The Kansas City Chiefs seem to have set themselves up to flourish in 2012, but receiving a boost from unexpected sources could really put them over the top.
Sure, each organization has players that are considered the backbone of the team. Those players for the Chiefs are Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Tamba Hali, Eric Berry and Derrick Johnson.
Can the Chiefs consistently win without the collective likely contributions from this group? Absolutely not. But how much better could the results be if others outside of this group were to take noticeable steps forward?
Here are five players that could have breakout seasons for the Chiefs in 2012.
When the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Kendrick Lewis in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL draft, many thought that is was simply a move to add depth to a position becoming increasingly significant since the game has evolved into being more pass-happy.
Since then, Lewis has started 26 games for the Chiefs in his first two seasons, including all 16 last year without Eric Berry by his side. In 2011, he still managed three interceptions, one touchdown, 47 tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and 10 knockdowns.
Imagine how much more productive he could be with one more year of experience and Berry back in the lineup.
Although unspectacular, Glenn Dorsey has been a consistent player for the Kansas City Chiefs since being taken with the fifth overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft.
However, 2012 could be a very telling season for Dorsey and his future as a Chief.
Not having the luxury of a space-eating nose tackle next to him since the Chiefs moved to the 3-4 defense prior to the 2009 season, Dorsey has been forced to do a lot of the dirty work himself.
Enter Dontari Poe.
If Poe can come in and do what the Chiefs drafted him to do, Dorsey could be the primary beneficiary and have his best season as a pro in 2012.
It is still unknown if the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Jon Baldwin in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft to eventually replace Dwayne Bowe (still unsigned), or to complement him to help keep up with the ever-evolving NFL.
After a rookie season that started with him missing the offseason due to the lockout, look for Baldwin to make a major leap forward in 2012. He also missed much of the shortened training camp and the first six games of the season due to an altercation with Thomas Jones that resulted in a broken thumb.
Baldwin will not have the pressure of being the main target of opposing defenses and should find himself with plenty of opportunities to help erase a lackluster debut season.
When the Kansas City Chiefs used a second-round pick on Dexter McCluster in the 2010 NFL draft, it came as a bit of a shock to most. He has shown flashes at times, but has still been inconsistent with his chances and has shown the propensity to fumble the football.
However, now that the Chiefs can take a more traditional approach with added depth and injuries behind them, McCluster could benefit greatly.
A decreased and more specified role in the Chiefs’ offense—assuming they use him correctly—should allow McCluster to do what he does best: operate in space.
Justin Houston’s stock plummeted before the 2011 NFL draft not due to his level of talent, but from a positive drug test (marijuana) at the combine. The Kansas City Chiefs were lucky enough to have him fall to them with their third-round selection.
In is limited playing time, despite starting 10 games, Houston was able to exhibit the ability to get to the opposing quarterback (5.5 sacks), which is precisely what he was drafted to do.
Rookies were hurt tremendously last season with the lockout cutting into the offseason. Houston will now have that luxury, along with the opposition keying on Tamba Hali, to prove that he can be an elite pass-rusher in the NFL.