The Kansas City Chiefs have only just begun to dig themselves out of the hole Carl Peterson and Herm Edwards left them in after the 2008 season. When Scott Pioli set up shop at One Arrowhead Drive, the roster was as devoid of talent as Nickelback and even less entertaining.
But after four drafts and a few sharp free-agent signings, Kansas City is a hub of football talent once again. Unlike past rosters, however, the majority of the locker room doesn’t have AARP fliers being put in their locker.
Youth is prevalent in Kansas City, and there are plenty of youngsters in red looking to make their mark in the league. Here are four young Chiefs who haven't quite found their stride to watch for a breakout season in 2012.
The term “physical freak” has become a bit overused in describing NFL players. But there’s a Sapelo Island swamp beast in Kansas City who deserves this moniker more so than any player in the division.
At 6’3" and 290 pounds, Allen Bailey is an Adonis of a defensive tackle. With a body that’s more comparable to a Mr. Universe competitor, he has all the physical tools to become a valuable contributor in Kansas City’s defense.
Used primarily in nickel packages as an interior pass-rusher, he finished 2011 with 10 tackles and one sack. While his impact was negligible in the beginning of 2011, he picked up steam towards the end of the season. So why should Chiefs fans expect this guy, who once killed an alligator with a shovel, to break out in 2012?
Simply put, the Romeo Crennel effect. With no lockout and full access to the wisdom of the Mr. Miyagi of defensive linemen, it’s not hard to imagine Bailey taking leaps and bounds this fall. Enough, perhaps, to replace Glenn Dorsey sooner rather than later.
A breakout rookie receiver? And a slot receiver, no less? Yup, Devon Wylie is in a great position to succeed immediately in the Chiefs new offense under Brian Daboll.
True, he’s elbowing for room in a very crowded receiving corps, but there’s a very open spot at the slot receiver in Kansas City. After being filled with the likes of Jerhme Urban, Keary Colbert and even first-rounder Jonathan Baldwin, the Red and Gold may finally have found the security blanket Matt Cassel has been begging for the last three years.
With Wylie coming to town, expect to see more four wide receiver sets that feature downfield specialists Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, Baldwin and Wylie. With the three outside threats occupying the majority of the coverage downfield, Wylie should find himself with a little room to work with more often than not.
Tight ends named Tony tend to do good things in Kansas City, and though it’s doubtful Moeaki will ever fill the shoes of Gonzalez, he’s geared up for a season even better than his rookie campaign two years ago.
Much like Wylie’s situation, Moeaki will benefit from the Chiefs offense featuring a multitude of weapons. With the addition of Kevin Boss, he’s not even the only legitimate tight end opposing defenses will have to account for.
True, the Chiefs offense is going to be a ground attack primarily, and it very well should be. A combination like Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis comes around as often as Ed Hochuli skipping a bicep workout. But once Thunder and Lightning have already torched a defense for 150 yards and two touchdowns, Moeaki is going to be a play-action assassin.
All this hinges, of course, on the Hawkeye ball hawk returning from an ACL tear. If his knee is good to go, so is Kansas City’s offense.
Eyebrows everywhere shot up on foreheads when Kansas City selected Jonathan Baldwin with the 26th overall pick in 2011. The start of his Chiefs career didn't make fans feel much more confident in him, missing the first five games of the season after breaking his hand in a locker room brouhaha with veteran back Thomas Jones.
He would go on to only haul in one touchdown throughout 2011, a long-distance affair on Halloween against the Chargers. But the athleticism he flashed had Chiefs fans drooling and opposing corners tightening their ankle braces.
Once again, a full offseason uninterrupted by labor issues plays a significant role in allowing Baldwin to blossom into the vertical threat he was drafted to be. The OTAs currently going on are invaluable in allowing Baldwin and Matt Cassel to get a rapport going that was impossible to achieve when Baldwin came in halfway through the season.
It's going to sound like a broken record, but Baldwin is primed to break out because the Kansas City offense is loaded. He's not the only available weapon on this offense, and that's definitely the best position he could hope to be in.
Only four Chiefs were included because Kansas City has one of the most complete rosters in the NFL.
The majority of the players on this list are offensive skill players for a reason, because the offense in general was downright impotent. Room for improvement abounds in the young ball-handlers.
You may have noticed another trend with the three offensive players. They are primed to break out because of the others' presence in the Chiefs air attack. No longer will opposing defenses be able to key in on Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe and shut down the Chiefs offense.
At least not for very long.
This may be a concept foreign to Chiefs fans since the days Priest Holmes, Tony Gonzalez and Eddie Kennison occupied the skill positions, but Kansas City is chock-full of offensive talent. It just has yet to be fully realized.