The Kansas City Chiefs are a team that fell woefully short of expectations in 2011.
A division crown the previous year meant that hopes were high, but when three marquee players went down with season-ending injuries, a downward spiral began.
The Chiefs were anemic on offense, and generous on defense.
In 2012, there is a new coach in Romeo Crennel, and fans are hoping that his calming influence will help lead the team to the playoffs once again.
The roster is young and in excellent shape. There is a set of highly talented skill players on offense that include Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe. Defensively, All-Pro stars like Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson are leading a vastly improving unit.
The only lingering question mark that remains is at quarterback. Matt Cassel has not played to the level of his contract, and fans are anxious for a winning player at the position.
Pieces are in place for this team to win now, but it remains to be seen if they can make a deep playoff run.
The Chiefs did not offer many surprises during the first round of cuts this season, and many of the players cut were rookie free agents.
Starting fullback Shane Bannon might be considered a shocking cut, but new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll does not place a lot of value in the position.
Overall, the Chiefs are a talented team. There are a number of players who will find some work elsewhere soon.
FB Shane Bannon
The former Yale fullback battled injury during his entire tenure in Kansas City. It will be tough for Bannon to find NFL work, considering he could not lock down a spot in an offense that places little value on the fullback position.
TE Tim Biere
Hometown favorite Tim Biere has played well in camp, but the blocking of fellow tight end Steve Maneri made it difficult for Biere to catch on. The Chiefs will likely not be carrying a true fullback, so Maneri will be used in some sets for his blocking prowess. This made Biere expendable.
LB Caleb Campbell
One of the greater stories in league history is the service that Caleb Campbell provided for his country as a West point graduate. Unfortunately, Campbell came into camp as a long shot to make the team, and was one of the first cuts.
OL Justin Cheadle
Justin Cheadle has a quality pedigree and won All PAC-12 honorable mention honors while he was at Cal. He has a solid chance to become an NFL player in the future.
DB Dominique Ellis
A victim of a loaded Chiefs secondary, Dominique Ellis was in a uphill climb from the jump. He was fighting the likes of established veterans in Javier Arenas and Travis Daniels for a depth spot.
DB Jean Fanor
Another depth causality. Fanor is a small school guy who was battling for a spot in a talented secondary.
LB Dexter Heyman
This is position the Chiefs have been trying to improve on lately, but the squad seems set with going into the season with Jovan Belcher and Brandon Siler next to All-Pro Derrick Johnson at inside linebacker.
C Cam Holland
He got some good reviews in camp and Cam Holland has a great chance of catching one somewhere. Maybe he will sneak back on the Chiefs practice squad in a few weeks.
WR Jeremy Horne
Horne is a receiver with all of the physical tools to become a solid contributor in the NFL, but he has failed to develop his skills. Horne is likely to catch on with a wideout hungry team soon.
DE Ethan Johnson
The rookie free agent was injured and didn't even participate in a Pro Day this year, but he ended up signing with the Chiefs anyway. Johnson has the physical attributes to contribute somewhere.
WR Brandon Kinnie
Brandon Kinnie is another local product that was looking to find a home amongst the talented Kansas City receivers, but the spots were all but locked up.
WE Zeke Markshausen
Zeke Markshausen is one of those guys you simply love to root for, but the Chiefs are ridiculously loaded at receiver. Markshausen was a standout at Northwestern. He shattered some school records there, and he might catch on with somebody's practice squad.
K Matt Szymanski
Matt Szymanski has a huge leg, and was brought into camp as an extra kicker. Szymanski has the skill to make a team in the future, but he was victim to the quality legs that reside at Arrowhead.
WR Aaron Weaver
At 220 pounds, Weaver is a big target that was unable to find adequate time to showcase his talent. Weaver has the size and skill set for some team to take a flier on him.
8/27/2012 The Chiefs cut 14 players to get down to the 70-man minimum. The players cut include Brandon Kinnie, Tim Biere Shane Bannon, Dexter Heyman, Caleb Canpbell, Justin Cheadle, Cam Holland, Dominique Elliis, Jean Fanor, Ethan Johnson, Zeke Markshausen, Aaron Weaver, and Matt Szymanski.
8/2/2012: The Chiefs signed Patrick DiMarco. DiMarco is now the only healthy fullback on the roster.
7/31/2012: Kansas City cut running back Taylor Gentry, after he failed to complete the team's physical.
QB (4) - Matt Cassel, Ricky Stanzi, Brady Quinn, Alex Tanney
RB (6) - Jamaal Charles, Peyton Hillis, Cyrus Gray, Dexter McCluster, Shaun Draughn, Nate Eachus
FB (1) - Patrick DiMarco
TE (5) - Tony Moeaki, Kevin Boss, Jake O'Connell, Steve Maneri,
WR (11) - Dwayne Bowe, Jonathan Baldwin, Steve Breaston, Devon Wylie, Terrance Copper, Junior Hemingway, Josh Bellamy, Jamar Newsome
LT (3) - Branden Albert, Donald Stephenson, Ray Willis
LG (2) - Ryan Lilja, Jeff Allen
C (2) - Rodney Hudson, Robb Bruggeman
RG (2) - Jon Asamoah, Darryl Harris
RT (2) - Eric Winston, David Mims
DE (4) - Tyson Jackson, Allen Bailey, Brandon Bair, Luke Patterson
NT (3) - Dontari Poe, Jerrell Powe, Anthony Toribio
DE (4) - Glenn Dorsey, Amon Gordon, Ropati Pitoitua, Jerome Long
OLB (4) - Justin Houston, Andy Studebaker, Gabe Miller, Edgar Jones
ILB (2) - Derrick Johnson, Cory Greenwood,
ILB (2) - Jovan Belcher, Brandon Siler
OLB (2) - Tamba Hali, Cameron Sheffield,
CB (4) - Brandon Flowers, Javier Arenas, Travis Daniels, Chandler Fenner
CB (4) - Stanford Routt, Jalil Brown, DeQuan Menzie, Jacques Reeves
SS (2) - Eric Berry, Donald Washington
FS (2) - Kendrick Lewis, Neiko Thorpe
KR (3) - Dexter McCluster, Javier Arenas, Devon Wylie
PR (3) - Javier Arenas, Dexter McCluster, Devon Wylie
K (1) - Ryan Succop,
P (1) - Dustin Colquitt
LS (1) - Thomas Gafford
Nate Eachus could very well be a victim of the numbers game. With Jamaal Charles' health improving, there might not be enough carries to go around. Eachus would likely be the first to go.
When Dwayne Bowe returns from his holdout, the Chiefs will become a very deep team at receiver. Brandon Kinnie, Zeke Markshausen, Jamar Newsome and some others will be fighting for catches, and possibly a roster spot.
Jacques Reeves might also be a depth casualty as cap rolls on, seeing how Kansas City is set in their first four spots at cornerback.
Kansas City cut fullback Taylor Gentry after he failed to complete the team's physical. Coach Romeo Crennel would not get into details about his condition.
Chiefs tackle Tony Ugoh has decided to retire. The team was hoping that Ugoh could be a valuable swing tackle and add some much-needed depth to the offensive line.
QBs on roster: Matt Cassel, Ricky Stanzi, Alex Tanney, Brady Quinn
Projected starter: Cassel
Offseason additions: Quinn, Tanney
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Cassel, Stanzi, Quinn
There is no doubt that Cassel will be the starter in 2012. General manager Scott Pioli brought in the former USC product to be the guy, and the results have been mixed.
Cassel had a career year in 2010, while throwing for 27 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. His play outside of that season has been mediocre at best. He has struggled against quality opponents and played horribly in the Kansas City's last playoff loss against Baltimore.
To be fair, Cassel has had a bit of bad luck during his tenure as starter. A freak hand injury in 2011, an emergency appendectomy in 2010 and a host of different offensive schemes to work with may have hampered Cassel's development.
It may be humorous to say for a 30-year-old quarterback, but this is the season where Cassel has to prove himself as a quality NFL starter.
The only real question about this group is who will back up Cassel.
The Chiefs drafted Stanzi last year in the fifth round, and Pioli has high hopes for him. He will battle Brady Quinn for the No. 2 spot, and the two have been splitting reps with the first team thus far.
Stanzi has become somewhat of a folk hero for fans, and some even say he should start over Cassel. Quinn has some insider knowledge on his side. He worked with new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll during his time in Cleveland.
The winner of this competition is truly a toss-up. With the obvious support of the GM and fans, it looks like Stanzi will get the nod.
Projected starters: Charles, Bannon
Offseason additions: Hillis, Eachis, Gray
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Jammal Charles, Shane Bannon, Peyton Hillis, Cyrus Gray, Dexter McCluster
When Jamaal Charles went down with a gruesome ACL injury last year, he took the hopes of Kansas City fans with him. The speedy back is the Chiefs' most important offensive player, and luckily he seems to be back to full strength for 2012.
When healthy, Charles is one of the league's premier backs. He got hurt very early in 2011, and all reports point to him coming back ready.
Charles is joined by Peyton Hillis. Hillis began his NFL career as a under-utilized hybrid fullback for the Denver Broncos. He was subsequently traded to the Browns, where Hillis started to blossom.
In 2010, Hillis rushed for 11 touchdowns and almost 1200 yards in his first season in Cleveland. The following season was a curious one for Hillis. One in which he had a ongoing contract dispute, and a host of other curious ailments.
The backfield situation in Kansas City looks to be promising. Charles and Hillis should split the carries 60/40, and Hillis will get the bulk of the load early, as Charles will be brought along slowly.
Kansas City also drafted Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray in the sixth round of this year's draft, and he will be an intriguing option. Gray has great field vision, and he will probably make the roster as the third back.
Dexter McCluster was in the mix late last year as injuries mounted, but coach Romeo Crennel has had McCluster working with the wide receivers during camp.
It seems like Shane Bannon will be the only fullback on the roster heading into the season. New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll hasn't used a traditional fullback in his offense, and Peyton Hillis will get a little bit of work there at some point in 2012.
Bannon recently suffered a abdominal injury, and the Chiefs have signed Patrick DiMarco to hold down the spot until Bannon returns.
Nate Eachus and Shaun Draughn both face an uphill climb in order to find a spot at this deep position.
WRs on roster: Jonathan Baldwin, Josh Bellamy, Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, Terrance Copper, Junior Hemingway, Jeremy Horne, Brandon Kinnie, Zeke Markshausen Jamar Newsome, Devon Wylie
Projected starters: Bowe, Baldwin, Breaston
Offseason additions: Hemingway, Kinnie, Marcshausen, Newsome, Wylie
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Baldwin, Bowe, Breaston, Copper, Wylie
This has turned into a real position of strength as of late, but the success of this group hinges on Dwayne Bowe getting into camp.
The Chiefs need Bowe. The former LSU Tiger is the first franchise receiver that Kansas City has had in years, and getting him locked up to a long-term deal should be a priority for general manager Scott Pioli.
With Bowe missing time, last year's first-round selection Jonathan Baldwin is the number one guy in camp. By the looks of it, Baldwin is making the most of his opportunity and playing fantastic in practice.
Baldwin has all the physical tools to be an elite wideout at the NFL level, and his second season will go a long way in seeing what type of player he will become.
Having a guy like Steve Breaston in the slot is invaluable, and he has been an absolute beast on third downs.
After the top three, its likely that Devon Wylie and Dexter McCluster will see the bulk of time there, and Terrance Copper should be kept on for special teams duty.
McCluster is listed on the roster as at running back, but he looks to be used mostly as a receiver this season, and McCluster has been working there during camp.
This has the makings of a spectacular group once Bowe returns. The Chiefs will probably keep five guys here, and McCluster will be in the mix as well.
TEs on roster: Tim Biere, Kevin Boss, Steve Maneri, Tony Moeaki, Jake O'Connell
Projected starters: Moeaki, Boss
Offseason additions: Biere, Boss
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Boss, Moeaki, O'Connell
Losing a talent like Tony Gonzalez was a heavy blow, and nobody expected that void to be be filled quickly. Enter Tony Moeaki.
Moeaki burst onto the scene in his rookie campaign with 47 catches and 3 touchdowns in 2010, but he tore his ACL before last season even began.
Moeaki has been somewhat injury-prone during his career, and the Chiefs signed Kevin Boss as a high-end insurance policy. Boss is an accomplished receiver and should complement Moeaki well in twin sets this season.
Tim Biere is a local favorite and it will be interesting if he can crack the 53-man squad. He has to beat out O'Connell, who will likely have a spot due to his h-back skills.
If Moeaki can stay healthy, he has the ability to become a very quality tight end. The Boss signing was a no-brainier for added depth.
OTs on roster: Brandon Albert, David Mims, Donald Stephenson, Ray Willis, Eric Winston
Projected starters: Albert, Winston
Offseason additions: Stephenson, Willis, Winston
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Albert, Mims, Stephenson, Winston
He took over in 2009, and ever since then Scott Pioli has done a tremendous job of building a young and talented offensive line.
Left tackle Brandon Albert has done a very solid job since he was drafted out of Virginia in 2008. Albert has been solid in the pass game, and his run blocking has improved as well. Albert has a contract that is up after this season, so fans should expect a banner year from him.
On the other side is new right tackle Eric Winston, who was one of the most sought-after free agents earlier in the year. Winston is considered one of the game's best on the right side, and will be a welcome face in Kansas City after the Barry Richardson era mercifully ended.
The Chiefs also have a contingency plan in place, in the event that Albert takes his talents elsewhere. Pioli drafted Oklahoma product Donald Stephenson in the second round of this year's draft, and he has starting potential.
Stephenson got some early work with first team, after Brandon Albert was late to camp with an excused absence.
David Mims is a mountain of a man, who can make this team as a swing tackle and developmental project. The Chiefs were hoping Tony Ugoh could fill this role, but he recently retired during the first days of camp.
OGs on roster: Jeff Allen, Jon Asamoah, Justin Cheadle, Darryl Harris, Ryan Lilja, Rich Ranglin
Projected starters: Lilja, Asamoah
Offseason additions: Allen, Asamoah, Cheadle, Ranglin
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Allen, Asamoah, Harris, Lilja
Youth is beginning to be served on the interior offensive line in Kansas City. Jon Asamoah replaced longtime incumbent Brian Waters last season, and played admirably.
Veteran Ryan Lilja didn't fare nearly as well, and he would be the first to tell you that he played poorly in 2011. Rookie Jeff Allen will have a good chance to unseat Lilja if he plays well in camp.
Allen is a versatile player who projects as a starter at some point, and he can also play tackle in a pinch.
Darryl Harris has some versatility as well, and his roster spot could depend on if the Chiefs keep two centers.
If they keep a guy like Robb Bruggeman, Harris' services as a backup center may not be required. Asamoah can also slide over to center if absolutely needed.
OCs on roster: Robb Bruggeman, Cam Holland, Rodney Hudson
Projected starter: Hudson
Offseason additions: Bruggeman, Holland
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Hudson
It be will tough to fill the shoes of the impeccable Casey Wiegmann, but Rodney Hudson will give it a shot.
The recently retired Wiegmann started 127 consecutive games at center for the Chiefs and Broncos, and the undersized lineman is one of the most revered players in team history.
Hudson was drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft, and coach Romeo Crennel seems to have faith in him.
The Chiefs could keep a young backup like Robb Bruggeman or Cam Holland, but it makes sense to keep a guy like Darryl Harris around and have him for depth at multiple positions.
DEs on roster: Allen Bailey, Brandon Bair, Glenn Dorsey, Amon Gordon, Tyson Jackson, Ethan Johnson, Jerome Long, Luke Patterson, Ropati Pitoitua
Projected starters: Dorsey, Jackson
Offseason additions: Johnson, Long, Patterson, Pitoitua
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Allen Bailey, Brandon Bair, Glenn Dorsey, Amon Gordon, Tyson Jackson
Romeo Crennel loves to vary his fronts and use sub-packages, so five ends on the roster might be a possibility.
Dorsey and Jackson are the unquestioned starters, and lofty expectations have followed both of these players.
Dorsey was draft 5th overall in the 2008 draft, and from a distance it might be easy to say he has been somewhat of a bust.
Disregard that nonsense. Dorsey has moved into a position where he is undersized and has performed well there for the most part.
It's a different story for Tyson Jackson, who has failed to live up to his hype. He started to play better during the late parts of last season, and even restructured his contract, but fans are still waiting for Jackson to reach his potential.
Allen Bailey is a player that many are high on, and for good reason. Bailey is a physical and versatile guy who can play both end spots, and rush the passer. Bailey should see a good amount of playing time in 2012.
Amon Gordron played very well in 2012, and the journeyman has seemed to become a favorite of Crennel. He is another versatile guy, who will see plenty of rotational work this season.
DTs on roster: Dontari Poe. Jerrell Powe, Anthony Toribio
Projected starter: Poe
Offseason additions: Poe
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Poe, Powe
The heart of the 3-4 defense is the nose tackle, and the Chiefs hope the drafting of Dontari Poe will fill a major void.
Poe did not have a stellar college career at Memphis, but an eye-popping workout at this year's scouting combine caused Poe's stock to soar.
Drafting him with the 11th selection was a risky proposition, but if he translates his physical skills into NFL success, the gamble will pay off exponentially. Poe has been working with the first team, and it seems as if the rookie will get a chance to start.
Jerrell Powe is an intriguing prospect, but he only played in nine snaps during the 2011 regular season. Powe is a big man, and it will be interesting to see how he fares in his sophomore campaign.
The Chiefs will most likely keep just two nose tackles, and slide Amon Gordon over at times during the year.
OLBs on roster: Caleb Campbell, Edgar Jones, Gabe Miller, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Cameron Sheffield, Andy Studebaker
Projected starters: Hali, Houston
Offseason additions: Edgar Jones
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Miller, Hali, Houston, Sheffield, Studebaker
Tamba Hali remains one of the most criminally underrated defensive players in the league. He was basically forgotten about by most when the Chiefs switched to a 3-4 scheme, when many thought his skills could not translate to outside linebacker.
Hali has thrived in the role and harassed quarterbacks at an alarming rate, despite the fact that Kansas City had no viable pass rushing threat to complement him.
Houston finished his rookie campaign with 5.5 sacks, and if his development continues, look for Tamba Hali to have an outstanding year.
Serviceable Andy Studebaker will back up both Hali and Houston, and see some time in rotational packages.
Cameron Sheffield and Gabe Miller will fight for Studebaker's spot, and Sheffield showed some real promise before a serious neck injury during the 2010 preseason.
Sheffield made the club after he rebounded from his injury and played in every game last year.
Like Sheffield, Gabe Miller is a former fifth-round pick who was placed on injured reserve during his rookie campaign. Miller is a good pass rusher who will play a lot on special teams as well.
Long shots like Caleb Campbell and Edgar Jones have much work to do if they want to crack the 53-man roster.
ILBs on roster: Jovan Belcher, Cory Greenwood, Dexter Heyman, Derrick Johnson, Eric Siler
Projected starters: Belcher, Johnson
Offseason additions: Heyman
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Belcher, Greenwood, Johnson, Siler
Despite the fact that All-Pro Derrick Johnson is on the squad, this is a position group that could use some improvement. Johnson has improved dramatically and is now one of the league's premier inside linebackers.
Johnson has transformed into a do-everything star, who has great sideline-to-sideline ability.
Next to him is Jovan Belcher, who has been a decent thumper during his tenure in Kansas City, but an upgrade in the future might be welcome.
Brandon Siler was brought in last season to battle for a starting job, but an Achilles injury in the preseason put the breaks on his efforts.
The former Charger has been a little banged up during this training camp, but still should still give Belcher a heated competition for a starting gig.
Cory Greenwood excels on special teams, and he will use those skills to make the team.
CBs on roster: Mikail Baker, Javier Arenas, Jalil Brown, Travis Daniels, Chandler Fenner, Brandon Flowers, DeQuan Menzie, Jacques Reeves, Stanford Routt
Projected starters: Flowers, Routt
Offseason additions: Mikail Baker, Chandler Fenner, DeQuan Menzie, Jacques Reeves, Stanford Routt
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Arenas, Brown, Daniels, Flowers, Menzie, Routt
Without question, losing Brandon Carr hurt this team. The Chiefs did have a fallback plan and signed the very serviceable Stanford Routt. Routt is a good corner, who was often overmatched by the opposing team's top wideout.
That job will go to Brandon Flowers. Flowers is undersized, but plays with a tenacity that makes him one of the game's best. Flowers does everything well and is one of the reasons Kansas City has one of the best young secondaries in the NFL.
Javier Arenas also does a good job at nickle corner. His tackling ability and return skills were a bright spot during last year's campaign.
The Chiefs are blessed with some real depth here. Jalil Brown played well in OTA's, and coaches seem impressed with him.
DeQuan Menzie was selected in the fifth round of this year's draft, and his versatility will be a welcome asset to the secondary.
Safeties on roster: Eric Berry, Abram Elam, Dominique Ellis, Jean Fanor, Tysyn Hartman, Kendrick Lewis, Terrance Parks, Neiko Thorpe, Donald Washington
Projected starters: Berry, Lewis
Offseason additions: Elam, Ellis, Fanor, Hartman, Parks, Thorpe
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Berry, Lewis, Donald Washington, Neiko Thorpe
This defense is designed around the talents of strong safety Eric Berry. Berry went down with a ACL injury last season, and it showed.
Berry is the league's newest superstar safety, and his return is going to be a welcome sight. His cover skills seem to be vastly improving, and he will move into the upper echelon of defensive backs this season.
Opposite Berry is Kendrick Lewis, who has done a decent job at free safety since he was drafted out of Ole Miss in 2010.
These two are entrenched as the starters, but many questions remain on the depth chart. Thankfully, Sabby Piscitelli and Jon McGraw are gone, and there is a host of new talent attempting to earn a role.
Donald Washington should be the primary backup here, even though he is listed at corner on the team's roster. Washington is a valuable asset and a great depth player.
After Washington, it is a virtual free-for-all for one spot. Don't be surprised to see Neiko Thorpe grab on to it, seeing how he was impressing some earlier in minicamp.
Tysyn Hartman is also an intriguing prospect, and his intangibles make the Kansas State product a interesting depth option.
Kicking specialists on roster: Thomas Gafford (long snapper), Ryan Succop, Matt Syzmanski, Dustin Colquitt
Projected starters: Succop, Colquitt, Gafford (LS)
Offseason additions: Syzmanski
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Succop, Colquitt, Gafford (LS)
Nothing to see here. Matt Syzmanski has been brought in as a kicking leg for camp, and should be no threat to Ryan Succop or Dustin Colquitt.
Succop scuffled some in the early parts of last year, but finished strong by making 24 out of his 30 attempts.
Dustin Colquitt is an outstanding punter and his job is also safe.
Thomas Gafford remains the long snapper for 2012.
Returners on roster: Javier Arenas, Dexter McCluster, Devon Wylie
Projected starters: Arenas, McCluster, Wylie
Offseason additions: Wylie
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Arenas, McCluster, Wylie
An area of real strength got even better when the Chiefs drafted receiver Devon Wylie. Wylie will get some looks along with solid options like Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas.
Arenas was excellent as a punt returner, and his 12.8 yard average per punt return was good for third in the league. Arenas was dangerously close to breaking off many touchdowns in 2011, so don't be surprised to see him get a couple in the endzone this season.
McCluster started off his career with a bang, when he galloped 94 yards for a punt return touchdown in his first game in 2010. Ever since, McCluster has been average on both kickoffs and punts.
The Chiefs have many talented options here, and look for coach Romeo Crennel to use all of his talent during 2012.