While there are a few positives to pull from the first four games, there are certainly things that need to improve for the Chiefs to turn this season around.
Here is the good, the bad and the ugly from the first quarter of the season.
Jamaal Charles Is Picking Up Where He Left Off
Though Jamaal Charles tore his ACL very early on last season (Week 2), no one knew what to expect from the running back coming into the 2012 season.
Charles’ game is built on one quick move and his speed to outrun the defense; a serious knee injury could have had a harmful effect on his future in the NFL.
Instead, the electrifying runner is off to an amazing start in 2012.
Charles is second in the league in rushing with 411 yards. He has a couple of dazzling runs, including a 91-yard sprint that helped the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3’s win over the New Orleans Saints.
Charles hasn’t missed a beat, and his workload is on par with what it has been his entire career. The Chiefs can probably rely more on him as the season progresses.
Justin Houston Is the Real Deal
Outside linebacker Justin Houston could end up being the steal of the entire 2011 NFL draft; that is, if he already doesn’t own that label.
Houston has already tallied four sacks so far this season and has 9.5 over his last nine games.
While the talent was never questioned, falling to the third round of the draft could be a major source of the second-year pass-rusher’s desire and ability to succeed in this league. Lining up opposite of Tamba Hali doesn’t hurt either.
As the season progresses, Houston could emerge as one of the elite sack artists in the NFL.
Injuries Are Still a Cause for Concern
The focus on whether or not Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, Tony Moeaki and Matt Cassel could return to form after injuries last season has been shifted to a new group of players that can’t seem to get away from the trainer’s table.
Cornerback Brandon Flowers, safety Kendrick Lewis and defensive tackle Anthony Toribio missed the season opener with the Atlanta Falcons, making it almost impossible for the Chiefs to have competed in that game at all.
Lewis has yet to play this season due to an injured shoulder.
And if things couldn’t get any worse, newly signed tight end Kevin Boss is out for the season with concussion issues and Flowers has re-aggravated his heel injury. A season-ending leg injury to center Rodney Hudson has caused a shake up along the offensive line as well.
Add up all the nagging injuries and the Kansas City Chiefs just can’t seem to catch a break this season.
The Chiefs Lack Leadership
For a team that has so much individual talent spread amongst its roster, the Chiefs sure do need someone to step up and lead this team. Someone either needs to shoulder the bulk of the responsibility or start doling out some blame and demanding better out of this group.
There are candidates on this team that are not only capable, but also would be welcomed by the other players in this role as well. While a grown man never likes to be pushed around or blamed for anything—especially prideful athletes—this group also must realize that it lacks a leader.
A coach’s directives can only go so far. But when a player is challenged by a teammate, it has a different meaning.
Derrick Johnson, Berry, Tamba Hali, Charles, Eric Winston and Dwayne Bowe would all serve well in this role. This is a well-rounded group that would demand the respect of the team while also leading by example.
The Chiefs Cannot Protect the Ball or Force Turnovers
The Kansas City Chiefs have turned the ball over 15 times and the defense has only forced two turnovers through the season’s first four games, both league lows.
The math says that is a turnover ratio of minus-13. The reality says that is simply not going to cut it.
The Chiefs were supposedly built to protect the football on offense and play solid defense. Because the first part of that equation has been absent, the results have been appalling on both sides of the ball.
If Kansas City can’t properly care for the football, they can’t score enough points to keep up with the opposition—especially when the Chiefs are gift wrapping scoring chances to the tune of almost four turnovers per game.
This puts immense pressure on the defense to keep the scoreboard at arm’s length, which causes everyone to press more. As a result, the Chiefs haven’t been able to force the opposition into many mistakes either.
The Matt Cassel Project Has Been a Colossal Failure
Matt Cassel is the most polarizing figure in the Kansas City sports landscape.
Everyone applauded general manager Scott Pioli for bringing the quarterback in from the New England Patriots as his first major move as head man. Those same people want Pioli to admit that he was wrong and send Cassel on his merry way.
This season was set up to be Cassel’s most successful as a pro. He started with the luxury of more offensive weapons than he did in 2010—considered his best season—and not everyone had ducked out of his corner in support just yet.
After seven interceptions (tying his total during the entire 2010 season), three fumbles, leaving his receivers out to dry multiple times and just simply making bad decisions, no one is left to defend Cassel.
When asked about the possibility of being benched, Cassel told Adam Teicher of the The Kansas City Star that “you can’t play scared.”
The reason Cassel is struggling this year doesn’t matter at this point. This is his fourth season with the Chiefs and Pioli has surrounded him the tools to succeed.
The Matt Cassel project has added embarrassment to a franchise that needs a spark. It is just too bad that the Chiefs don’t have a better option right now.