Hard Knocks doesn't begin to describe what might befall the Kansas City Chiefs in 2007.
Though the Chiefs slipped into the playoffs last year, nothing has gone right for the team since then, and the upcoming season looks to be a long one.
To find where the mess began, one need look no further than Week One of 2006, when quarterback Trent Green suffered a serious concussion.
Green brought stability to the Chiefs in his six years in Kansas City, and his loss set in motion a string of events that got the franchise to where it is today.
During Green's absence, Damon Huard filled in admirably, even heroically, leading the team to victories in six games. When Green was finally healthy enough to return, he looked like a completely different quarterback—in a completely bad way.
But instead of bestowing the starting job on Huard, Herm Edwards and friends dreamed of second-year pro Brodie Croyle under center.
Croyle, as the preseason showed, was not ready. The Chiefs have since named Huard the starting quarterback for the opener...but they sure didn’t do themselves very many favors along the way.
While K.C. was playing quarterback carousel, star RB Larry Johnson was nowhere in sight. His holdout, thankfully, didn't last into the season, but Johnson himself has said he might not be ready by Week One.
(On a personal note, how can you hold out for months and not be ready to go once you're in camp? What was Johnson doing the whole time—prank-calling Dick Vermeil?)
The Chiefs drafted their first wide receiver in what seems like years this spring, picking up Dwayne Bowe in the first round. He joins a corps that has been badly neglected of late—how else does one explain Eddie Kennison still getting significant playing time?
On a more sour note, the offseason also dealt some blows along the offensive line.
T Jordan Black left via free agency to the Texans, and G Will Shields retired. The line, one of the NFL’s best for so long, is now a weak spot. Thankfully G Brian Waters is still with the team, or else this line would be nothing special at all.
The Chiefs have so many issues on offense that the team’s most consistent Achilles heel, the defense, is getting overlooked by critics. The D might be better than it was in years past, but it's far from a great unit.
Defensive ends Tamba Hali and Jared Allen will get consistent pressure on the quarterback, and the Chiefs are finally seeing some results from top draft pick LB Derrick Johnson.
Other than that, Kansas City has some issues.
The secondary is old and thin. Defensive tackle is a concern. And the Chiefs did little to improve a defense that finished in the middle of the pack in the NFL last season: 16th overall, 18th against the run, 18th against the pass.
And did I mention Dante Hall is no longer with the team?
Head coach Herm Edwards certainly has his work cut out for him.
Edwards' teams were known for their bruising, grind-it-out style of play in New York, but the coach simply doesn't have the personnel to make the system work in Kansas City. There's no passing threat to take the pressure off of Larry Johnson. The line is too weak to overpower opponents. The defense won't be able to control games.
There's just not a whole lot Edwards can do with this bunch.
Kansas City has seen its share of troubles since last year, and the team is in for many more in 2007. If things head south fast, Croyle should see significant playing time, and the Chiefs will have a chance to see if he is indeed their quarterback of the future.
At least the whole season won’t be for naught.
Projected finish: 4-12, 4th AFC West
Keep your eyes on: DE Tamba Hali—Will become the Chiefs' best defensive player in his second year.
Take your eyes off: CB Patrick Surtain—Puts the “age” in “coverage.”