17-20 (4-2).  KC always loses a close one in Oakland.

Week 8: vs. Chargers {MNF} = W:  30-17 (5-2).  Under the lights with the home crowd.

Week 9: vs. Dolphins = W:  31-10 (6-2).  The Fins are just not talented enough.

Week 10: vs. Broncos = W:  24-13 (7-2).  The Donkeys are restructuring their rebuild.

Week 11: @Patriots {MNF} = W:  20-17 (8-2).  Why not?  Cassel says hello.

Week 12: vs. Steelers {SNF} = W:  21-20 (9-2).  Confidence game.  Big Ben gets ruffled.

Week 13: @Bears = L:  3-27 (9-3).  Bears’ Defense and KC gets caught sleeping.

Week 14: @Jets = L:  10-13 (9-4).  Two tough defenses in a row handcuff the Chiefs.

Week 15: vs. Packers = L: 20-27 (9-5).  Packers will repeat.  Yet, KC puts up good effort.

Week 16: vs. Raiders {Christmas Eve} = W:  38-13 (10-5).  Bad timing for Oakland.

Week 17: @Broncos = W:  24-17 (11-5).  Donkeys try to play the spoilers with no luck.

     Yes, that reads eleven wins and five losses.  Now, I will give San Diego a little love for having the talent to compete at a top level this year.  BUT- let’s remember that the Chargers have been that team that seems to get in their own way.  Their schedule is just has difficult as Kansas City’s this season.  And their last three games are going to be tough to sweep.  So, I’ll guess that they should finish 11-5 as well.  Not sure whom will take the division title, yet the Chiefs and Chargers will both enter the 2011 post-season. 

GO CHIEFS!

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13 August 2011

CHIEFS: 2011 vs the Media

Bi·as /ˈbīəs/ Verb: a partiality that prevents objective consideration of an issue or situation.

As a lifelong fan of the Kansas City Chiefs, I will be the first to admit that I’ve had the Chiefs going 16-0 in every office pool I’ve ever filled out. I think that’s just part of being a “homer”. Yet, when the open discussion of how any team will do for the 2011 season arises, I believe some strict objectivity leads to a respectable and logical truth... giving your audience a belief in your credibility. I won’t say that this season’s Chiefs will take home the Lombardi Trophy when its all said and done; yet, I don’t predict them to be over-achievers, ready to come back down to earth, as many sports’ media pundits have them doing this year. And I believe this simply stems from a bias... a bias that only seems to continuously affect our beloved football team from cow and wheat country.

Everyone from everywhere seems to love the idea of Kansas City and the Chiefs. They love the story of Dorothy, Toto, and the Red Ruby shoes. They love the idea of a country-fed people, full of “hellos” and friendly nods as they hold the door open for ya’ll. And they love the “cuteness” of that team that Joe Montana played for in the... “when was that?” But, in no way shape or form does anyone outside of Lawrence to St. Joe actually want to live there or believe in the Kansas City Chiefs. And this is amplified more this season by the consensus, than any other time I can remember. And those in the sports’ media, with their ‘fancy degrees and science’ can be a little impartial to the truth and a little inconsistent when applying their prediction formulas.


With the increased difficulty in the Chiefs’ 2011’s schedule from winning the division in 2010, many- from ESPN, to the NFL Network, to that guy at work- say they are doomed to a 7-9 or 8-8 reality check. My prediction this season is an 11-5 record, AFC West Division title, and a loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Am I a little overzealous? Maybe. Would it be just as fanatically fervent if the team in the same situation were the Steelers? Patriots? Jets? Or Chargers? Of course not. Why? I have no idea why.

So, in efforts to not sound like a simply pissed off fan, I’m going to show you the logic that has me confused; concerning all the downplay from the sports world towards the upcoming Kansas City season. And to better explain the contradiction I see, I will compare the Chiefs to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; a team with a similar seasonal turnaround, yet a totally different type of support from sports heads.

We all know how important the Strength of Schedule (SoS) can be when its time to predict team records and division champions. And it seems that the popular rhetoric is that Kansas City “over-achieved” last season, by playing a horrible SoS. Kansas City’s SoS going into the 2010 season was 22nd in the league; facing opponents that finished the previous season with a .488 winning percentage (http://espn.go.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/21479/2010-strength-of-schedule).

They went from a 4-12 2009 season, to a 10-6 record, losing in the 1st round of the playoffs to Baltimore. By contrast, the 2009 Buccaneers finished 3-13, received the 25th hardest SoS at .480; following that up in 2010 with a 10-6 record as well, yet missing out on the playoffs due to the Packers win over the Chicago Bears. Pretty “even Steven” if you ask me.

Both teams are undergoing culture and structural changes within the organization. Kansas City is coming into their third season with General Manager Scott Pioli and Head Coach Todd Haley at the helm. Tampa is also in its third year of transition; with General Manager Mark Dominik and Head Coach Raheem Morris. Over the last three seasons (two with the current regimes and one from the lame duck), Kansas City has improved from 2-14, to 4-12, to 10-6... a great sign of continuous progress under the former Patriots’ executive and Arizona offensive coordinator. The Bucs, during the same time, have produced records of 9-7, to 3-13, to 10-6... also a solid turn around after a bumpy first year of change with a home grown GM and the former defensive coordinator of the Kansas State Wildcats. Without any details as to the team specific statistics or player talent, both of these recent team bios show a clear path of improvement and promise... right?

Now, let’s get into the forecasts being made by many in the sports realm. They will start with the 2011 SoS for all 2010 season-ending records. For the Chiefs, they will face a .520 opponents’ winning percentage; tied for 3rd hardest with seven other teams; including rival San Diego (http://espn.go.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/35095/2011-strength-of-schedule).

Tampa Bay, for not winning the division, will receive the 18th hardest at .496. Now, let’s add some divisional opponent factors. With exception to the NFC West, many say that the AFC West is a weak division. And with the Saints and Falcons in Tampa Bay’s division, many would argue it to be one of the stronger. For the sake of argument, let’s agree that having the Raiders and Broncos in KC’s division (along with the high SoS) forms an equal balance when comparing to the Bucs weaker SoS, but having to play two games apiece against New Orleans and Atlanta. Everyone following?

With that, many pundits are projecting a great improvement, or at least even result, for the 2011 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 9-7; as opposed to the “taking a step back” rhetoric heard for the Kansas City Chiefs’ 2011 season (7-9):

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/788491-2011-nfl-predictions-division-playoff-super-bowl-winners-more. And the overall consensus is that the Bucs are simply a better team than the Chiefs, with Tampa ranked #12 and KC at #14:

http://espn.go.com/nfl/powerrankings. And this is the general opinion of what most of those whom are paid to work full-time on dissecting each NFL team believe. It means nothing at the end of the day, but let me tell you about what respect means in the world of sports and sports fans. Here’s the talk that makes no sense and here’s the logic that is simply being cast aside by those whom make it a profession to tell us about our football.

Number one, I’m tired of hearing about how San Diego is going to take control of the AFC West and the league “this year”. This has been the idiom of late and its getting stale. I have no acknowledgement of a team that statistically leads the league in Offense and Defense, but can’t win games mentally.

I don’t care of the opinion of ESPN’s Chris Sprow when he said in a recent article, “The simulations seem certain that in reaching the playoffs, the Chiefs benefited far more from San Diego’s regular disasters than from their own youthful progression”. This infers that only talent matters (the Chargers’ stats) and that playing the mental aspect of the game for the full 60 minutes is worthless (the failing implosions of SD versus KC’s youth staying the course). San Diego can’t be champions on paper every year... they have to prove it after 16 games- just like Kansas City did.

Secondly, let’s take all records and seasonal opponents as even between our two teams of similarity, the Bucs and Chiefs; and look at what they have as potential going into the 2011 season (if statistics are truly worth something). In 2010, in points per game, the Bucs were 20th and KC was 14th. In offensive yards per game, Tampa Bay was 19th and the Chiefs were 12th. In rushing, KC was 1st (164yds/gm) and the Bucs were 8th (125yds/gm). In passing, TB edged the Chiefs 210yds/gm to 185yds. On defense, both teams were basically even, 330yds(KC) versus 332yds(Tampa). Points allowed per game: the Buccaneers have a .5 point edge on Kansas City (19.9 to 20.4). What do all these numbers mean? They mean, like most winning teams, that they are fairly even; with the biggest exception being Kansas City’s #1 running attack being the dominating factor.

Lastly, according to some, Tampa’s quarterback is better than Matt Cassel (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/789541-ranking-all-nfl-teams-projected-starting-quarterbacks-going-into-the-2011-season/page/22). They even have St. Louis’ Sam Bradford ranked ahead of KC’s signal caller. Yet, Cassel and Freeman ended the 2010 season with virtually the same statistics (27tds/7ints/3116yds and 25tds/6ints/3451yds respectively). But, for the 2011 season, what changes or upgrades would provide the logic of Freeman becoming the better passer? Last year, the Bucs had only had Mike Williams at receiver (65rec/964yds/11tds) and KC only had Dwayne Bowe (72rec/1162yds/15tds). I would presume that most would take Bowe as their starting WR if given the choice. During the off-season Tampa Bay did not draft one wide receiver.

The Chiefs’ first selection was the receiving physical specimen in Jonathan Baldwin, from Pitt. And during Free Agency, the Buccaneers did not bring in one single WR to improve Freeman’s choice of weapons. Kansas City, on the other hand, brought in Steve Breaston from the Cardinals, that played under Coach Haley. This leaves Freeman with Mike Williams to throw to again, and Cassel will have Bowe, Breaston, and Baldwin. I’m not sure how the conclusion was reached that Josh Freeman will be a better choice at QB in 2011 over Matt Cassel, when common sense directs otherwise.

Look, none of this ranting amounts to a hill of beans once the regular season starts and once the regular season ends. The games that are played out week-to-week will decide which teams are the best and which players are the better. Again, my point is that when folks bring up the SoS (and other irrelevant or thinly guised factors), it really doesn’t mean squat. This isn't college ball where Texas is playing Pittsburg State. These are the best football teams in the world with the best players in the world. And they have the luxury of a "fair & balanced" system within the NFL to prevent the "Yankee" effect. Every game has the potential to be won by either team, because every team has the equal template to create a winning program- all based all execution.

For me, and a million other Chiefs’ fans, I think it boils down to getting the nod from those whom give nods when it’s rightfully deserved (the media). And I think that if one wishes to give early nods- again- for a San Diego team that continuously shoots itself in the foot, nods for a Bucs team whose situation is similar to Kansas City’s- yet doesn’t really have much comparable talent, and for ignoring the constant progress being made by a youthful and talented Chiefs’ organization is just unsound, illogical... and for some reason completely biased.

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1 July 2011

CHIEFS: Is Free Agency a Must For KC?

With reasonable optimism abound for a end to the NFL lockout and the promise of a new CBA just around the corner, when Free Agency opens up league-wide it will be a ridiculous feeding frenzy to say the least. While in past seasons most free agent actions would have already completed (at least all the top tier ones), many teams are readying themselves to pursue those players that can make the most of a shortened offseason. And I get the feeling that many teams will not spend too much time pursuing multiple positions to fill. Maybe one critical player, or two at the most, will be the agenda; as teams will be more focused on getting the training camps up and running.

Looking at last season’s production by Kansas City- along with the additional players acquired through the Draft, the Chiefs may not be a team that puts this year’s free agency high on its list of priorities. The Chiefs won their division at 10-6 and with a very young team. There is plentiful talent and potential for the future. And once the League re-opens for business, General Manager Scott Pioli and Head Coach Todd Haley may look to even make the team younger by cutting some veterans and/or getting some future draft picks for the more seasoned players on the roster.

As I break down the current depth chart for KC, I’ll make it a focal point to examine the recent production at each position, the reasonable expectations for the 2011 season, and what reasonable transactions are possible for continued success for the Chiefs organization.

OFFENSE:

QB= Starter- Matt Cassel: Cassel had a very solid year, putting up 27 TDs with only 7 INTs and posting a 93.0 Passer Rating. He did have a poor outing in the playoff game versus Baltimore, but I think that was more a result of a great defense shutting down WR Dwayne Bowe- greatly reducing the receiving weapons for Matt. I can see similar production in 2011 for Cassel. Ricky Stanzi, Iowa, was taken in the 5th round as a future project; so, something will need to be done to fill the veteran gap that exists if Cassel were to go down with an injury (Brodie Croyle can no longer be considered the answer in Kansas City).

Ø FA need? HIGH. Possible acquisition: Marc Bulger, Matt Moore.

RB= Starters- Jamal Charles, Thomas Jones: Kansas City led the league in rushing yards per game (164.2). Lead by Jamal’s ridiculous 6.4 yards per attempt, I see no issue with KC’s running game for 2011. Jones could be cut or traded or kept (he did not breach 2.8 yards/carry over the last 4 regular season games). Jackie Battle is still on the roster (never-ending potential) and KC did use their last pick for FB Shane Bannon (high motor blocking back).

Ø FA Need? MEDIUM. Possible acquisition: Le’Ron McClain, Mike Tolbert, Tony Richardson (nostalgic signing).

WR= Starters- Dwayne Bowe, Dexter McCluster, Jon Baldwin: With all respect to Chris Chambers, Copper, Tucker, Lawrence, and Kevin Curtis- most of you guys may not be a part of the 2011 roster. Baldwin was drafted with KC’s first pick for a reason: Baltimore shut down the Chiefs’ passing game by doubling on Bowe (who was a BEAST for the entire 2010 season). If that’s all it takes, then Kansas City is hurting for receiving weapons. DMC was injured for most of the season, so we’ll get a good look in 2011 at the speedy slot position for which he was drafted. Rookie Baldwin gives the Chiefs a “jump-ball” wideout, and they could still use a player that stretches the defenses.

Ø FA Need? HIGH. Possible acquisition: Malcom Floyd, James Jones.

OL (Interior- C, OG)= Starters- Brian Waters, Casey Wiegmann, Ryan Lilja: I hear many critics about the status of the OL as a whole, yet there should be no worries inside. They helped create the league-leading rushing yards per game for 2010 and should continue to do so. And depth is not an issue with Jon Asamoah, Niswanger, and rookie C Rodney Hudson. If only every team had KC’s problem.

Ø FA Need? VERY LOW. Possible acquisition: none required.

OL (Exterior- OT, TE)= Starters- Branden Albert, Ryan O’Callaghan, Tony Moeaki. A lot of criticism is heard throughout the Kansas City fan community about the edge blockers. Yet, they only gave up 32 sacks for the entire season. Is that as a good as the Colts’ 16? No. Is it as bad as the Bears 56? No. And the TE position is solid with 2nd-yr Moeaki. He has shown the ability to both block well and snag passes when needed. Maybe some depth at OT could help give the coaches some confidence for the season’s long haul.

Ø FA Need? LOW. Possible acquisition: Matt Light.

DEFENSE:

DL (DT, DE)= Starters- Tyson Jackson, Ron Edwards, Glenn Dorsey: Along with substitutes Shaun Smith and Gilberry, the 3-4 interior defensive line was average for 2010. They were in the middle of the pack with rushing yards allowed (4.3ypc) and assisted the Linebackers in placing in the top third for sacks gained. While KC still doesn’t have that coveted NT that dominates the middle, they do a decent job; and definitely got a steal by drafting Jerrell Powe at 335 lbs. They will also be able to experiment with hybrid DL/DE Allen Bailey, drafted in the 3rd round.

Ø FA Need? MEDIUM. Possible acquisition: Haloti Ngata, Brandon Mebane, Aubrayo Franklin.

LB (OLB, ILB)= Starters- Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Javon Belcher, Mike Vrabel. Kansas City has become a solid force with their linebacking corps. If not for Hali’s pass rushing capabilities, the depth is certainly worth noting. The “4” in the 3-4 defense helped gather 39 sacks in 2010 and could increase with draftees Justin Houston, Allen Bailey, and last year’s injured Cameron Sheffield. I can see Andy Studebaker taking over the starting role from Vrabel at some point this season and I see nothing that will stop the progression of these Chiefs’ linebackers from getting even better.

Ø FA Need? VERY LOW. Possible acquisition: None required.

DB= Starters- Brandon Carr, Brandon Flowers, Jon McGraw, Eric Berry: This is a very solid Secondary for the Chiefs and will become a league-wide staple in the years to come. The cornerback tandem of “Brandons” are becoming a solid duo and the rookies in Lewis and Berry will dominate with more exposure. The vet Jon McGraw may continue to be the FS starter, yet Kendrick may creep in more and more as the 2011 season progresses. And Nickel Back, Javier Arenas, provides a more complete defensive backfield. Plus, the Chiefs drafted the “other” corner from Colorado’s awesome 2010 secondary. No issues here at all.

Ø FA Need? VERY LOW. Possible acquisition: None required.

ST= Starters- Ryan Succop, Dustin Colquitt, Javier Arenas, Dexter McCluster: Kicker Ryan Succop had a bit of a sophomore slump- dropping 10 percentage points in Field Goals Made. He still lacks the leg strength on kickoffs, yet the new kickoff rule should help him increase his number of touchbacks. Hopefully, this is just a slump and he gets back on pace to his rookie year numbers. Colquitt continues to be a dominant punter. His punt yards per kick still sits in the middle of the pack, yet his strength has always been to deliver the right punt at the right time. The kick return and punt return specialists have left something more to be desired. It started off with a splash in the season opener, yet after McCluster’s injury it all fell from there. Average at best for both returners in 2010 won’t meet fans’, or management’s, expectations this season. Javier showed why he was assigned punt return duties; yet will need to continue to improve in efforts to keep the role.

Ø FA Need? LOW. Possible acquisition: None required.

With a total look at the current status of the Chiefs’ roster and production, I can’t see much free agency work absolutely necessary. OG Brian Waters is getting older, yet nothing is wrong with keeping the Pro Bowler until he decides its time to go. The biggest free agency need for Scott Pioli should be to acquire a veteran backup QB. If Cassel gets injured and misses significant time, Croyle has not been able to stay healthy enough in order to give the Chiefs any confidence if he is needed. And, Kansas City wouldn’t hurt anything by grabbing a wideout with around 4 years experience and some good wheels. We all saw how bad it can get when Bowe can’t get the ball, and even with rookie Jon Baldwin on the roster now, who knows how long it will take him to acclimate to the pro game. Kansas City is on its way up, despite all the critics, and should be a solid team over the next decade as the youth and talent gain exposure and knowledge.

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2 May 2011

2011 Chiefs’ Draft: The Summary

Kansas City entered the 2011 NFL Draft with five needs: Wide Receiver, Interior Offensive Lineman, Outside Linebacker, Defensive Tackle, and backup Quarterback. By the time that “Mr. Irrelevant” was selected on Saturday evening, they had addressed all of those needs.

Round 1, Pick 27 (27), trade down with Cleveland

Jonathan Baldwin-WR-PITT {6’4” 228Lbs}

With only Dwayne Bowe creating a receiving threat at the end of Cassel’s passes, it was critical that KC add to this position. The major issue was that the top tier of WR prospects seemed to limited to two. And when it came to Kansas City’s selection they had to decided if the next guy in line, Baldwin, was worth the pick there; or if they should go with another selection and hope for a decent wideout in Round 2. So, some will say this was a reach, yet with the Chiefs moving back 6 positions to acquire an additional 3rd Round selection, this panned out really well.

SCORE= 9/10.

Round 2, Pick 23 (55)

Rodney Hudson-C- PennSt {6’2”, 299Lbs}

Kansas City has one of the oldest offensive lines and their center, Casey Wiegmann, will be 38 when the season starts. And as well he performed in 2010, it was a great selection in getting a Center that can play both Guard positions as well. Plus, many draft sites had Hudson ranked as the #1 prospect at the snap position.

SCORE= 10/10.

Round 3, Pick 6 (70)

Justin Houston-OLB-Georgia {6’3”, 270Lbs}

With the aging Mike Vrabel and the seemingly limited Andy Studebaker, it seemed necessary to insert a pass rushing talent. Houston is big. And Houston is a beast. He did fail a marijuana test at the combine, and that may be why he slipped so much; yet, GM Scott Pioli has the management skills to direct this rookie down the right path.

SCORE= 9.5/10.

Round 3, Pick 22 (86)

Allen Bailey-DE-U of Miami {6’3”, 285Lbs}

I’m unfamiliar with Bailey, yet with a little research, it’s clear that this guy is an athlete. He was a 2-time All SEC and played both DE and DT. There’s nothing wrong with beefing up the line depth and I think this guy might turn into a steal.

SCORE= 8.5/10.

Round 4, Pick 21 (118)

Jalil Brown-CB-Hawaii {6’1”, 206Lbs}

Kansas City actually has several CBs on the roster. Yet, many could argue that after Carr and Flowers, there’s a bunch of Nickel-Backs. So, grabbing the “other” Corner from the Buffs says a lot about how KC views the talent at Cornerback. Yet, I would have thought this spot would have been used for OL or another WR.

SCORE= 6/10.

Round 5, Pick 4 (135)

Ricky Stanzi-QB-Iowa {6’4”, 223Lbs}

No more Brodie... too many cases of injury when he was needed to step up. I personally liked McElroy out of Alabama here for his high IQ, yet Stanzi has shown the ability to consistently win and to keep the interceptions to a minimum. And he played against monster teams from the Big 10 (zero interceptions versus Ohio State).

SCORE= 7.5/10.

Round 5, Pick 9 (140)

Gabe Miller-OLB-Oregon St {6’3”, 257Lbs}

Listed as a small DE, I think this pick is to backfill the OLB roster. He is liked for his constant motor and this might be more of a character pick by KC.

SCORE= 5/10.

Round 6, Pick 34 (199)

Jerrell Powe-DT-Mississippi {6’2”, 335Lbs}

A big and fat Nose Tackle to eat up opposing O-linemen was a need entering the draft. It wasn’t as big of a need as WR or Pass Rusher, so maybe that why KC waited to grab one. He’s built for stopping the run and allowing his supporting linebackers to make take the glory. A very nice grab in the 6th Round.

SCORE= 7.5/10.

Round 7, Pick 20 (233)

Shane Bannon-FB-Yale {6’2”, 265Lbs}

Ever since Tony Richardson was allowed to leave KC, there seems to be something missing from the turf at Arrowhead. TR gave our running backs a longer shelf life and it was shown how important it is for the running game to have a smart pounder opening up the hole for our ball carriers to fly through. A smart man that knows he was selected to NOT touch the ball.

SCORE= 6.5/10.

In attempt to get a feel for how well Clark Hunt, Scott Pioli, and Todd Haley did in the 2011 Draft, let’s add up the scores given. These scores were not just awarded based on the player selected; yet, also the pick number in which they were taken, the need that KC has at that spot, any moves made to acquire better value/picks, and how well the Arrowhead management went after the roles that best fir for the Chiefs’ future.

After the tally, a 69.5 out-of-90, equals a 77%. And I’m going to give the Chiefs some bonus points for handling the Draft in a manner that didn’t justify what all the talking heads thought should happen with the team... and with ensuring that every hole was filled. So, after that, they finish with a solid B. We’ll take a look at how this pans out in a few years, yet I think any KC fan should walk away fro this year’s draft with confidence.

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15 April 2011

2011 Chiefs’ Draft: Final Best “Guess”

Kansas City will be looking to take the best player that fits their needs. That may sound a little ‘generic’, yet I think that the draft’s depth at certain positions (DE, OL) and the lack of premiere players (OLB,WR) may dictate the draft pick when each Chiefs’ selection is made. Most will say that KC’s biggest needs are WR(depth), OLB(impact), and OL(age). So, with reasonable selections already taken off of the General Manager’s wish list, here’s my final Best Guess. And don’t be surprised if KC reaches a bit on a few... it’s never bothered Scott Pioli before.

Round 1, Pick 21 (21)

Akeem Ayers-OLB-UCLA {6’3”, 254Lbs}

Andy Studebaker is being groomed to replace Mike Vrabel, yet Ayers can make an immediate impact to the Chiefs’ limited pass rush.

Round 2, Pick 23 (55)

Stefan Wisniewski-C/OG- PennSt {6’3”, 313Lbs}

An aging Offensive Line- although performing well- will need a youthful blood transfusion at some point soon.

Round 3, Pick 22 (86)

Kendrick Ellis-NT-Hampton {6’5”, 346Lbs}

KC may lose Ron Edwards to FA and the NT lacks depth, so a big man in the middle is needed.

Round 4, Pick 21 (118)

Greg Salas-WR-Hawaii {6’1”, 206Lbs}

I think KC has their eye on a #1 WR from the Free Agency pool. Yet, in the interim and for the future, Salas can provide some of his “Hines Ward-like” energy.

Round 5, Pick 4 (135)

Casey Matthews-ILB-Oregon {6’1”, 231Lbs}

Matthews has the pedigree and KC needs to expand its 3-4 inside linebacker corps.

Round 5, Pick 9 (140)

Greg McElroy-QB-Alabama {6’2”, 220Lbs}

The Brodie Croyle Experiment has probably reached an end. Let’s dig back into the Tide’s pool and select the smartest QB in the draft.

Round 6, Pick 34 (199)

Byron Maxwell-CB-Clemson {6’0”, 202Lbs}

Besides the two starters and Arenas, no one else has really stood out. Depth is necessary should one go down with injury.

Round 7, Pick 20 (233)

Derek Hall-OT-Stanford {6’5”, 305Lbs}

You can never have too much depth on the OL.... especially with this older crowd.

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5 April 2011

KC Chiefs: 2011 Best Draft “Guess”

The Chiefs have several needs to sustain the 10-6 record from the 2010 season into this year. The schedule will be more difficult; plus, the Chargers won’t be going away and the Raiders may make a decent push for the Divisional Crown. That said, I will play “General Manager” in this article; making my best reasonable selections throughout all eight of Kansas City’s picks this year. I will try my best to select from the prospects that would most likely still be available at each pick for KC- yet, still be a little hopeful.

This should prove slightly difficult in any normal mock, yet even more so since it looks like no Free Agency transactions will take place prior to the 2011 Draft. So, I will have to pretend that the Chiefs will attack the Draft as if they may not get the guy they want in FA. Here we go:

Round 1, Pick 21 (21)

Ryan Kerrigan-OLB/DE-Purdue {6’4”, 267Lbs}

A much needed position opposite of Tamba Hali. He’s a beast!

Round 2, Pick 23 (55)

Jon Baldwin-WR-Pittsburgh {6’4”, 228Lbs}

Dwayne Bowe has come into his own, yet he needs help or KC’s Offense sputters.

Round 3, Pick 22 (86)

Kendrick Ellis-NT-Hampton {6’5”, 346Lbs}

KC may lose Ron Edwards to FA, so a big man in the middle is needed.

Round 4, Pick 21 (118)

DeMarcus Love-OT-Arkansas {6’4”, 315Lbs}

The OL performed excellent last year, but are getting long in the tooth.

Round 5, Pick 4 (135)

Casey Matthews-ILB-Oregon {6’1”, 231Lbs}

Matthews has the pedigree and KC needs to expand its 3-4 linebacking corps.

Round 5, Pick 9 (140)

John Moffitt-OG/C-Wisconsin {6’4”, 319Lbs}

Just as with pick #118, the Chiefs need to look past the 37yr old Wiegmann.

Round 6, Pick 34 (199)

Byron Maxwell-CB-Clemson {6’0”, 202Lbs}

Besides the starters and Arenas, no one else has really stood out. Depth is necessary should one go down with injury.

Round 7, Pick 20 (233)

Stephen Burton-WR-West Texas A&M {6’1”, 221Lbs}

Again, wide receiver is a must. Also, this guy has great speed for the return game.

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13 March 2011

Top Three Needs for 2011 NFL Draft

In measuring the most critical positional needs for Kansas City, we have to remember that the NFL Draft may be the only pool of players in which to rely on.  The current negotiations between the NFL owners and the NFL Players’ Association for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement could face a long wait before resolution.  Usually, during this time of the year, football fans are talking about the possibilities of all the top Unrestricted Free Agents and what new teams they are heading to.  So, in the spirit of uncertainty, let’s review the top three needs for the Chiefs; with one eye closed on any possible Free Agent acquisitions.

            With a surprising 10-6 playoff season, the Chiefs may be facing the mentality of “what can help us make us a consistent playoff threat?”, as opposed to “what can help us win the division?”  That said, here are my most transparent needs for the 2011 season and for the near future:

1) Wide Receiver:  Dwayne Bowe has become one of the league’s premier wideouts.  He established himself last year by having his best season by far (1,162yds and 15tds).  But, when the Baltimore Ravens’ defense came to Arrowhead for the playoffs, they shutdown Bowe and KC flopped in the passing game.  They have simply zero starters on the roster after #82.

2) Pass Rusher (3-4 OLB/DE):  Tamba Hali has made a name for himself.  At first it was simply about his struggle from Africa to his rise at Penn State to making it at the Pro level.  Well, now he is a force to be reckoned with.  He was only 1 sack behind All-Pro Cowboy, DeMarcus Ware- with 14.5.  Yet, that was 37% of KC’s sack total.  Veteran Mike Vrabel is way past his prime and the Chiefs have an opportunity to develop a premier pass rush duo with the right addition.

3) Quarterback:  What? QB? Yes.  It’s nice to see that Matt Cassel is doing quite well.  But, “quite well” won’t bring the Lombardi Trophy to Kansas City.  Matt may continue to grow; yet his current backups are not of high-caliber potential or do they possess any threatening motivation for Cassel to keep improving.  A QB with the skills and ability to learn the position- and possibly come into a live game if Matty goes down- will be key for the Chiefs’ success.

            With the 21st pick in the 2011 Draft, the Chiefs are probably examining each one of the above positions and which players may be reasonably available come their turn.  Here are the most realistic prospects that may fall at each position to the Chiefs first selection in Round One:

*Second option: Torrey Smith- Maryland = He's a multi-function receiver.

*Second Option:  Justin Houston- Georgia = A well rounded rush and coverage OLB.

*Second-through-Fourth Round Options:  Ricky Stanzi- Iowa, or Greg McElroy-Ala.

Playing general manager, I would consider an order of precedence for my top three needs; basing it on what’s available in the player pool for 2011.  Pass Rusher, Wide Receiver, then Quarterback would be my pecking order for priority.  The chance of a top WR being available at #21, with the needs of the first 20 teams selecting, leaves that selection for a later round. 

Yet, the Outside Linebackers and Hybrid Defensive Ends are plenty and KC may have the cream of the crop to choose from.  But, that considered, they might take a totally different position; believing that there will still be an OLB available when their 2nd round selection comes along.  In addition, another need that may be addressed at 21 is offensive line.  Although a few of the recent draft and free agency acquisitions have dealt with this, Kansas City knows the importance of a solid OL; especially at Center, where Casey Wiegmann will turn 38 this season (Mike Pouncey-C/OG-Florida).

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19 January 2011

CHIEFS: A Tale of Two Seasons

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...”   It was a 42-20 victory at Arrowhead against the Jaguars, it was a season-ending beat down by the Raiders in the last home game.  It was only a 3-pt deficit at the half of the Ravens’ playoff game, it was one of the worst breakdowns in Chiefs’ history during the final 30 minutes.  Whatever you say about the 2010 Kansas City Chiefs, consistency will not be one of the words used.

            Consistency is not meant for 31 of the 53-man roster that had never experienced the post-season.  Consistency is not building an improved offensive scheme through a Super Bowl experienced Offensive Coordinator, Charlie Weis; for Coach Haley to only take over the play calling duties in the 2nd half.  Consistency is not having the most dangerous running back in the league, Jamal Charles, and  Dwayne Bowe, who caught 15 touchdowns, go for only 9 total carries and zero receptions respectively in a home playoff game.  And the field general we’ve promoted in QB Matt Cassel, in all his outstanding improvement this year, can’t have games where he posts passer ratings of 144 and 129, to only fall in critical games with dismal ratings of 19.1 and 20.4.

            Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy with the progress of this year’s team and am inline with the new philosophy set by GM Scott Pioli and Head Coach Todd Haley.  But, if this team wants to hang with the big boys, they are going to have to get tougher and smarter.  They are going to have to prepare this offseason as best as they have ever prepared.  They are going to have to get it in their heads that next season’s schedule will be harder, since they won the division; and that no fan will except a decline in overall team performance for 2011.  From the current perspective, this team appears to be rising... so, more than ever, the most critical time for the Chiefs is actually now.

            Here are the Top 3 items to be addressed this offseason (including the major needs for the 2011 Draft):

1) Finding a new Offensive Coordinator:

            Charlie Weis is out the door.  He is moving on to the University of Florida to take the same job he held here in Kansas City.  The only difference is that his son will be enrolling in the school come the Fall, and will be doing intern work with the football program.  With that said, it’s time to find his replacement.  Although I hate to say it, the very best candidate is former Broncos’ head coach, Josh McDaniels.  Coach Haley doesn’t seem too impressed with McDaniels on the surface, yet his credentials as OC for the Chiefs are strong.

            Josh has a solid resume with leading the offensive play calling with New England.  He created an explosive offense and even coached then Patriots QB Matt Cassel to an 11-5 record when Cassel stepped in for the injured Tom Brady.  Can Josh and Todd get over this season’s “Fingerwave-Gate” to work towards a common goal?  I think so and maybe McDaniels is humble enough to realize he still needs a bit more experience before taking on the head role for any future team.  He’s my favorite candidate.

2) Coach Haley must learn to lead better:

            His philosophy of team first and patience is a great ideal, that is sometimes hard to practice.  And it shone through last Sunday when the impatient second-year coach took the offensive play calling away from the very experienced and decorated Charlie Weis.  From the time Haley took over, you could see the team fail.  His nerves overtook his steadiness and he changed what was working for the Chiefs.  He acted in haste and put himself first... going completely against the new law of the land.

            Whoever comes into Kansas City as the new Offensive Coordinator must feel that the organization trust him to do the job; not to be a ‘yes man’ for Todd.  Todd failed at this during the 2009 season, when he let then OC Chan Gailey go during the preseason to take over the offense for the entire 16-game schedule; while performing Head Coaching duties- all in his rookie year as the big cheese.  Coach Haley shouldn’t have to be told to let his guys do their jobs.  He has to trust that the outline set forth by him and Scott Pioli will be carried out when times get stressful and that the right decisions will be made.  We all hated that kid that thought he could be the quarterback, running back, linebacker, and kicker, too.

-And finally-

3) The 3 main positions of concern for April 28th, 2011:

            This year the NFL Draft will be a little different for Kansas City.  They will be selecting their first pick at number 21 and will most likely be dealing with a new rookie salary cap, stemming from the new Collective Bargaining Agreement in the works.  Picking in the top 5 selections over the past three years is not necessarily a good thing.  And in sliding down the ladder to a more respectable 21st overall pick takes away the chances at any “highly-touted” prospects.  Yet, it will leave an opportunity to gain a playmaker for the 2011 season.

            With the unforeseen possibilities of Free Agency set aside, the top 3 positions in order of most need for Kansas City, via the draft, are as follows.  The first priority is a top Wide Receiver.   Dwayne Bowe has made great strides in becoming a solid #1 wideout, but as the Ravens showed, when he gets shut down there is nowhere else for Cassel to throw the ball.  A tall and fast draft pick would definitely open up the middle of the field for Bowe to use his size as an advantage.  Establishing a dual receiving threat is very necessary in developing this team to be able to depend on it’s offense in critical games.

            The second need is at Outside Linebacker.  Tamba Hali is a beast.  He showed it during the season with 14.5 sacks and again with 2 more in the playoff loss.  But, for the most part, that is it.  The secondary is stacked with promising rookies and to help shorten the time that the corners and safeties must cover, getting another pass rusher opposite of Hali would be most beneficial.  And in doing so, it would be wise to grab someone that can cover the flats as well.  Even when KC shutdown opposing teams’ ground game, they were victims of the running backs catching passes outside the hash marks for significant gains.

            And the last considerable need for the Chiefs in the upcoming draft is another Offensive Lineman.  The O-line drastically improved its overall performance from 2009 to 2010, but its age did not.  Casey Wiegmann at center just completed his 15th season.  Guard, Brian Waters, is now an eleven-year veteran.  And we all remember how bad a team’s offensive production falls when it loses its talent and depth in the trenches (see the seasons following the Willie Roaf and Will Shields retirements).  They have acquired some young talent recently in LT Branden Albert and OG Jon Asamoah; plus they still have experienced leaders in Ryan Lilja at Guard and Rudy Niswanger playing Center.  It simply goes without saying that if, and when, the offensive line suffers injuries that the team suffers equally- maybe more than from any other position.

            Overall- a good year.  The spark is back in KC.  Arrowhead is now filling up.  And the fanbase is bringing back the great mystique of the 90s;  vociferously roaring upon visiting opponents.  Let’s keep this train rolling.  My next article will begin the draft process and will entail more specifics of whom, what, and when.  Thanks for the great season, and GO CHIEFS!

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8 January 2011

KC vs BAL: A Last Second Look

In attempt to take more of a “coaching” view at how these two teams will most likely matchup, I came up with a two part article: 1) KC or BAL- which team has the specific strength, and 2) What teams on KC’s 2010 schedule best reflect the Ravens. Here’s what I came up with.

PART 1: STRENGTH- KANSAS CITY OR BALTIMORE?
Here's my take on the key matchup aspects of each team...

QB: PUSH= Stat wise both Cassel and Flacco look even. Both do their best to not imitate Brady and not imitate Delhomme.

WRs: PUSH= Dwayne Bowe led all wideouts with 15 TDs. The Ravens had their two starters catch 7 apiece. Both Charles & Rice can catch out of the backfield.

RB: KC= The Chiefs are the #1 rushing team in the league. TJ can pound and JC can break away. Rice is Baltimore’s only true option and only has 5 TDs.

TE: PUSH= Todd Heap has experience yet he's a little banged up. Moeaki has been a beast as a rookie.

OL: KC= The Offensive Line for KC has produced fewer sacks and 800 more rushing yards.

DL: BAL= Both teams play a 3-4. Yet, the Ravens' line has allowed a league's 3rd best rushing yards allowed per game.

LBs: BAL= Ray Lewis is a Hall of Famer, even with the age factor. Plus, they have Suggs & McClain. Hali can get the sack, but he's the only one.

CBs: KC= The Brandon Brothers are becoming a decent Corner duo. The Ravens CBs lack playmaking abilities.

S: BAL= Ed Reed... the other Hall of Famer with 8 picks this season. Berry, Lewis, and McGraw all want to be Reed when they grow up.

ST: BAL= Besides Colquitt, the Ravens dominate in KR, PR, FGM. Chiefs average 19.7 yds/KR... just kneel it for the touchback.

INTANGIBLES...

Home Field: KC= Kansas City hosts the game, is 7-1 this year, and it WILL be loud.
Strength of Schedule: BAL= The Ravens played against a 48%, and KC played versus a 41%.
Playoff Wins: BAL= Kansas City hasn’t won a playoff game since the ATF raided the a compound in Waco. The Ravens have won 3 in the last 2 seasons.
Coaching: KC= Weis(Ring), Crennel(Ring), & Haley the Wonder Kid... nuff said.
Age: PUSH= The age factor hits the Ravens' LBs, S, and WRs. It hits the Chiefs' OL.
Injuries: KC= Donald Washington out and a couple head colds. BAL has almost a dozen injuries.
Pushes= 4,
Chiefs= 6,
Ravens= 6

PART 2: RELATIVITY- HAVE WE PLAYED THE RAVENS?

It's very hard to truly compare how two teams will matchup in the playoffs, when they haven't met each other in the same season. So, I thought I try to find comparative teams that KC has played this year which best reflects the offense & defense of Baltimore.

Baltimore Ravens...

RUSH OFFENSE = JAGS
KC played the Jacksonville Jaguars and had to defend against another small back that has strength & speed in Maurice Jones-Drew. He could also catch out of the backfield like Ray Rice. Result? KC shut down the Jags' running game; limiting MJD to 47 rushing yards and 5 catches for 74yds & 1 TD. *(That game was at home, following a big loss).

PASS OFFENSE = BRONCOS
The Chiefs had 2 different games versus Denver. One was at Denver with major secondary injuries. The other was at home with full health. I'm going to go with the game that will best reflect the conditions of this playoff game. The December 5th game best relates, due to having home field and a healthy secondary. KC held Orton- who's passing game best represents Flacco's- to 9/28 for 117yds, plus 4 sacks.

RUSH DEFENSE = SD
The Chargers' run defense best reflects the Ravens. In both of the Charger games, KC was able to run for 135yds at home and 48yds at San Diego. Yet, in the second game, the Chiefs were without their starting QB, so we'll average the two games; with their defense holding KC to 92yds... just about what the Ravens allow per contest.

PASS DEFENSE = ARI
I would say San Diego initially, for matching the Ravens' average YPC and Rating; but the Chargers got 20 more sacks this season than Baltimore. The Cardinals came the closest in most of the pass defense stats, also play a 3-4 defense, lack sacks, and have a little age in their LB corps and at Safety. When Arizona came to KC on November 21st, Cassel had a decent game; putting up 15/24-193-2-0, for a 115.5 rating.

What does all this mean? Absolutely nothing. Yet, it’s fun to try to find the secret “key” in determining the outcome. I will still stick to my prediction (with home field being the deciding factor)... KC-20, BAL-17.

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6 January 2011

Ravens at Chiefs: Do You Believe?

Let me get this out of the way, with some semblance of justification.  The Oakland Raiders walked into Arrowhead for the last game of the season and wanted the win more than Kansas City.  The Chiefs probably looked too far ahead, after clinching the Division and home playoff game in Week 16.  Bad outcome.  There... done... anomaly... already forgotten.

            Now, to the subject of this rant: Do you believe?  None of us truly believed that Kansas City would be sitting in the playoffs with a home game. No one.  No one believed that the backup quarterback from New England’s “system” would finish the season in the top five rated passers in the league.  No one believed that the horrible Offensive Line from 2009 would limit the sacks to only 25 (if you could take away the 7 from that game we won’t mention)?  Would anyone believe that Dwayne Bowe would lead all receivers with 15 touchdowns?  It’s clearly an “up” year for the Chiefs and their fans.  If the season ended today, everyone would have a smile on their face and a give a standing ovation for the great turnaround.

            But, the season isn’t over yet for those that qualify for post-season. Do you believe that the Chiefs have a chance to defeat the traditionally stubborn defense of the Baltimore Ravens?

            The biggest strength of Kansas City rests with their league leading running game (164yds/gm).  In 2010, Jamal Charles came within .04 yards per carry in breaking Jim Brown’s season record for yards per attempt.  The weakness in their ground game seems to be the aging Thomas Jones.  He was brought in for what was left in the tank, to relieve the number of carries for Charles, and to establish some much needed leadership in the locker room.  But, unless he can change his 3.7 yards per attempt- tied for 29th amongst starting running backs- he may be more of a hindrance to the mission than a benefit.  Thomas finished the last three games against St. Louis, Tennessee, and Oakland with a yards-per-carry average of 2.8, 2.2, and 1.7 respectively.

            The Ravens’ rush defense is ranked 5th overall; allowing only 93.9 yards against them each game on the ground.  So, Jamal Charles will have to be used smartly and often for the Chiefs to get some of those staple breakout runs to move the Chiefs’ offense down the field.

            Baltimore’s pass defense is their weakness, allowing 225 yards per game through the air (21st overall).  And they’ve only sacked the opposing QB 27 times this season; which should give Cassel much more time than what he had last week.  They do get to the ball quickly after receptions though, allowing only 6.4 yards per grab; so speed after the catch should be a focus.

            While they’re known for their defense, their offense is average; with their strength being in the run game.  Ray Rice leads their attack with 1,220 yards on the ground and 63 receptions through the air; yet, has only scored 6 touchdowns for the full season.  And as a whole, only 11 TDs were scored on the ground all season.  Kansas City’s rush defense was 14th in the league, allowing only 16 more yards on the ground per game than the Ravens allowed.

            Their pass game is slightly underrated.  They have a good receiving corps with Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason, both with 7 receiving TDs.  And Quarterback Joe Flacco is very stable signal caller; compiling a 93.6 passer rating in 2010.  The Chiefs’ pass rush and secondary sit at 220 yards allowed through the air each game.  KC does a fairly decent job of allowing only 6.5 yards per catch, limits opponents’ passing percentage to 54.9%, has compiled 39 sacks this season, and limits opposing QBs to a 78.1 passer rating.

            Overall, it doesn’t seem that Kansas City got dealt any worse a deal with Baltimore instead of the Jets. The Jets defense is actually a lot better in several areas than Baltimore.  All 12 teams that made it to playoffs start on the same page.  New York, Ravens, or Steelers still pair up with Kansas City to win or go home.  The Chiefs have a home game for the 1st round- which is HUGE for the postseason; and have been very successful following “trips & slips” this season.  The Chiefs are being given the underdog status and that may even given the Arrowhead residents more fuel to feed the fire.

            In my opinion, for Kansas City to have the best chance at a playoff victory since 1993, they will need to do the following:

*Continue to run the ball, it’s what got you here; yet, give the load to Jamal, because its all or nothing now... he can get plenty of rest this offseason.

* Future Hall of Famer Ed Reed lives 15 yards deep.  Pass plays need to be short and quick.  Don’t give the Ravens any time to get to Cassel by using our speedy Charles, McCluster, and Tucker on slants and quick outs. A little more Moeaki wouldn’t hurt either, Charlie.

*Since Ray Rice is their bread & butter, keep the two middle backers spying the backfield draws and passes to the flats.

*Also, keep the front 4 rushing on Flacco.  KC’s secondary is pretty decent, so man-up and make Flacco hurry.  The crowd will be loud enough in doing their part to rattle Joe, so use it as an extra defender.

I believe... do you???

KC-20, BAL-17.  Go CHIEFS!!!

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20 December 2010

Chiefs to the Mississippi: Kept Head Afloat

Last week, Kansas City forced a decision to be made seven days later.  By suffering their worst team loss of the season- against the team chasing them down for a division title- they told themselves that a game in St. Louis, against a mediocre team, would be the most important game of the year.  They forced themselves into an early playoff role; with KC and San Diego in a “win-it-all” and you’re in scenario.  The Chiefs maintained their 1 game lead over the hot Chargers by beating their interstate rivals, the Rams, 27-13.

            In the first quarter of the Missouri Governor’s Cup, I’m sure that many Kansas City fans were saying, “Here we go again.  A repeat of the San Diego game.”  And no one could blame them for instinctively going there.  KC has not played as well over the last few games as they had during the 1st half of the season.  Their defense has been like Swiss cheese at times and the offense occasionally forgets that they lead the NFL in rushing yards per game.  The Chiefs allowed the Rams to eat up eight minutes on the opening drive, then went 3 and Out followed by an interception, before finishing the 1st Quarter down by only 6... luckily.

            Then, the man of the hour, QB Matt Cassel, arose from his M*A*S*H gurney and led the Chiefs to 14 unanswered points in the 2nd half.  Many were worried that the unproven Brodie Croyle may have to start today, or that Cassel wouldn’t be effective enough due to his appendectomy taken placed only 10 days ago.  Then on two key possessions, Cassel scrambles for extra yardage, completes a key 28-yard pass to Dwayne Bowe (who started with the dropsies), and scrambled again for 13-yard first down.  He did two things: shook off any pain or perception by the pundits that he wasn’t yet ready, and he lit a fire under the ass of a team that seemed to by sulking as of late.

            Jamal Charles should also get credit for pushing the envelope.  He was injured on two plays during the game, had to come out both times; yet, delivered key blows by scoring a touchdown and going on an 80-yard burst late in the game to help setup KC’s insurance score.  The Kicker, Ryan Succop, also came through when needed.  Known more for his accuracy, than his leg strength, Succop hit two field goals (plus another called off due to penalty), including a 53-yarder to help add to Kansas City’s lead.

            The defense, although apparently absent the first quarter, came through big for the last three quarters.  They held the Rams to a 35% 3rd Down conversion rate, 224 total yards, and only 3.4 yards per pass play.  Safety Kendrick Lewis continued to shine with 2 late interceptions to stall the Rams feeble attempt at a comeback.  And DE Wallace Gilberry, in Kansas City’s 3-4 defense, racked up 3 sacks and a forced fumble.

            What this all means is that Kansas City has kept themselves in the lead of the AFC West division by 1 single solid game.  There are two games left on the NFL schedule for every team.  Two games left for trailing San Diego, who will have to go on the road and win both games to give themselves a shot at any chance of the division title or even squeeze into the playoffs.  What’s more beautiful is that the Chiefs also have two games left.  Both of those will be played at Arrowhead against the underachieving Tennessee Titans, and finishing the season against their all-time rival Oakland Raiders; whom they owe a payback game for the late loss in Oakland earlier this year.  What a beautiful thing for a team’s season to not only be an awesome turn-around from 2009, yet to also be a drama filled script- written only as the games happen!

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13 December 2010

Chiefs at Chargers: Cassel Least of Problems

            So, I had this delicious cheeseburger at a chain restaurant today.  It was two patties, with this jalapeño and cheese queso sauce, with diced tomatoes mixed in.  It is awesome!  I’ve had it the last two times I’ve been to this sports bar and almost ordered twice today it was so good.  I also sat across from a gentleman, Jose, who was transiting Connecticut en route to his home in Maryland.  He does restoration construction work and is originally from Key West, Florida.  We chatted a bit and next thing I know, he pays for my meal.  It was awfully nice of him and I’m not sure what prompted the generous act... which cause me to be slightly uncomfortable.  I’m not sure what to do at that point; especially with more than an hour left at the same shared table. 

            Well, after shaking off the obvious need to communicate after his kind gesture, I learned that his son attends the University of Florida and is in his senior year.  He will be majoring in Business Administration with a minor in Accounting.  I also found out that his boy is interested in joining the U.S. Coast Guard.  Funny... I’m in the Coast Guard!  So, I asked what he was interested in doing in the military and he stated that his son wanted to be a helicopter pilot.  I told him that he should have a pretty good shot at getting signed up for an Officer’s Commission with the degree he’s pursuing.  Even the government is tight with jobs right now; yet military officers are resource and finance managers, so a degree with that focus should help him be a shoe in.

            I did remind him that he’ll have to complete his Officer training in New London, Connecticut, before requesting aviation school; which is located in Jacksonville, so he’ll be closer to home.  We both had dessert- me the chocolate fudge cake and he had the apple pie alamode.  He then decided to hit the road in attempt to get back to Maryland before the end of the night.  He was a very nice gentleman that provided me good conversation and a free meal.  I am very thankful for that and will pay it forward.

            Oh- the Chiefs’ game... sorry.  The team had an epic failure and never really gave us the chance to see what Brodie Croyle could do while Matt Cassel heals from his appendectomy.  Officially?  They got their asses whooped, 31-0.  They had a total of 67 yards and allowed 426 yards.  They allowed San Diego to convert 11-of-15 3rd Downs and didn’t convert one single 3rd Down for themselves... not one.  Gosh, that  cheeseburger is good!

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7 December 2010

KC vs DEN: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Kansas City defeated the Denver Broncos inside Arrowhead by the score of 10-6.  It wasn’t the big blowout that many predicted.  No.  Nice and simple.  By 40 or 4... Kansas City wins and improves to 8-4.  And with that specific victory there were three elements to describe the fashion in which the Chiefs won and Denver lost.  I’ll steal the classic western cliché in my efforts:
           
THE GOOD: Kansas City continued to show why they lead the NFL in rushing yards per game.  Jamal Charles topped the century mark for the 3rd time in the 2-Back KC system by gaining 116 yards on 21 carries.  He continues to bedazzle his opponents with a staggering 6.2 yards per carry... amazing.  And Thomas Jones did his “small” bit by smashing the Denver front with 53 in the ground game.

            Another highlight for Kansas City was their pass defense.  The last time the Chiefs’ Secondary faced the Broncos’ passing game, they were thrashed early and often; allowing 299 yards and 5 touchdowns.  That was not the case Sunday.  They reviewed the game tape.  They got healthy.  And they made it a point to shutdown one of the league’s best air attacks.  When it was all said and done, only117 total yards were obtained by Denver’s Kyle Orton.
            Also, the last game left much to be desired by the KC pass rush.  No sacks on Orton in Mile High equated to 4 sacks in Arrowhead.  Can’t wait until they draft that pass-rushing Outside Linebacker in April to team up with Tamba Hali.

THE BAD: While Kansas City definitely did their homework in attempt to improve defending against the pass, they might have forgotten that the other team doesn’t “have” to throw it.  While limiting one of the League’s best passers, the Chiefs’ defense allowed RB Knowshon Moreno to the entire 161 rushing yards all by himself.  While it didn’t lead to a loss, the Chiefs should take a look to see if adjusting to stop the passing game hurt the ground game defense.

            And the big bad wolf for KC was the penalties.  It began at the start of the 2nd Half with a great seven-minute drive down to the Denver 2-yd line with a 2nd down.  RB Jamal Charles dives in for the touchdown, but its nullified by an Illegal Formation on TE Tony Moeaki. Two plays later, with 3rd and Goal from the Denver 3, right Offensive Tackle Barry Richardson committed a key False Start penalty.  This pushed KC back 5 yards.  Repeating 3rd down, the Chiefs rushed for 6 to get back to the 2-yard line.  And instead of going for the field goal- which to me is fine at that field position- QB Matt Cassel was sacked on 4th down for a loss of 13 yards.  This not only took the Chiefs out of a reasonable touchdown attempt, yet also forfeited a simple 3-point tack on from the Kicker.
           
THE UGLY:  This adjective was abundant during this contest.  In the 3rd Quarter, the Broncos were nailed with an Unnecessary Roughness penalty against a pass from Cassel to KC utility-man Dexter McCluster.  McCluster was hit by LB D.J. Williams during the attempted pass reception, yet hit him just as the ball hit the receiver’s hands; with no hit to the helmet or spearing even taking place. Later in the same quarter, McCluster broke off a 57-yard run down to the Denver 9, but was called back for holding.  Yet, if you watch the reply of the holding call, you’ll see that the Denver player clearly faked the hold by throwing up his hands and giving a fake “tug”- as if the Chiefs’ Terrance Copper really had a hold.
           
Continuing in the 4th Quarter were two more poor examples of refereeing.  The first was an Offensive Pass Interference versus Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe.  While Denver’s Champ Bailey did do a great job keeping Dwayne Bowe in check for the entire day, Bowe had hardly even brushed his hand against Bailey to receive such a call.  And to be fair to the Broncos again, during a late game drive by Kyle Orton he was called down by forward progress when he made a razzle-dazzle backward pass to an open receiver.  At no point should the QB have been called down, yet the referees apparently needed to be crappy on a consistent basis throughout the game to both sides.
           
And to finish it off, I’ll go back to the False Start penalty on KC’s Barry Richardson near the Denver goal line.  After the penalty Richardson was pulled to the sideline by KC to get him to re-focus.  When he reached the home field bench, he started to yell at some of the coaching staff.  Then in efforts to calm down, an assistant coach tapped him on the shoulder, but Barry turned around and shoved the coach back 3 feet.  Not a smart action by any means, and it could possibly end with him missing next week’s game.
           
Next week is a big game for the Chiefs at San Diego.  Many thought that the Chargers would be vying for a lead in the AFC West with a possible win at home against KC, but they apparently forgot to beat the Oakland Raiders in their own stadium first.  Kansas City has a huge opportunity to put themselves atop the division with a punched ticket to the post-season.  If the Chiefs can win this coming Sunday at San Diego, which is completely possible, they will peel that veil away from so many cynical eyes across the football nation.

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30 November 2010

Chiefs Dominate Seahawks

            The Chiefs are entering unfamiliar territory.  They are facing a moment within the season, which hasn’t been seen for three years.  They are likely to finish with a winning season.  Think about that.  A team that has struggled to consistently control anything within their capabilities- losing aside- since sneaking into the 2006 season playoffs; the Kansas City Chiefs are sitting atop the AFC West with confidence.  They are 7-4 and are only a couple close loses to Indianapolis, Houston, and Oakland from being 10-1.  I’m not saying they are a 10-1 team, yet they are just a few plays of growing pains away from pure dominance.  And dominance is what they showed the NFL world this Sunday, on the road in Seattle.  Kansas City-42, Seattle-24.

            Veteran Running Back Thomas Jones gave the team a speech this past week before they ventured into the Northwest.  He let them know that this is where the teams with intentions of not simply making the playoffs separate themselves from the pretenders.  And with the way that QB Matt Cassel, WR Dwayne Bowe, and RB Jamal Charles responded- in line with their recent performances- one could say they heeded Mr. Jones’ message.

            Dwayne Bowe has dominated the realm of wide receiver play.  He has accumulated 14 touchdowns in his last nine games; with 7 scores in his past three games.  He’s only had 16 touchdowns his previous three seasons total.  He is 5th in the league in receiving yards.  Among receivers with 50 or more receptions, he is 2nd overall in creating 1st downs (75.9%).  He has grown into what Coach Todd Haley intended.  He said that Dwayne was capable of being a star, yet that he just needed to be shaped a bit.  He needed to start working like Jerry Rice and stop talking like Ocho Cinco.

            Matt Cassel.  This guy is becoming stout.  He’s building a foundation within his ability to read defenses, react appropriately, and produce success.  Many a pundit- including yours truly- had no confidence in Cassel’s ability to lead this team.  His errant passing and poor decision-making skills were killing the team’s momentum; from last season into the beginning of this one.  And I didn’t believe Chiefs’ management when they stated he was coming into his own and that there was more behind his poor completion percentage than just bad throws.  Seeing him over the past couple weeks has solidified the statistics that many merely snuff at.  He has made big time plays when most needed; not necessarily resulting in TDs, yet in keeping the offense alive in order to control the clock and finish drives with points. 

Get this: The quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, after 11 games this season has thrown for 2,307 yards, completes 60.4% of his passes, has produced 22 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions, and has a passer rating of 99.7 (behind only Vick, Brady, and Rivers).  Let that soak into the heads of fellow Cassel-Haters...

            And with the Coaching staff getting back to handing off to Jamal Charles more often, the young rushing beast- along with his dominant Offensive Line- has shown what the anchor of the teams’ success is and should be for the remainder of the season.  He put up 173 yards on the ground versus the Seahawks and is averaging 6.3 yards per carry in 2010.  Charles is gaining more than 1.2 yards per carry than the next guy; Houston’s Arian Foster.  With the season going into the last third and the weather becoming more of a factor in games, this is where KC should focus.  If they continue to produce the league’s best running attack, when passing the ball may be futile, this team has “potential” written all over them.

            Finally, this team- and notice I said team- is starting to put themselves into the correct statistics towards success.  Many focus on yards produced and allowed, yet the only true factor linked to wins and losses in how many points you produce and how many points you give up.  The Chiefs are averaging 25.9 points per game (4th overall) and are giving up 21 (13th best overall).  Plus, they are helping themselves by not turning over the ball with a +7 differential and the offensive line has only allowed 15 sacks in 11 games.

              This team is truly starting to learn how to win.  They are gelling together and operating the facets of the game of football properly.  They’ll need to stay focused over the last 5 games, as they will face divisional opponents in 3 of them.  As long as the injuries mend, this team could be the best story of the 2010 NFL season.

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22 November 2010

KC vs. Arizona: In Person

After the last two weeks versus Oakland then Denver, Kansas City was pushed into a corner to find a victory this week.  They needed to silence the sports’ media pundits about how much better the Raiders are and how the San Diego Chargers are going to simply march straight through their opponents to an AFC West Divisional crown.  They also needed to prove to themselves that the mistake-prone effort in Northern California and the injury-riddled and absent-minded effort at Mile High was just a fluke.  They needed to get back to what created a 5-2 start.  They needed to find that fine line between passing to score and a defense that bends like rubber.  I think they found it... KC-31, ARI-13.

            LarryAnd I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to attend the match up in person.  My two brothers are season-ticket holders and I flew into town this week for the Thanksgiving holiday.  So, less than 24 hours from stepping off the plane at MCI, I was taking a seat in Section 329, Row 20, Seat 5 at Arrowhead Drive in Kansas City, Missouri.

            With two hours of pre-game tailgating, 1 delicious hamburger, and 1 hot brat with kraut in my stomach- I was ready for the festivities to begin.  It didn’t initially appear that the fans were going to come out to the game in the decent weather.  With only 5 minutes until kick-off, the stadium looked half full.  We were treated to the National Anthem via electric guitar; performed by the lead guitarist from Guns-n-Roses.  It was an awesome twist on the opening melody; and my heart jumped when it came to the last line of the song, as the fans exclaimed at the top of their lungs...“And the home of the CHIEFS!!!”- something that has become such a staple at home games and even away.

            Within 10 minutes the stadium was full.  And within 10 more minutes, the Cardinals had easily marched down the field for a 3-0 lead.  An aura was felt throughout the stadium that made many fans a little uneasy.  As I talked with my siblings, we were a little worried that Kansas City may falter to an inferior team at home; the same way it had done so routinely the previous 3 seasons.

            Yet, the bend-don’t-break defense kept Arizona driving, but not scoring.  And the recent magic of Bowe The Magnificent & his trust assistant Matt delivered on what has become the recent norm with 2 passing touchdowns.  These scores were set up by a very solid ground game; with a solid performance by RB Jamal Charles and with Thomas Jones putting up both rushing scores.

            The game ended with the Chiefs going into the ever-unpopular Prevent Defense; allowing the Derek Anderson to drive down the field and throw a quick slant touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald.  The garbage score made the game appear closer than it actually was.  All that mattered was that KC protected their 31 points by forcing the Cards to thrown passes in the middle of the field- thus, eating up the clock and securing the victory.

            As I left extremely satisfied with the experience I had with my family and favorite sports team; I did notice something about Kansas City’s quarterback that many critics- including myself- have applied to him.  Cassel has been known to hold the ball a little bit longer than most other QBs.  Yet, on occasion- and with the visual aspect of being at the stadium and seeing the whole field during passing plays- Matt did hold the ball and scramble a bit; yet, only because his wide receivers didn’t look for the ball when needed.  It was clearly evident that when Cassel was in trouble in the pocket, his wideouts were on occasion to not know- leaving him to run for yards or chuck the ball out of bounds. 

            And something I noticed in the play calling that was always successful was when a running back flared out into the flats or came across the back of the defensive line for a quick pass.  It seemed to work very well as an extended “run play” when the opposing team tried to clog up the running lanes.

            Well, with the win- and the Raiders loss- the Chiefs are again sitting atop of the division.  And tonight KC fans are swallowing strongly to cheer for a Denver victory at San Diego; in further efforts to better the odds of KC’s drive to a playoff berth.  Some Cardinal legs this week, with hopes of a little Seahawk wings on the road next week.

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15 November 2010

Chiefs Get Stomped in Denver

            I lied.  A couple weeks ago I wrote an article, after another KC win, that it was ironically hard to write about the Chiefs when they aren’t losing.  Well, when Denver took a 35-0 lead with several minutes still remaining in the 2nd half, I said, “What the hell am I supposed to write now?”  KC-29, DEN-49.
            I’m writing this while the 3rd quarter is still in progress.  It’s now 42-10.  And this has to be the worse Chiefs’ game I’ve ever seen.  KC is down on the goal line and can’t get in, because apparently the #1 rushing offense in the country doesn’t understand how to get 1 yard in 4 tries... 3 feet divided by 4, equals .75’ per try.  Depressing.
            What can explain this complete 2-week meltdown?  At Oakland, versus a horrible run defense, KC decided to throw and failed.  This week against the worst running offense, they have allowed multiple 1st downs via the ground game and have been shut down themselves.  It’s really unexplainable.  Maybe, the Raiders’ coaching staff exposed something that Denver is now using as well. 
            But, let me explain an issue that doesn’t explain the deficit.  Cassel has come into this game doing the same old lofty passing or holding the ball for a sack.  He was sacked multiple times while outside the tackle box.  If no one is open, and the QB scrambles, and he is outside the Offensive Tackles, he can simply throw it downfield out-of-bounds.  He very frequently does not do that.  How does one train a professional quarterback to get rid of the ball to avoid a sack?  “Hey, Matt Cassel.  This is the coach.  Stop holding the ball and getting sacked when you should throw it away. Thanks.”  I wonder if that has been tried...
             Here are the lopsided stats from a game that Kansas City had every right to win... every right:

Before tonight:

Kansas City Run Offense = 1st (179.6yds/game)
Kansas City Run Defense = 8th (98.4yds/game)
Kansas City Defensive Points Allowed = 7th (18.1pts/game)

What the Denver Broncos did to that:

Denver’s Run Defense = 51 total rushing yards given up to KC.
Denver’s Run Offense = 153 rushing yards from a team that averaged 67.2/game.
Denver’s Offensive Points Scored = 49 points, 35 were scored before the 3rd Quarter.

            Well, its a good thing that Kansas City has several games left.  We’ll only see if its an ACTUAL good thing or not.  Can Coach Haley make the adjustments necessary to keep a run at the Division title alive?  Will our beloved injured Dexter McCluster, Kendrick Lewis, John McGraw, and Brian Waters make a strong and healthy return at home next week versus the Arizona Cardinals?  Will Susan take Jack back after his affair with her back-from-the-dead sister, Jessica?  Tune in next week to find out!

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9 November 2010

Chiefs At Oakland:  5 Big Elements Lost

This Chiefs’ victory was dependent on the following 5 elements:  Rushing Defense, Quarterback Pressure, Ball Security, Clock Management, and Play-Calling.  While many would say, “Captain Obvious, there buddy!” I say, “Who cares?”  This is one of the biggest rivalries in all professional sports, and to not focus on these exact 5 key aspects would lead to the demise of either team.  KC-20, OAK-23.

So, how did it all pan out?

1) Rushing Defense:  Kansas City’s Defense did a decent job of only allowing 112 total rushing yards from the #2 rushing team in the League.  But, while watching the game, those yards came by the way of big runs; allowing the Raiders to continue to move down the field.  And flipping the coin over to the Raiders’ rushing defense; Kansas City did a horrible job of taking advantage of the 26th ranked run defense.  While the Chiefs only accumulated 104 yards rushing, it was the result of only running the dynamic Jamal Charles 10 times and not attempting to beat down the Oakland defense with multiple runs.  Charlie Weis opted for more throws on 1st down than normal; leading to less time ran off the clock and a possible late game breakout run left on the field.

2) Quarterback Pressure:  The pressure from the KC blitz was pretty good- when applied.  The Raiders’ Jason Campbell can be one of those QBs to get frazzled with too much pressure; and it showed a bit for most of the game.  Yet, something changed.  The last of the 4 sacks by KC came with 4:49 left to play.  With the remaining time in regulation, plus the over-time, the Chiefs failed to provide the pressure needed to disrupt Oakland’s comeback.  And with 20-yard and 47-yard throws, Campbell was able to put the final two nails in the KC coffin.

3) Ball Security:  Derrick Johnson had an early forced fumble that KC recovered.  Then Safety John McGraw had a key interception later in the game.  The defense has been solid in providing their offense with a bonus opportunity.  But KC’s Matt Cassel quickly gave it back to them with a poor interception in the end zone.  And although Matt made a solid throw to Dwayne Bowe to put KC up late in the game, most of his throws went the way of a rainbow and lacked any “fire”.

4) Clock Management:  Kansas City had plenty of opportunities to run the ball more often; to not only pound the Raiders’ defense, yet to also milk the clock.  That was not a priority yesterday and there were moments when KC should have tried to take advantage- knowing the tight pace of the game.  And with the penalty-riddled game, Kansas City joined the fun Oakland was having with yellow flags by getting a dozen of their own.  Twice, this shaved a conservative total of 10 points off the score.  One came way of calling back Javier Arenas’ touchdown return and one with Ryan Succop in field goal range.

5) Play Calling:  Many Chiefs’ fans have questioned whether the coaches can get a little too cute and not simply attempt plays that have traditionally been solid.  As stated earlier, many times where KC was in what many would presume to be “clock-burning” mode, they would throw the ball with short yardage.  Or when they did have to throw in OT, the 3 yards needed to continue the drive was cut short by throwing a 2-yard out to Leonard Pope.  And in a rain-drenched 1st half, KC opted to fake punt on the Oakland 46; falling short and giving the Raiders excellent field position.

  Look- the games between Kansas City and Oakland have always been tight and stressful.  By the alignment of the stars, it never seems to matter how either team is doing for the year; this rivalry is, because it is.  Don’t be cute in a close and heated game.  Take points that are given to you.  And don’t stop doing what works for you (running game and blitzing opposing quarterbacks).  Hopefully the entire Chiefs’ staff of players and coaches realizes this and applies it to the second half of their season.

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24 April 2010

Kansas City:  Post-Draft Evaluation

         The Kansas City Chiefs’ finished their 2010 NFL Draft with 7 total selections.  Going into the Draft, the Chiefs have several issues surrounding the team’s ability to play effectively on Defense, their inability for their WRs to catch the ball consistently, and the lack of stable pocket protection for Quarterback Matt Cassel. 
         These is the position-specific “checklist” that KC should have held high on their Draft Boards entering the month of April:        

         After selections completed Sunday afternoon, Kansas City had begin to address the issues that hindered them from success in 2009, but also missed on a couple of needs that appeared to be glaring.  Listed are the selections made, how the player may help the team, and a score out of 10 based on the need, players available, and selection made at that pick:

RD-1, Pick-5 (5)
Eric Berry, Safety, Tennessee:  This is one of the most explosive Secondary players to enter the Draft over the past decade.  He will give the Chiefs speed and strength in both phases of run-stopping and pass defense. (10/10)

RD-2, Pick-4 (36)
Dexter McCluster, RB, Mississippi:  The small RB possesses the ability to make a big play any time he touches the ball.  What he lacks in size, makes up for is speed and agility; with the ability to catch the ball.  He should be used as receiver at the Pro level and will compete as a Return Man.

(9/10)
RD-2, Pick-18 (50)
Javier Arenas, CB, Alabama:  Javier is a solid Corner and will compete for a spot as a Return Specialist and push for Brandon Carr’s spot as starting Corner.  Not the best selection at this spot due to other needs, yet it does start to make the Chiefs much faster in the Secondary.
(7/10)

RD-3, Pick-4 (68)
Jon Asamoah, OG, Illinois:  This was a great value in the 3rd Round.  Asamoah is a beast and will immediately help improve KC’s Offensive Line, along with the signing of Lilja from Indianapolis in Free Agency.
(10/10)

RD-3, Pick-29 (93)
Tony Moeaki, TE, Iowa:  Kansas City sold a 5th Round Pick to grab this spot and player.  Many thought the Chiefs would look for a receiving TE, yet they went the other direction by grabbing a very good blocking TE.  He may have still been available later, but apparently management didn’t think he’d last through another complete round.
(8/10)

RD-5, Pick-5 (136)
Kendrick Lewis, Safety, Mississippi:  In the 5th Round, Lewis is a nice Safety to pick up.  He has been consistent throughout his collegiate career and will definitely assist in KC’s poor tackling in the Secondary.  Not sure that this was best player available to meet the team’s needs with only one more selection remaining though.
(6/10)

RD-5, Pick-11 (142)
Cameron Sheffield, DE, Troy:  A pass rusher to complement Tamba Hali is greatly needed.  Although Hali plays OLB, Sheffield may be able to transition to the other OLB.  He has a great knack for providing pressure to opposing QBs.  Although KC could have grabbed a great pass rusher in earlier rounds, they found a nice player to throw in that direction with their last pick.
(7/10)

         Overall, Kansas City had a pretty decent draft, scoring 57-of-70 for a grade of 81% (B).  The WR position was never directly addressed; although if they move McCluster to Slot Receiver it should pay dividends.  The issue of stopping the run appears to sit with the dual picks of Safeties, vice any ILB or NT selection.  The Offensive Line will greatly improve with offseason additions, along with Asamoah.  KC should also have a solid Kick and Punt Returner in either McCluster and/or Arenas.  And it looks like Scott Pioli and Todd Haley have decided to add speed to the team, in addition to a bit of power-blocking from the new Tight End.  It was a solid Draft, with plenty of Undrafted Free Agents floating around.

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26 July 2009         

Remembering Derrick Thomas

As he summed up himself, the last and fleeting 8th sack left on the field against the Seahawks in 1990 defines Derrick Thomas’s legacy- and as he left early from life, leaving his best on the field and more to be craved in his game truly defined Derrick Thomas (DT). 

          Derrick Thomas  Many Kansas City fans, and football fans alike, have been waiting patiently for the Hall of Fame induction of one of football’s most explosive players. He wanted so much to become the next Lawrence Taylor, and if you wanted to break down his stats, they would rival that of his role model.  Derrick Thomas (DT) had the stats to get him onto the Hall.  I won’t go into a stat line, drum on about why it took so long to induct him, or write out his ‘history’, as can be found on multiple websites.  I want to keep it short and sweet- like the punishment he brought down upon opposing offenses. 

            I will say that watching a Chiefs’ game growing up and through the 90’s in Kansas City left me yearning for the big play ability of DT. Yet, the biggest impact Thomas had was in the game, in the most crucial moment... during the most critical plays.  That’s when Arrowhead Stadium would become shrouded in a vapor.  A suffocating feeling that DT was about to make a game-changing play... 
           
You could feel the build up to the snap.  You were seeing Derrick shred the Left Tackle’s block.  And you could feel the opposing QB vying for just another half-second; as he too knew what was coming.  And then in a rapid succession of 3 short pulsating seconds, Derrick Thomas would blast around the quarterback’s blindside- with his arms extended- knocking down the signal caller and jarring loose the pigskin.  And the stadium would erupt in the loudest roar ever heard on the planet.  It was a beautiful thing to see as a Chiefs’ fan.

            And that’s what DT, #58, left on the field.  Thank you and congratulations.  It’s about time- and KC still misses you.

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27 April 2009         

2009 NFL Post Draft Analysis

As a Kansas City Chiefs’ fan, I’m a little disappointed- needless to say.  We all knew whom Detroit was selecting at #1.  And we all had it in the bag on the Rams pick at #2.  So, when Aaron Curry (LB-Wake Forest) was still available- and mind you the unanimous top ranked defensive player in this year’s draft- there was a weird “sickness” felt when Scott Pioli didn’t choose him.  It had nothing to do with the substitute selection made at the number three overall pick; it was had to do with who wasn’t selected.

            Curry could have come to KC and will most likely become a solid football player at Seattle.  Yet, we are changing our defense to a 3-4, have acquired some stop gaps at LB in free agency, and set a record for least sacks last season.  We needed a solid DE to lock up the strong side. 

No defensive end or outside-linebacker truly came across as the premiere sack specialist this year.  So, maybe Pioli didn’t bite into anyone’s ranking system.  Numbers were ignored and it seemed that it was a combination of stats, physical build, system impact, great personality, and even the fact that Jackson played alongside KC’s #5 overall pick from 2008, Glenn Dorsey-DT.  I mean, they DID win a national championship together.  Yet, after dwelling on this I think that it’s a good pick.  I'm sure Pioli would have traded down if the offers were there, but I just don't think many teams were threatened of KC's spot at #3.  So, we had to pick someone...

Round 1, Pick 3 (3)

Tyson Jackson-DE-LSU {6’4”, 295lbs}

I heard very little, comparatively, of T-Jack (we have enough LJs and DJs now) at the position with all the talk of Brian Orakpo-TEX and Everette Brown-FLSt.  His size and ability are being compared to Richard Seymour of New England.  Seymour never had ridiculous numbers out of college, yet was taken by the Patriots in the first round of 2001 and is now the staple on their 3-time Super Bowl defensive line.

Round 3, Pick 3 (67)

Alex Magee-DT-Purdue {6’3”, 298lbs}

This pick was confusing.  Got a defensive lineman already and with no 2nd rounder we didn’t address WR, OL, or LB.

Round 4, Pick 2 (102)

Donald Washington-CB-Ohio St. {6’0”, 197}

KC grabbed two potential stars for this position last draft (Flowers and Carr); and has another in newly found talent, Maurice Leggett.  No need in my eyes.

Round 5, Pick 3 (139)

Colin Brown-OT-Missouri {6’7”, 335lbs}

Here’s need pick that could have been used in the previous round for a better player.  I don’t know squat about Mr. Brown- and that’s the problem... yet, he is huge.

Round 6, Pick 2 (175)

Quinten Lawrence-WR-McNeese St. {6’0”, 184}

A prospect from a lower level Division-I school.  Other WRs with better resumes were available.

Round 7, Pick 3 (212)

Javarris Williams-RB-Tennessee St. {5’10”, 223lbs}

This guy has been productive since he started playing at Tennessee State.  Every season he put up numbers.  That’s called consistency.  Nice find.

Round 7, Pick 28 (237)

Jake O'Connell-TE-Miami (Ohio) {6’4”, 255lbs}

Tony Gonzalez will be missed.  And when KC had a chance to grab another promising “new-age” replacement, they didn’t.  Fans are going to have Tony G withdrawals.

Round 7, Pick 47 (256)

Ryan Succop-K-South Carolina {6’2”, 218lbs}

Mr. Irrelevant.  That doesn’t mean he should be irrelevant.  And that also means that unless you have some softhearted ideal to give a local small college stud a shot with this pick (as would I, were I the GM), then you should still use the pick for at least the “best” kicker available. 

Pioli could have done the NE thing by accumulating 1,000 picks, yet the Patriots didn't really seem to do much with all those picks they accumulated this weekend anyways. So, maybe the secret between Belichick and Pioli when he was in Boston was the fact they were a team.  And many teams- Raiders excluded- passed on "prospected players" for more specific team players.  Mock drafts the world over were destroyed with many teams not going the projected route.  I'm fine with the T-Jack pick and it creates a solid front 7 for KC's defense. I know that Pioli has a history of slightly "reaching" for players to fill a role, but this became a theme Saturday and Sunday. 

Tyson Jackson, on Scouts.com, had the DE ranked #17 overall and #3 at his position.  While in New England, the personnel department always did a great job of finding players that contributed and caused little fuss.  Team came first in the players Pioli help select- whether highly acclaimed draft prospects or no names.  He also was involved in grabbing the necessary free agents that fit the system for undisputed success.  We may have "reached” according to popular mockers Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, but those guys don't run the Kansas City Chiefs- or any other professional team for that matter.

            Scott Pioli and head coach Todd Haley will now be under a microscope for their decisions.  Fans are tired of losing.  So, with the Hunt family taking charge and revamping the team managers; we should allow some patience to fill the gap between now, training camp, and the start of the 2009 season.  We asked for this.  So, now the Chiefs organization has shown us a little piece of the plan they have in mind.  They drafted nobody exceptional.  No flash.  No big-time playmakers.  No highly sought & fought for players. No big trades.  No collection of picks. So, at this time, I will give this draft a Grade: C (as in, we’ll have to just ‘see’ what happens in order to truly grade the 2009 draft for Kansas City). Pioli may have very well defined his legacy- long or short- with this year's draft.

            *The upcoming article will dive deeper into the who’s and what’s of each draft choice; and may include any undrafted prospects KC may pick up in the meantime.  I will also attempt to take a look at the eight new Chiefs and their “Reach-Value” as compared to other teams in the league.  Maybe a little time to simmer will afford my readers and I a better- and more true- focus on how the Chiefs actually executed in this year’s draft.

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