Kansas City Chiefs: 5 Reasons They Will Lead the NFL in Rushing in 2012
The Kansas City Chiefs led the NFL in rushing in 2010 to the tune of 164.2 yards per game. However, injuries and the coaching staff’s feeble approach to the 2011 season caused that number to drop to 118.3—a mediocre 15th in the league.
Everyone in and around the organization would like to put last season in the rear-view mirror. Chiefs’ brass has done a marvelous job in making sure that happens.
The key for the Chiefs to have a successful 2012 season starts with the running game. If they can return to 2010 form, this team has a chance to make some noise not only in the AFC West, but the entire NFL—possibly even achieving their first playoff victory since 1994.
Here are five reasons the Chiefs will lead the NFL in rushing in 2012.
Jamaal Charles Is Healthy and Hungry
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After losing Tony Moeaki (preseason) and Eric Berry (Week 1) for the season with torn ACLs, the last thing that the Kansas City Chiefs could afford was to lose another key player to a season-ending injury. Furthermore, the last player everyone in and around the organization could imagine that happening to was Jamaal Charles.
Charles also tore his ACL in a 48-3 Week 2 loss to the Detroit Lions. Along with that wound went the Chiefs’ season, spiraling quickly downward.
However, according to KCChiefs.com, Charles vows that he will return strong and is eager to get back on the field again, as expressed by this quote given to Josh Looney:
When I touch that field going out there, you’re going to feel my pain; you’re going to go through what I went through. That right there is going to be there for the rest of my career because I don’t want to be out a whole year ever again.
Over his career, Charles has averaged 6.1 yards on 499 carries. Even if he’s not at full strength early in the season, anywhere close to that YPC number will mean trouble for opposing defenses.
Upgraded Offensive Line
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The Barry Richardson project has finally concluded in Kansas City, and the results were less than tolerable. This offseason, Scott Pioli made it a point to upgrade the Chiefs’ offensive line.
The first order of business was signing former Houston Texans right tackle Eric Winston to complement Branden Albert on the other side.
The Chiefs then addressed depth in the trenches by selecting Jeff Allen (second round) and Donald Stephenson (third round) in this year’s draft.
It is unknown how the depth chart will shake out, but with upgraded talent and depth should come a more consistent running attack.
Better Balance in the Backfield
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With Thomas Jones on his last legs and inexperience in the backfield with Jackie Battle and Dexter McCluster, last year’s season-ending injury to Jamaal Charles underscored a giant hole in the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster.
The Chiefs quickly addressed the deficiency by signing former Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis and taking Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray in the sixth round of this year’s draft.
With McCluster still in the mix, the Chiefs have positioned themselves with a group of backs that will come into 2012 with specified roles to keep the team’s running attack consistent should another injury take place.
Consistency from the Coaching Staff
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The fact that Jamaal Charles missed almost the entire 2011 season was the primary cause for the drop off in production for the Kansas City Chiefs’ rushing attack. But former head coach Todd Haley’s inconsistency denied the team from having much success on the offensive side of the ball, period.
Enter Romeo Crennel.
Crennel led the Chiefs to a 2-1 record over the last three games, only missing a return trip to the playoffs by two blocked field goals by Oakland Raiders’ defensive lineman Richard Seymour in a Week 16 loss.
The Chiefs also brought in Brian Daboll (New England Patriots connection) to run the offense.
With the roster pretty much in place, the Chiefs are in great position to bring a game plan to the table each and every week to highlight their strength on offense: rushing the football.
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Time of possession is vital to winning in the NFL, and there are two main elements that factor into having the ball more than your opponent: defense and running the football on offense.
New head coach Romeo Crennel (will also serve as defensive coordinator) brings a defensive pedigree to the sidelines.
Upon taking over for the Chiefs’ final three games last season, Crennel’s defense allowed opponents to score a mere 11 points per game, including a 19-14 victory in Week 15 over the offensive juggernaut and then undefeated Green Bay Packers.
A healthy Eric Berry, an improving group of players led by Tamba Hali, Brandon Flowers and Derrick Johnson and the additions of cornerback Stanford Routt (free agency) and Dontari Poe (draft) should afford the Chiefs many leads late in games. That should put the ball in the hands of Jamaal Charles and Co. a lot more frequently.