Kansas City Chiefs: Candidates for 2012 NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award
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It is no secret to anyone that 2011 was an injury-plagued year for the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs lost players on both sides of the football who contributed immensely in their 2010 division title run. The Chiefs went from first to last place in the AFC West. However, their last place standing was only one game behind the three teams who tied for first with an 8-8 record, making the injury-plagued season hard to swallow when it was in the books.
This offseason, Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli brought in players who could come in and help the returners ease their way back into the field. Ultimately, it will help the players returning from injury stay on the field and perform at a higher level with a better group of players.
As the Chiefs look to rebound, who is in the running for the 2012 NFL Comeback Player of the Year award? Check out this slideshow and let us know which player is likely to compete for the award.
Quarterback Matt Cassel
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2010 Statistics: 27 TD, 7 INT, 3,116 yards, 93.0 QB Rating, 15 games
2011 Statistics: 10 TD, 9 INT, 1,713 yards, 76.6 QB Rating, 9 games
Entering the 2012 season, Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel has no excuses, as he is given the tools he needs to win.
Cassel has a good core of running backs, tight ends and wide receivers he can distribute the ball to in order to lead an offense. More importantly, he has a better and more improved offensive line with right tackle Eric Winston being Kansas City's biggest offseason acquisition.
Cassel's 2011 campaign was a roller coaster ride with an 0-3 start, only to win four in a row, but lose two straight afterwards. His season ended on a bad note, suffering an injury against the Denver Broncos. Cassel's hand was hurt after a sack. The injury required him to get surgery, and he was placed on the injured reserve in November.
Now, Cassel is taking advantage of OTAs and wants to go into training camp and eventually into the regular season prepared mentally and physically to help the Chiefs return to the playoffs.
Running Back Jamaal Charles
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2010 Statistics: 1,467 rushing yards, 5 rushing TDs, 6.4 yard per carry average, 45 catches, 468 receiving yards, 3 receiving TDs, 16 games
2011 Statistics: 83 rushing yards, 0 rushing TDs, 6.9 yard per carry average, 5 catches, 9 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD, 2 games
Jamaal Charles is one of three Chiefs players fighting to get back after suffering a torn ACL last season. Not many players manage to do well when returning from a torn ACL. However, Charles and his two teammates all got hurt early in 2011, giving them ample time to heal and get back into shape for the 2012 season.
It was two seasons ago Charles finished second in the league in rushing yards and won the FedEx Ground Player of the Year award. Charles hopes that he, like Cassel, can take advantage of the upgraded offensive line before him when the season kicks off.
Many may label Charles as the team's best player, even if he missed a majority of last season. His speed and agility is the best among all active rushers, making it difficult for opposing defenses to catch up to him.
Charles slipped out of bounds after a carry against the Detroit Lions and hurt his knee. When he was carted off while favoring his knee, it was telling that his season was over.
Now, Charles is taking it slow in OTAs and is taking advantage over his injury occurring early. Chiefs fans are hoping that Charles can help the Chiefs win and help them become No. 1 in the league in rushing, as they did in 2010.
Running Back Peyton Hillis
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2010 Statistics: 1,177 rushing yards, 11 rushing TDs, 4.4 yard per carry average, 61 catches, 477 receiving yards, 2 receiving TDs, 16 games
2011 Statistics: 587 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs, 3.6 yard per carry average, 22 catches, 130 receiving yards, 0 receiving TDs, 10 games
Peyton Hillis was signed this offseason by the Chiefs and is another running back looking to turn his career back in the right direction after a tough 2011 season with the Cleveland Browns.
Hillis missed multiple games in 2011 due to a strep throat and a hamstring injury, missing six games all together. This comes after a shocking breakthrough 2010 season where he shined in his first season as a member of the Browns.
Hillis' broke free for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010 after being traded by the Denver Broncos. Now, Hillis is back in the AFC West and hopes to find better results than he did before.
Ultimately, sharing the backfield could lead to Kansas City being a candidate to lead the league in rushing. It will also help Charles and Hillis have an easier season as both are trying to bounce back.
Tight End Tony Moeaki
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2010 Statistics: 47 receptions, 556 yards, 3 touchdowns, 15 games
2011 Statistics: No statistics accumulated
Tony Moeaki is not the same person as Tony Gonzalez. However, fans became less saddened over Gonzalez's departure in 2009 when Moeaki contributed by scoring two touchdowns in his first three games as a rookie coming out of the University of Iowa.
He was ready to have a better 2011 season, and fans were excited to see what he could do for the Chiefs during his sophomore season. But it never happened. Moeaki became the first Chiefs player to suffer a torn ACL last year. Moeaki was the only player to suffer this injury during the preseason, as it happened in the preseason finale against the Green Bay Packers.
Moeaki is spending time with veteran tight end Kevin Boss, as the two are looking to help Cassel and the Chiefs offense improve in many offensive categories.
Moeaki does create some concern, as he has missed more games than he has played in his short two-year career. But if the Chiefs use him wisely and avoid rushing things by having Boss on the field, it might not be a concern and Moeaki's won't miss as many games.
Safety Eric Berry
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2010 Statistics: 92 tackles, 4 interceptions, 102 interception return yards, 1 interception TD, 1 forced fumble in 16 games
2011 Statistics: No statistics accumulated
Eric Berry fell just short of winning the league's Defensive Rookie of the Year Award in 2010 after an impressive season. His four interceptions and 102 yards with one touchdown earned him a late invitation to the Pro Bowl.
Chiefs fans were ready to see Berry disrupt offenses in 2011, but it was all taken away after Berry was blocked during the season opener against the Buffalo Bills.
Like Moeaki and Charles, Berry took advantage of his injury occurring early in 2011 so he could make the most of his 2012 season. Berry and his teammates at defensive back have the potential to form a strong defense and perhaps be one of the league's best under head coach and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel.
The Chiefs improved throughout the season defensively, and that improvement should carry over with Berry on the gridiron in 2012.
Ranking Their Chances of Winning
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1. Matt Cassel: The position he plays gives him the best chance to win the league's Comeback Player of the Year award. With the weapons he has, it is almost impossible for any quarterback to not win.
2. Jamaal Charles: Charles has no problems sharing the backfield with another player. Even though he finished second on the team in carries in 2010, it did not stop him from finishing second in the league in rushing yards. Expect him to compete against his own teammate, Cassel, for the award.
3. Eric Berry: If Berry and the rest of the defensive backs stay healthy, the Chiefs might create more turnovers with Berry's presence. It will show how important he is to Kansas City's defense, making him a candidate for the award.
4. Peyton Hillis: Hillis may not reach the 1,000-yard mark. It will be close. But as long as he stays consistent and has a high yards-per-carry average, it will help the Chiefs offense.
5. Tony Moeaki: Moeaki will have to take it slow, and a two-tight end set with Boss might not allow him to have as many catches. But it will help him stay on the field for more games rather than being in the trainer's office.