Kansas City Chiefs: 5 Players That Will Have Breakout Seasons in 2012
Five Chiefs players will begin to fulfill their potential and keep the promise they have shown intact.
They range in age, position and popularity. And while all are respective hometown favorites, none are household names.
That's about to change quicker than Coinstars.
When coming to Kansas City, foes will be targeted by Arrowhead but ultimately fall victim to five shooting stars.
5. Anthony Toribio (DT)
If Arrowhead Stadium is ever excavated, archaeologists will find fossils of defensive tackles—it's a burial site for the position.
If asked to pinpoint Kansas City's last threatening defensive tackle, many long-time fans would probably reply, "Dan Saleaumua."
The most productive defensive tackle since Saleaumua's departure in 1996? John "I Forgot About Him" Browning.
One-and-a-half decades of 3-4 and 4-3 defensive starters—ranging from the overhyped Ryan Sims to trivia stumper James Reed—John Browning is the headliner.
The verdict on Dontari Poe won't be read for another handful of years.
Although he demoted the newcomer to second string, Anthony Toribio could prove to be the first-rounder's best friend. Poe will endure a turbulent transition to the big leagues, and he will be forced to circumvent the growing pains. Time is simultaneously his closest ally and worst enemy.
Toribio's emergence this offseason loosened Poe's leash.
Anthony Toribio will open #ChiefsCamp as No. 1 nose tackle. Obviously Dontari Poe will be a factor, but Toribio w/ 1s to begin— Josh Looney (@JoshLooney) July 27, 2012
The praise is seemingly contagious, as head coach Romeo Crennel told The Kansas City Star's Adam Teicher, "He would have been competing for a starting position [last season] if he hadn’t gotten hurt." Crennel added, "Toribio is a technician, a really good technician, in playing that nose."
Anthony Toribio is as sharp as a scalpel mentally, and the 315-pounder projects a relentless will—Derrick Johnson and Jovan Belcher will be the beneficiaries.
4. Dexter McCluster (WR)
A number of impatiently curious people will undoubtedly skim though this slideshow, recollect that were three receivers and rhetorically ask, "How is Dexter McCluster the lowest? He's the most established of the three!"
Before lambasting the ranking via impulsive commenting, relax and read the remainder of this slide.
Throughout his first two seasons, McCluster has, indeed, established his name amongst teammates and fans alike (which is exactly why the term "breakout" is devalued in his particular case). He's infinitely dynamic and dashes through open fields quicker than panicked cheetahs.
But while he's running for yards, his identity flip-flops like he's running for office.
During his debut season, McCluster's role was evenly split as a tailback and receiver. Last year, he was primarily utilized as a running back as he compiled 114 rushing attempts. According to this season's first (un)official depth chart, No. 22 is listed as a receiver—the most sensible choice.
McCluster is entering his third year and needs to find a home. [Cues Sarah McLachlan music]
This isn't Major League Baseball, where large markets dictate the ballgame's playing field like a Labyrinth board. The NFL is a league that's (thankfully) constrained by a salary cap, and there can be too much of a good thing.
On a team as talent-rich as Kansas City's, players tend to become expendable. If the front office can't afford to make a player stay, they can afford to let them go.
Following 2012, Dexter McCluster will steer clear of the aforementioned danger zone.
Although he only played one quarter, the speedster concluded as Kansas City's second-leading receiver (3 REC, 45 YDS) in Friday night's exhibition—expect a successful sequel this Saturday (Aug. 18) against the St. Louis Rams.
While the team is nearly overstocked at wide receiver, McCluster will be the slot receiver. If there are no unforeseen plot twists in the Chiefs' 2012 season, Jon Baldwin will overtake Steve Breaston as the No. 2 wideout (assuming Dwayne Bowe doesn't look like fish out of water in Brian Daboll's system).
While Breaston will still see the field, he doesn't pose the agile threat that McCluster does at the slot. Rookie Devon Wylie will represent McCluster's closest competition, but his playing time will be dispersed in increments as he gains experience.
McCluster's the proverbial "glue guy" that serves as a quick-fix to any rushing, receiving or returning voids.
But with Daboll's motion-and-shift-heavy offense, McCluster will come into his own as a receiver, and Kansas City will hit the jackpot at the slot.
3. Devon Wylie (WR)
Devon Wylie jerseys will become hot commodities by season's end.
As a rookie, Wylie's skill set lies somewhere between the inevitable comparison of Wes Welker and former Chiefs return man Dante Hall.
He's a 5'9", 187-pound slot receiver with joystick agility and sufficient (but not great) hands. If he grasps the ball with room to maneuver, the closest defender's body will be outlined in chalk within a matter of seconds. Trying to tackle him in the open field is like trying to guard Allen Iverson on rollerblades.
Wylie will challenge Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster for the Chiefs' returning duties (punt and kickoff) and likely secure at least one of the privileges. He will also double as a slot receiver.
He and McCluster are separated by subtle differences but cut from the same cloth. As always, two is better than one.
And while Matt Cassel is an inconsistent deep-ball thrower, he excels in short-to mid-range passes between the hash marks—an area that will be frequented by No. 19 on Sundays.
Once the ball is in his hands, it's off the races.
And in 2012, even Road Runner will get dusted by this Wylie.
2. Justin Houston (LB)
Peter Aiken/Getty Images
Justin Houston rushes passers like they just stole his wallet. He bolts out of his stance, contorts his body around the edge and surprises victims like a freshly wiped glass door.
Houston's a scintillating playmaker that spearheaded the Georgia Bulldogs' attack with a nose for the ball like Air Bud.
Despite a shortened offseason, last year's third-round selection ended his rookie campaign as the Chiefs' second-leading sack artist. With a summer of OTAs and training camp drills under his belt, Houston's numbers should increase exponentially.
A stingy secondary—outside linebackers' most prominent ally—will also play a leading role in Houston's development. Although Kansas City's defense concluded 2011 with a meager 29 sacks, Coach Crennel's unit ranked sixth in pass defense.
Additionally, the resurgence of All-World security blanket Eric Berry will give offensive players second thoughts. And when a quarterback's indecisiveness extends the clock in his head, pursuers often trigger an alarm that creates widespread panic. Justin Houston will illustrate why that is the case.
Cynics may claim the linebacker is undeserving of his mounting hype. But as everybody knows, everything is bigger in Houston—No. 50's impact will be no exception.
1. Jon Baldwin (WR)
Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE
Dwayne Bowe's (likely) successor.
At least, that's what the Kansas City Chiefs front office is crossing its fingers for.
Strip the name and number off of his jersey, and Kansas City's second-year highlight supplier mirrors a young Terrell Owens. At 6'4", 228 pounds, Baldwin was built to impose his will.
Following a locker room scuffle with teammate Thomas Jones, Baldwin missed the lion's share of the 2011 offseason and preseason, as well as five regular season contests. But he intermittently illuminated with flashes of brilliance last season.
Kansas City's top two receivers have made noise throughout the summer: Dwayne Bowe from his holdout's media buzz and Jon Baldwin with rounds of applause at training camp.
Heading into the team's Week 1 showdown with the Atlanta Falcons, it will be Baldwin that owns a significant edge in experience within Daboll's offense. Bowe's diet will contain more catch-up than catches throughout the first quarter of the season.
A seven-figure dispute and media criticism have plagued the beginning of Dwayne Bowe's 2012 season. But if he isn't careful, it could be Jon Baldwin's numbers that author the end of his time in Kansas City.