Kansas City Chiefs: Most Positive Developments of the Offseason
With most of the offseason in the books, the next step for the Kansas City Chiefs is to translate all of that hard work onto the field in preparation for 2012.
Coming off a forgettable 2011 season in which they started out historically bad, lost key players to injuries, fell victim to a lame-duck head coach and still only missed the playoffs by one game, the Chiefs are ready to put last year in the rear-view mirror.
From a fan perspective, it's easy to criticize a process that hasn't produced results synonymous with a winning organization. However, now in his fourth season as general manager, Scott Pioli is in a position to help the Chiefs turn the corner in the AFC.
Here are some of the more positive developments this offseason for the Chiefs.
Clean Bill of Health
No team in the NFL could survive without its starting running back, safety, quarterback and tight end missing for most of the season due to injury.
The training room was active for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011, starting in the preseason with Tony Moeaki tearing his ACL. This continued into the regular season with the same injury to Eric Berry in Week 1 and Jamaal Charles in Week 2.
With Matt Cassel making his final appearance in Week 9, it was remarkable that the team stayed as competitive as they did until the final week of the season.
The coaches will play it safe leading up to the opening kickoff, but all four players are expected to retake their roles prior to the injuries.
Potential Emergence of Jon Baldwin and Justin Houston
The rookie seasons for wide receiver Jon Baldwin and outside linebacker Justin Houston were less-than-ideal.
Both showed flashes, but there was much left to be desired on the field.
Baldwin's altercation with teammate Thomas Jones in the preseason (resulting in a broken wrist) severely stunted his growth. Missing all that time prevented him from catching on with the offense and getting his timing down with quarterback Matt Cassel.
Once considered a first-round talent, Justin Houston slipped to the Chiefs in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft after testing positive for marijuana at the combine. His talent was never questioned, and after starting out slow, Houston recorded 5.5 sacks in the final five games of last season.
Assuming Dwayne Bowe signs his franchise tender to play in the 2012 season, both Baldwin and Houston (playing opposite of Tamba Hali) will have the luxury of continuing to learn from two of the best players at their respective positions without the pressures that come with being a rookie in the NFL.
Personnel and Player Acquisitions
The 2011 season shed some light on some of the more apparent deficiencies in the Kansas City Chiefs organization.
Firstly, Todd Haley definitely wasn't the answer at head coach. Secondly, the team lacked depth and talent at key positions to endure success in the postseason.
Coming off a 10-6 season in 2010, Haley was celebrated by fans and the organization for the job he did in leading the Chiefs.
However, his fortunes couldn't have changed any more in 2011. Haley was let go prior to Week 15 after apparently losing interest and making some questionable personnel moves.
For example, his decision to continue to start Tyler Palko at quarterback instead of newly acquired Kyle Orton or seeing what the team had with rookie Ricky Stanzi.
Enter Romeo Crennel, who led the Chiefs to a 2-1 record in the final three games of the season.
A branch from the New England Patriots coaching tree, Crennel is getting a second shot at being a head coach in the NFL after a stint with the Cleveland Browns. Placing a premium on the defensive side of the ball, the Chiefs only allowed 30 points during Crennel's three-game audition to be the next head coach.
The Chiefs also brought in coordinator Brian Daboll to direct the offense.
The biggest reason the Chiefs' season transpired the way it did was because of injuries to Tony Moeaki, Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles and Matt Cassel. The lack of depth at tight end, safety, running back and quarterback ultimately cost the organization back-to-back AFC West titles.
Scott Pioli made it a point this offseason to not only add depth at key positions on the roster, but also bring in starters at spots that desperately needed an upgrade.
Some of the more notable signings were right tackle Eric Winston, running back Peyton Hillis, cornerback Stanford Routt, tight end Kevin Boss and quarterback Brady Quinn.
While it is common to have a gap in talent behind the team's starters, the Chiefs are in a much better position in 2012 for that drop-off to not be so severe.
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