Kansas City Chiefs: Players with High Expectations Who Could Disappoint in 2012
The Kansas City Chiefs come with mixed reviews as they enter the 2012 season. Some feel that they are a dark horse Super Bowl contender, while others see the Chiefs as a middling team whose realistic expectations hover near the .500 mark.
While it is difficult to gauge now, the Chiefs might be the one of the biggest question marks in the NFL.
An awful 2009 season, followed by an AFC West title in 2010, gave the team high hopes in 2011. But Murphy’s Law battered the Chiefs in the form of injuries and an ill-prepared coaching staff.
Though the Chiefs did manage to scrounge together seven wins and fall short of repeating as division champs by a couple of blocked field goals in a Week 16 loss to the Oakland Raiders, the 2012 season should still come with tempered expectations.
Running back Jamaal Charles, safety Eric Berry, tight end Tony Moeaki and quarterback Matt Cassel return from injury. Right tackle Eric Winston, tight end Kevin Boss, cornerback Stanford Routt and running back Peyton Hillis were plucked from free agency. And Dontari Poe was drafted to become the savior of the Chiefs’ defensive line woes.
If the 2010 season is to be the norm going forward, the Chiefs will need their anchors to deliver. If not, the 2012 will also be one to forget.
Here are five players with high expectations who could disappoint this season.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
The Kansas City Chiefs will go as quarterback Matt Cassel goes during the 2012 season. His overall production during his three seasons in Kansas City has been an accurate mirror image of the team’s final standings.
If the Chiefs are to indeed put last season in the rear-view mirror for good, Cassel is the most important figure in that charge.
With an improved offensive line and group of weapons compared to his 2010 season (his best by far with the Chiefs), it is pretty safe to assume Cassel can at least produce at that level again, right? If not, a long football season is in store for the Chiefs organization and its fans.
With so much riding on his shoulders and with him being set up for so much success, Cassel’s time is now. Anything less than another division title and possibly a victory in the playoffs could result in his days being numbered as a Chief.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Outside linebacker Justin Houston came into the 2011 season as a rookie with literally zero expectations.
Once considered a first-round talent coming out of the University of Georgia, Houston saw his stock slip after testing positive for marijuana at the combine. The Kansas City Chiefs were there to swoop him up in the third round.
After a slow start to the season, Houston went on to record 5.5 sacks during the final five games. With one full season to get acclimated to the NFL, the expectations of his on-field productivity are now in the spotlight.
Playing opposite of premier pass-rusher Tamba Hali will open up many opportunities for Houston to get to the quarterback. And with head coach Romeo Crennel’s defensive pedigree, there is no reason he can’t pick up where he left off last year.
However, if Houston isn’t able to take advantage of his opportunities, maybe there was more to him falling out of the first round than just a positive drug test?
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Wide receiver Jon Baldwin gets a self-induced mulligan for his 2011 rookie season.
After breaking his wrist during a fight with running back Thomas Jones, Baldwin played in only 11 games. Despite showing some flashes, there was a lot left to be desired of Baldwin’s play on the field.
The intent behind the Kansas City Chiefs using their first-round pick last year on a wideout is unknown. But with Dwayne Bowe’s long-term future up in the air, Baldwin needs to prove that he can step in as the No. 1 target if/when Bowe’s time as a Chief expires.
Though Baldwin should enter the season just behind Bowe on the depth chart, the Chiefs have plenty of other weapons to help temper any pressure Baldwin will put on himself following his rookie year. But if he isn’t able to make legitimate strides on the field, Kansas City might find itself starting over at the wide receiver position come 2013.
Kyle Rivas/Getty Images
Though the Kansas City Chiefs defense made strides last year—especially after Romeo Crennel took over as head coach prior to Week 15—their 3-4 defense still lacked the consistent push it requires to become a dominant force in the NFL.
Enter rookie defensive tackle Dontari Poe.
Not only does Poe enter the league with the pressures of being labeled a workout warrior after an off-the-charts showing at the combine, he is also expected to be the final piece to put the Chiefs’ defense over the top.
Not his fault, but Poe will have a short leash from Chiefs fans given the team’s recent inability to draft and develop players across the defensive line.
Gauging success from the nose tackle position is difficult. But if Poe is unable to live up the billing of being the 11th overall pick, it could have a huge impact on the Chiefs’ chances of taking back the AFC West title from the Denver Broncos.
Peter Aiken/Getty Images
While expectations for a player coming off of a torn ACL are usually tempered—especially for a running back—Jamaal Charles will have had a full year to recover and is very important to the Kansas City Chiefs’ plans in 2012.
The Chiefs are better equipped to handle injuries up and down the roster this year with the added depth that general manager Scott Pioli was able to lure in during free agency and at the draft. But if Charles isn’t quite ready to shoulder his normal load or just isn’t as effective as he once was, there isn’t anyone in the league that can replace his value to the team.
Charles is used to sharing the backfield. With Peyton Hillis a younger and hungrier version of Thomas Jones, the Chiefs running game should be able to return to top form.
However, it may take a bit of time for Charles to get back into the groove of things. So, while he may be the best running back on the team, Chiefs fans will need to be patient with how this situation is handled and possibly accept that Charles might never be the same.