In its barest form, a training camp is a problem-solving obstacle course. Coaches dictate experiments, the preseason adds random variables, and theories are deduced from the outcome(s). Simple science. It's only natural that the events are barraged with shrug-worthy doubts and anxious curiosity.
Kansas City's 2012 squad is no exception. The team features more story lines than a Lost marathon.
As the Chiefs march onto the practice field, five questions will loom overhead:
1. How are players adjusting to new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll?
Out with the old, in the new: a different brain behind the offensive operation, a renovated playbook to dissect and a slew of foreign terminology to memorize.
Following the retirement of Bill Muir—Kansas City's 2011 offensive coordinator—Romeo Crennel hired a familiar face as the replacement: Brian Daboll.
Daboll isn't a household name but shares ties with the Chiefs family—namely Romeo Crennel, Peyton Hillis and Brady Quinn.
The good news? In 2010, Hillis was elected to the Pro Bowl under the guidance of Daboll.
The bad news? Within the same season, the Cleveland Browns finished 31st throughout the league in points scored.
However, fans should breathe an optimistic sigh of relief. Unsurprisingly, the play-caller's brief 2011 stint in South Beach yielded more sufficient results; a Matt Moore-led Dolphins offense finished 20th in points.
Brian Daboll isn't an architect that will build mountains from molehills. He simply takes the cards he's dealt and plays them appropriately. If the trend holds true, the Chiefs offense should revert back to its 2010 form, and Kansas City will reclaim the throne as kings of the AFC West.
2. Will Dwayne Bowe be present on the first day of training camp?
This offseason, markers impetuously circled one date throughout calendars in the Kansas City area: July 16—the final day to sign franchise players to long-term contracts.
En route to last Monday, updates evolved into hollow echoes of the week before, and the negotiations rang with less optimism than those of Allen Gamble.
Ultimately, the Chiefs' leading receiver didn't become wealthy but remained rich—there's a difference, ask Chris Rock. Until the wideout inks another contract with the team, his financial interest will continue to accrue on Kansas City's tab. Otherwise, the "D-Bowe Show" will eventually become a 32-city, nationwide tour.
However, the Arrowhead faithful should expect to see No. 82 grace the field at the beginning of training camp (July 27). But if the aerial asset is in attendance, a wave of questions will converge at his locker.
Will it be his last training camp with the Kansas City Chiefs?
Bowe knows football, but will he digest the offense in time for the season opener?
Only time will have the final say.
3. Do players still show lingering effects of their 2011 ACL injuries?
In 2010, a relatively healthy Kansas City team was crowned atop of its division. An injury-plagued squad concluded 2011 as the AFC West bottom-dwellers.
A Game of Thrones regressed into a game of thorns.
What a difference a year makes.
A crop of budding NFL stars—namely Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry and Tony Moeaki—suffered ACL injuries. Although the trio were victimized by the notorious injury early in the season, expectations will be difficult to gauge until pads collide.
4. How well is Dontari Poe adapting to Romeo Crennel's 3-4 defense?
When the commissioner announced Kansas City's first-round pick, it was enveloped in skepticism.
Dontari Poe is the 2012 NFL Draft's most puzzling riddle, and Romeo Crennel is tasked with solving it.
The defensive tackle will transition from Memphis' 4-3 scheme into Kansas City's two-gap 3-4. In other words, less assistance, more decision-making and an unprecedented level of responsibility.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Poe passed every test with flying colors. But on-field, he missed assignments, rendering his game-day portfolio unimpressive.
If Coach Crennel can successfully fit the 346-pounder's salvaged parts into his defensive scheme, the Chiefs have a legitimate shot at becoming a top-tier defense.
5. Is Rodney Hudson transitioning comfortably into the starting center role?
Center Casey Wiegmann endured 11 years of trench warfare in the NFL—eight of which occurred in Kansas City. He was the familiar anchor that once shielded Trent Green and eventually secured Matt Cassel.
Now that Wiegmann has journeyed into retirement, second-year center Rodney Hudson will snatch the reins. According to ESPN's Bill Williamson, Hudson has converted Matt Cassel into a believer:
He’s done a great job adjusting so far and he’s been handling a lot of calls up front, and he’s done a great job recognizing front and blitzes and doing all that, so like I said, he’s caught up to speed right now and I expect good things from him. I think it was a great year for him to be able to learn from such a professional like Casey.
If Cassel's impressions hold weight, the Chiefs have found their new starting center.
July 27 marks the passing of two torches: one in London and another in St. Joseph, Missouri.