When thinking of the premier teams in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs are never discussed and for good reason. But as the clock turns to the 2012 season, the team is in prime position to make a bit more noise than usual around the league.
General Manager Scott Pioli is now in his fourth year with the Chiefs, and his plan is finally starting to take shape.
Having coordinated a fine offseason by bringing in multiple players who are expected to play key roles for the Chiefs in 2012, Pioli can, at last, sit back and enjoy the fruits of his labors.
For the Chiefs to shock the world, however, multiple dynamics—including minimizing injuries, developing its young players naturally and fostering a small group of players that could shock the world themselves—must fall into place. But that is no different than any other team in the NFL, where parity is king.
Here are five Chiefs who could shock the world in 2012.
Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Matt Cassel hasn’t really accomplished much in the NFL, although he does have a couple impressive seasons under his belt, including the 2010 season in K.C. in which he threw for 3,116 yards and 27 touchdowns to only seven interceptions.
While most do not consider Cassel the type of signal-caller who can lead a team to a championship, something needs to be said about how he directed the Chiefs to a 10-6 record and an AFC West title during that 2010 season.
With improved parts surrounding Cassel—from the offensive line and backfield, to his throwing targets—it is not a stretch to assume a repeat of his 2010 performance is possible.
If Cassel indeed exceeds those numbers, look for a major shift in how fans and pundits view the moxie and ability of the quarterback.
After being picked No. 5 overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2010 NFL draft, Eric Berry was immediately cast as the next great safety in the league, eventually replacing the likes of Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu.
Berry’s career started off with a bang, earning Pro Bowl honors while starting all 16 games, intercepting four passes (one returned for a touchdown), sacking the quarterback twice and making 72 tackles during his rookie year.
Berry was well on his way to joining Reed and Polamalu among the elite safeties in the NFL.
With so much promise heading into last season, it is an understatement to say how disappointed the fans, the team and Berry himself were when he went down in a 41-7 Week 1 loss to the Buffalo Bills with a torn ACL.
However, with an improved cast surrounding him—including running mate Kendrick Lewis—Berry could come back even stronger than before.
And having spent an entire year studying the game and stewing over what might have been had he not missed the entire 2011 season, Berry is now ready to finally snatch the scepter and reign as the league’s best safety.
With many questions surrounding Kansas City Chiefs’ all-purpose player Dexter McCluster, it is a mystery as to where he will play and how often he will even see the field this season.
Although he hasn’t quite lived up to the billing of a second-round draft pick just yet, McCluster has provided the occasional electric play and some stability when his number has been called.
So far this offseason, the Chiefs seem committed to use McCluster at wide receiver. With his versatility, it might best suit the team and McCluster to create a package of plays that not only feature his strengths, but keep the defense guessing.
If McCluster can navigate his way through the depth chart and be a more well-rounded version of Dante Hall, his importance to the Chiefs would be invaluable.
Justin Houston slipped to the third round of last year's NFL draft, not because of his talent level, but due to a positive test for marijuana at the combine. The Chiefs needed a pass-rusher to play opposite of Tamba Hali, so they decided to take a chance.
Houston started 10 games last season and ended up with 5.5 sacks, a total that doesn't jump out at you but certainly indicates that the ability is there.
With the addition of Dontari Poe to hopefully provide a consistent push in the middle of the defensive line, and Hali demanding constant double teams on the other side, Houston will have the opportunity to exceed his rookie totals. A double-digit sack total for Houston is certainly in reach.
If he can take pressure off Hali as the Chiefs' only legit pass-rushing threat, Houston will make people forget about his off-the-field issues and take notice to his on-the-field prowess.
The lockout wasn't the only thing to have a hand in deterring the start to Jon Baldwin's career with the Kansas City Chiefs. There was also a fight during training camp with running back Thomas Jones that resulted in a broken wrist, costing him a large portion of his rookie season.
While not providing much in the way of statistical output (only 21 catches, 254 yards and one touchdown), Baldwin did give a little hint as to why he was drafted in the first round.
With a full offseason under his belt and other offensive threats at Matt Cassel's disposal, Baldwin's talent should shine through this season.
Whether Baldwin lines up as the No. 2 or No. 3 receiver really makes no difference. The ability to build a rapport with Cassel should be his primary focus heading into the season.
With the off-the-field issues out of the way and zero pressure to be the main guy, Baldwin is primed for a breakout season.