Training camp begins for the Kansas City Chiefs July 31st at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
As with every team in the NFL, the Chiefs have questions to answer by the end of camp.
The Chiefs have managed to take care of a tremendous amount of business during a busy offseason. The new regime has locked up Matt Cassel to a long-term contract, and has done a reasonable job at getting their draft picks signed, though at the time of writing this article, still no deal on Tyson Jackson.
They have also committed to the Larry Johnson reclamation project and have signed several veterans to provide guidance to the wet behind the ears squad that muttled through a 2-14 season one year ago.
But work remains to be done. The Chiefs continue to have obvious question marks at the start of camp. Here is my list of business that is left undone. Hopefully, when training camp and preseason is over, the Chiefs will be ready to roll in to Baltimore with these questions answered.
1) Who will be the starting Right Tackle and Center?
My guess is, if you were to poll 100 Chiefs fans across the country, 90 percent would say that Damion McIntosh is no longer a starting OT in this league. McIntosh figures to be pushed by Barry Richardson, Herb Taylor, and 5th round pick Colin Brown.
At center, an open competition exists between incumbent Rudy Niswanger, who started 15 games last season, and newcomer Eric Ghiaciuc, who started all 16 games for the Bengals in 2008.
With emerging LT Brandon Albert, All-Pro LG Brian Waters, and the newly acquired Mike Goff at RG, the Chiefs are solid at three of the five OL positions.
By the end of camp, hopefully someone will emerge to solidify the two positions in question.
2) How well will the Chiefs adapt to the 3-4 Defensive Scheme?
My initial thought on this subject leads me to believe this will definitely be an on-going process throughout the season. Can Dorsey play end? Can Hali play OLB. Can DJ play in the middle? Do Thomas and Vrabel have gas left in the tank?
One thing is certain, if the Chiefs are unable to pressure the QB more than last season, it doesn't matter what defensive scheme they're playing.
The Chiefs have a surplus of quality defensive backs, but let's face it, you can't defend the field forever.
3) Is Ryan Succop the solution at Kicker?
Apparently, the Chiefs think so. Connor Barth was released earlier this week. I'm going to have to trust Pioli on this one. After all, he let Adam Vinatieri walk out of NE and Stephen Gostkowski has been lights out ever since.
It seems the Chiefs have been the black hole of under performing placekickers the past several seasons. A consistent leg could make a huge difference for the Chiefs, who may struggle to consistently find the end-zone in 2009.
4) What will be the Chiefs Identity on Offense?
With pass-happy Todd Haley officially handing the reigns to resourceful and flexible Chan Gailey, your guess is as good as mine. My guess is, Gailey will go with what works. If the offensive line comes together and LJ appears re-committed to running hard, the Chiefs may favor a power running game mixed with a short and efficient passing game.
However, if LJ struggles early, don't expect Chan to ride that pony too long, as evidenced last season with the switch to the spread offense with Tyler Thigpen.
Dwayne Bowe, Mark Bradley and Bobby Engram do not have the same ring as the triplets from Arizona, and without Tony Gonzalez, I'm hopeful the Chiefs will not have to resort to throwing the ball 30 times a game. That being said, Jamaal Charles could be an electric change of pace and receiving threat out of the backfield if LJ struggles.
5) Who will fill the remaining roster spots at WR?
Other than Bowe, Bradley and Engram, I'm not sure if anyone knows what the Chiefs have at wide receiver. Terrance Copper, Devard Darling, and Jeff Webb have NFL experience, though their slow development is a red flag. Quenten Lawrence was drafted in the 6th round after an injury shortened senior season at McNeese State. Taurus Johnson comes as an undrafted rookie free agent from South Florida and Rodney Wright was signed as a free agent after a stint in the Arena Football League.
In a word, I would say the Chiefs situation at WR is thin. OK, maybe two words, very thin.
Tomorrow is a new day. For the Chiefs, tomorrow is a new season.
Let's hope the questions are answered, and we have the start of something special in Kansas City!