The Kansas City Chiefs 2012 depth chart is fairly predictable heading into training camp. Scott Pioli's past depth perception has appeared short-sighted, but the roster's current makeup proves that hindsight is 20/20.
Last season, a sizable portion of Kansas City's second-stringers deserved to be cut. The roster listed running backs that interpreted their title literally, safeties that posed risks and tight ends resembling loose ends.
During the 2010 playoff run, the production from familiar names was off the chart. In 2011, the same names were off the chart, literally, due to a contagious injury bug with an unhealthy appetite.
This offseason, Pioli signed a moderate amount of potential starters, but his primary interest was restocking the refreshments.
Kansas City's lackadaisical attitude toward replacements has bitten the team in recent seasons. While bad apples grow on trees, money doesn't.
Following some spring cleaning, the Chiefs depth chart appears as sharp as an arrowhead.
Annually, the free-agent market is flooded with players of all shapes and sizes. Select names will produce larger splashes than their gridiron counterparts.
When the Indianapolis Colts released Peyton Manning, a River Monsters-sized Big Kahuna bellyflopped into the pond. Kansas City head coach Romeo Crennel swiftly cast his rod and attempted to lure the quarterback, stating, “with a talent like [Peyton Manning], I would be crazy not to consider [signing him] if he were available.” (h/t Judy Battista)
Manning didn't take the bait.
Kyle Orton—who authored a three-game finale for the Chiefs last season—packed his bags for Dallas this offseason.
Kansas City was left in the dust and cleared the air of quarterback controversy with the signing of backup Brady Quinn.
By pursuing Manning, the Chiefs made a statement that surely reverberated between the ears of Matt Cassel. Although Cassel's contract was extended until 2014, it was front-loaded, which makes the quarterback potential trade bait following the season.
The aforementioned events imply that No. 7 is on a short leash in 2012; if he chokes, the Chiefs will likely test free agent waters next offseason.
In 2011, a haunting three-week collage of ACL tears proved to be the Achilles' heel of Kansas City.
Fans winced as the injury victimized Tony Moeaki, Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles: three critical building blocks of a youthful Chiefs foundation.
A deteriorating Thomas Jones posted a career-low 3.1 yards per carry (YPC). Jackie Battle's broad shoulders carried the workload and managed four yards per attempt. The versatile Dexter McCluster led the trio with 4.5 YPC, but he was underutilized in the ground game due to his fragile frame.
Kansas City signed a barbaric bulldozer in Peyton Hillis this offseason. With crossed fingers, everyone in Kansas City hopes he reverts to his All-Pro 2010 form; but even if those wishes materialize, Hillis only signifies a bright spot within the looming shadow of Jamaal Charles.
Let's put No. 25's offensive significance into context.
Charles averaged 6.38 yards per carry in 2010. Quarterback, Matt Cassel, averaged 6.37 yards per completion during the same season.
In short, Charles' wheels turn predators into roadkill. He mocks speed with Mach speed.
But will the injury metamorphose the fleet-footed burner into a shell of his former self?
If his personal tweets are any indication, don't bet on it:
I don't know if its good or bad but I feel like I'm still the fastest 🏃🏃🏃on my team after my ACL surgery... "TRUE"- 2 Chainz🎶🎶🎶— Jamaal Charles (@jcharles25) May 27, 2012
Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin bolster one of the NFL's most promising receiving corps.
Last year, the passing game was marred by long-lasting injuries to Baldwin and quarterback Matt Cassel. However, healthy recoveries for the two—along with the respected rushing threat of Jamaal Charles—should translate into a persistent aerial attack.
Bowe and Baldwin's grueling physicality offers a stark contrast to the elusive Dexter McCluster, Steve Breaston and newcomer Devon Wylie.
While Baldwin will likely begin training camp as the third receiver, he shows flashes of primetime potential.
Last year's first-round pick may easily start opposite of Bowe by the end of his sophomore campaign.
In his first season with Kansas City, Steve Breaston snatched 61 passes from the air. He's a reliable alternative to Dwayne Bowe who consistently showcases a relentless will.
Devon Wylie, a rookie hailing from Fresno State, will split time with fellow speedster Dexter McCluster in the slot.
While the duo provides redlining speed, Wylie also possesses ankle-breaking agility that's second to none.
Unlike McCluster, his familiarity of the position stems back to collegiate roots.
Detoured by a season-ending ACL injury, Tony Moeaki will look to redirect his footsteps on 2010's path of success.
Following renowned tight end Tony Gonzalez, Moeaki proved that there's room for another Tony in Kansas City's history book.
In his rookie season, Moeaki accumulated 14 more receptions (47) and 188 more yards (556) than the aforementioned legend.
The addition of ex-Raiders tight end Kevin Boss will also provide another target and offer much-needed depth at the position.
Following Brian Waters' departure for New England, Branden Albert has represented the Chiefs most dominating presence on the offensive line.
Drafted in 2008, Albert has illustrated Pro Bowl potential against several revered foes. However, the left tackle's consistency has yet to parallel his talent.
Although Albert has only been sidelined in four career games, he frequently battles a host of nagging injuries year-to-year.
If Matt Cassel's head of security remains healthy through 2012, Branden Albert may finally begin to discover the ceiling of his potential.
Two seasons ago, the Kansas City Chiefs two-headed backfield monster of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones terrorized defenses.
While the pair of rushing juggernauts were the center of headlines, a formidable Ryan Lilja fortified the middle of the attack.
Kansas City's vaunted ground assault led the league by averaging 164.2 yards per game in 2010.
If the Chiefs hope to mimic the preceding statistics, the majority of pushes will occur on the left side of their trenches.
Rodney Hudson, a second-year lineman from Florida State, will anchor the Chiefs offensive line.
On the cusp of retirement, longtime Kansas City center Casey Wiegmann has passed the torch onto No. 61.
Predominately surrounded by skillful veterans—as well as a budding Jon Asamoah—the line's chemistry shouldn't be diluted by Hudson's lack of experience.
As ESPN's Bill Williamson reports, the likely first-year starter has impressed Coach Crennel during OTAs:
“It looks like he’s doing a nice job of [transitioning] because he’s been asked to [identify] the [middle linebacker] and re-ID on front. He seems to be handling that pretty well. I think that group is working well together. I think that they’re developing that chemistry that you want on your offensive line. So, he’s doing well.”
If Crennel's critique is indicative of the center's play in the future, Hudson's transition shouldn't blemish an otherwise solid line.
In his third season, right guard Jon Asamoah will look to continue his trend of constant improvement.
The 305-pound tank will be the beneficiary of newly signed Eric Winston, a right tackle on the verge of perennial greatness.
Asamoah's upside is virtually unlimited, but respect is a branch of consistency in the NFL.
If cohort Rodney Hudson sufficiently progresses alongside Asamoah, the tandem could be the key to solving last year's riddling woes up front.
Three of Kansas City's offseason acquisitions frequently have graced recent headlines: Stanford Routt, Peyton Hillis and rookie Dontari Poe.
However, right tackle Eric Winston is the team's most critical signing, bar none.
Annually, the depth chart is released and fans' fingers descend down the list. Then, a pause at right tackle abruptly halts the progression: "Who?"
Since John Tait booked a one-way flight to the Windy City, a whirlwind of confusion has encircled the position.
Ryan O'Callaghan represented a 6'7" tree while lining up, but he portrayed the same after the ball was snapped.
Barry Richardson's play was nearly indescribable at times throughout his headache-inducing tenure. At points, he looked like Urkel trying to restrain an American Gladiator after a "yo mama" joke.
Eric Winston symbolizes a Pro Bowl-caliber solution. Finally.
In the span of 44 games through three seasons, Tyson Jackson has been the relentlessly imposing culprit of...two sacks.
Basically, if you patiently wait for a season-and-a-half, you're due for a quarterback takedown sponsored by highly touted Tyson Jackson.
Perspective: Jackson was selected 68 spots earlier than Oakland defensive end Matt Shaughnessy (71st overall). Shaughnessy has participated in nine less games, but he has 10 more sacks.
Jackson is signed through the 2013 season, but make no mistake: If production echoes its precedents, this year will be a final audition to retain his starting job.
Dontari Poe is a 346-pound, modern-day Tim "The Toolman" Taylor: He possesses every tool to succeed but fails when the cameras roll.
He embodies an arsenal of weapons that have never been sharpened; he's raw.
Poe's career numbers at a bottom-of-the-barrel Memphis program told the tale of an underachiever. However, his combine numbers enforced the notion that there are two sides to every story.
Dontari Poe is attempting to build a legacy, but he was never given the blueprint.
However, if there's a defensive coach who can construct a masterpiece from salvaged parts, it's Romeo Crennel.
Dorsey deserved the praise considering how astounding his collegiate career at LSU was. Scott Pioli followed Kiper's hype-train of thought, but it's on the brink of derailment four years later.
For unknown reasons, the defensive end's skill set hasn't smoothly acclimated to the NFL.
Perhaps a ballooned ego has resulted from the hot air supporting it, but it's about to bust.
Although Dorsey has recently developed the reputation of an avid run-stuffer, fifth-overall picks aren't drafted to be one-dimensional.
Since Carl Peterson shouted, "Bon voyage!" to Jared Allen, Arrowhead Stadium has moonlighted as a graveyard for defensive linemen. Although Glenn Dorsey has already shoveled a shallow grave, it's not too late for him to resurrect his intimidating collegiate demeanor.
The Chiefs' pass rush consists of a one-two punch: Justin Houston and Tamba Hali.
Despite lackluster production from its drafted defensive ends, Kansas City's recent track record in scouting linebackers has been impeccable.
Justin Houston appears to be the latest successful iteration.
In 2011, his rookie campaign concluded with 5.5 sacks, ranking second on the team.
Hali's partner in crime looks poised to have a breakout season in 2012.
Brandon Siler left San Diego to potentially challenge Jovan Belcher for his starting position.
However, the script was rewritten after a preseason Achilles' tear forced a plot twist.
Heading to training camp, Belcher will undoubtedly edge out his competition. But in a linebacking corps comprised of two All-Pros and a second-year shooting star, Belcher's mediocrity is amplified.
He's serviceable, but average goods have a short shelf-life in the National Football League.
Derrick Johnson earned a 2011 Pro Bowl invitation after eclipsing the triple-digit tackle mark with 104.
The eight-year veteran is a jack of all trades who continually excels in diverse situations. He pressures the quarterback, infiltrates run blocking and lingers like a ball hawk in pass coverage.
Simply put, Derrick Johnson is as well-rounded as a circle. Targeting him frequently backfires.
If the University of Texas product replicates last season's tenacity, Johnson will bid farewell to Kansas City's brisk January air for the arresting scenery of Hawaii.
Tamba Hali's visor-friendly helmet looks like a RoboCop-inspired prototype with an athletic twist. But in terms of fear, its owner may be more threatening than the 90s action icon.
Throughout the past two years, Hali has claimed 26.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles. He's the nightmare offensive coordinators circle and left tackles dread.
Under No. 91's jersey lies an uncompromising motor that relies on electricity when running on fumes.
The paranoia-provoking All-Pro belongs to a small defensive fraternity of game-changing playmakers.
Brandon Flowers is one of the few distinguished shutdown corners in today's league.
He prowls the outskirts of the field and dispels any myths regarding cornerbacks' reluctance to tackle. The respected corner's 5'10", 190-pound frame doesn't initially strike fear, but overconfident ball-carriers commonly get rattled quicker than a Texas diamondback.
If given the choice, quarterbacks will elect to test the opposing corner 10 times out of 10. And for good reason: Flowers has accounted for a pick-six in three of his four years.
If past play foreshadows the future, a Pro Bowl nod won't be a matter of "if," but "when."
Kendrick Lewis has already exceeded the expectations within the organization. Despite infrequent help from a lackluster pass rush, Lewis shined in his second season.
The free safety netted three interceptions (one for a touchdown), alongside a forced fumble and recovery.
While Eric Berry's absence dented the secondary, Kansas City still managed to finish sixth overall in passing yards allowed.
A healthy Eric Berry and emerging Kendrick Lewis will provide a lengthy security blanket in the backend of Kansas City's secondary.
Eric Berry frequently draws comparisons to Ed Reed, who is hailed as one of the most talented safeties to ever roam the gridiron.
He flashes unique speed for a safety and transforms into a human highlight when his hands grasp the ball.
However, his pass coverage is a mere supplement to his signature cobweb-clearing hits.
Eric Berry's statistics should replace the word "tackles" with "punishments."
He locks onto targets like a guided missile, then unconsciously charges like a bull that sees red; subsequently, his victims literally see red but in the form of an ill-intentioned blur.
Firsthand witnesses, including Knowshon Moreno and Marquis Maze, will assuredly vouch for Berry's remorseless mentality.
At the University of Tennessee, Berry cranked the former's head like an unsuspecting Rock 'Em Sock 'Em robot. In another act of cruelty, No. 29 caused a mid-air 360 that simultaneously knocked Maze back three yards.
In a nutshell, Eric Berry is the reason why padding is mandatory.
Former Oakland defender, Stanford Routt, will occupy the vacant cornerback slot left by Brandon Carr.
Routt's 2011 season concluded with four interceptions and 15 pass deflections. The eighth-year corner compensates for any mistakes with a defender's ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card: speed.
During his 2005 draft workouts, Routt reportedly clocked in with a record-contending 4.27-second 40-yard dash.
In other words, the guy could mock cheetahs in a game of tag.
With the added assistance of nickelback Javier Arenas, Kansas City's cornerbacks present an uncommon trio of aggressive, in-your-face defenders.
If quarterbacks attempt to throw the Chiefs' secondary for a loop, they'll be on the receiving end of their own downward spiral.