This NFL offseason is far removed from last year’s edition. There is no lockout to detract from the draft, free agency or organized team activities. As a result, players and teams are better prepared for the rigors of the upcoming season.
The Kansas City Chiefs are just one of the teams glad there is normalcy again.
Team management let the lockout set the tone for their very forgettable 2011 season. The coaching staff and players came in ill-prepared, which led to injuries and ultimately cost head coach Todd Haley his job.
Most teams would fail to tread water after losing their starting running back, tight end, safety and quarterback. And general manager Scott Pioli was still trying to get his feet wet in Kansas City himself. As a result, the Chiefs suffered from a lack of depth and ultimately missed out on a return trip to the playoffs because of it.
Entering his fourth season with the Chiefs, Pioli was the architect of one of the best offseasons in recent memory for Kansas City. Players added via free agency and the draft will fill specific voids either as starters or as primary reserves. It seems there was logic behind every move the team made in preparation for the 2012 season.
However, nothing is perfect, and with limited resources and other various roadblocks, the Chiefs’ roster still has areas that need improvement. However, with training camp right around the corner, the deficiencies will shine through sooner rather than later.
Here are the three biggest trouble spots for the Chiefs heading into the 2012 season.
The Kansas City Chiefs have made one singular attempt at drafting a franchise quarterback, selecting Todd Blackledge with the seventh overall pick in the 1983 NFL draft.
The move turned out to be the biggest draft mistake in franchise history and a major source of trepidation, leading to the team’s proclivity towards employing recycled hands at the position.
Trading for Matt Cassel was Scott Pioli’s first move upon arriving in Kansas City. Coming off a year in which he replaced Tom Brady (knee injury) as the New England Patriots starter, Cassel was considered the next big thing.
After three seasons, Cassel’s time in Kansas City can only be given an incomplete grade. It seems the city is torn on whether he is the right man for the job going forward or if the Chiefs need to start looking in a different direction.
After the Chiefs' failed attempt to sign Peyton Manning this offseason, Cassel will again lead the team into the 2012 season. With an improved offensive line and group of weapons to throw to, he should be able to hold down the fort under center.
However, if Cassel were to go down for an extended period of time, backups Ricky Stanzi and Brady Quinn do not have the talent or experience to lead the Chiefs to the playoffs, let alone an extended run through the postseason—something the Kansas City fanbase desperately needs.
The Kansas City Chiefs' biggest offensive move came in the form of former Houston Texans right tackle Eric Winston, finally putting to rest the failed Barry Richardson project.
The addition of Winston not only gives the Chiefs one of the better starting offensive tackle combinations in the league—playing opposite of Branden Albert—it turns what was once a subpar unit into a strength for a team that will pride itself on running the football and controlling the line of scrimmage.
Scouring the NFL, it will be tough to find a better starting group than Albert, Winston, guards Jon Asamoah and Ryan Lilja and center Rodney Hudson.
While the Chiefs used free agency to fill one of their biggest needs at right tackle, the draft provided long-term depth across the offensive line. However, with an already young starting five, having rookies Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson as the primary backups has the potential to backfire if an injury or two occurs.
Since moving to the 3-4 defense prior to the 2009 season, the Kansas City Chiefs have had a hard time gathering any production from the defensive line.
Despite being chosen near the top of the draft, Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson have yet to really show much in the way of being stars in the NFL—although there is still time to prove they belong. However, some of the blame must fall on the Chiefs’ inability to scout the position as it relates to their defensive scheme.
Their failure to spot and develop talent at the position notwithstanding, the Chiefs again decided to use their first-round pick on a defensive lineman at this year’s draft.
Bringing Dontari Poe into the mix will either catapult the Chiefs defense into being one of the best in the league, or it will blow up in their face, a la Ryan Sims.
Dorsey and Jackson have shown slight improvement during their short time in the NFL, but a more reliable veteran presence at nose tackle for Poe to learn under would have suited the Chiefs much better.
While there is enough talent in the linebacking unit and the secondary to mask any deficiencies from the defensive line, having such a young group in the trenches could prevent the Chiefs from taking the next step as a team.