After one crazy week of free agency, all NFL teams are now in training camp and we are all one week closer to the kickoff of the much awaited 2011 NFL season. This week past week the Kansas City Chiefs had a few big signings, a few surprising cuts and even some injury news.
The Chiefs, much like the rest of the AFC West, are slated to face much stiffer competition in 2011. This increase in competition will mean that the Chiefs players, particularly the starters, will have to come ready and prepared when the season starts.
With all the signings, cuts and injury news from the last week who should the fan expect to take the field as starters come opening day?
While the Chiefs still have plenty of time to complete their roster and I believe there will be a few more moves, it is becoming clear the players that will be on the first team.
So without further ado let’s take a look, and of course let me hear your opinions, Chiefs Nation!
Look for Matt Cassel to improve in 2011 thanks to Quarterback Coach Jim Zorn
Finally, it's over! Yes—Brodie Croyle’s time on the Chiefs roster has come to an end. The writing was on the wall for Croyle as the Chiefs took Ricky Stanzi in the fifth round of the NFL Draft.
1 – Matt Cassel—Last season Cassel dramatically improved his statistics, including completion percentage, total yards, yards per attempt, yards per game, touchdowns and interceptions. After last year’s improvement Cassel has earned himself the starting position for a few more seasons in Kansas City. The 2011 season should be another good campaign for Cassel.
2 – Tyler Palko—There are also rumblings that head coach Todd Haley is very high on Tyler Palko, who was signed off the practice squad last season. With a shortened training camp, expect Palko to be the initial backup quarterback, at least until Stanzi can learn the offense.
3 – Ricky Stanzi—As a three-year starter for Iowa Stanzi demonstrated good ability to read coverages and make the right decisions. Stanzi played in a run first offense similar to the Chiefs at Iowa. Stanzi is a smart quarterback that will hopefully pick up the pro game quickly.
The 2010 season was filled with controversy for the Chiefs backfield. Pro-Bowler Jamaal Charles averaged a staggering 6.38 yards per carry and did not touch the ball as much as proven veteran Thomas Jones.
1 – Thomas Jones—I have been saying it all off season and I will continue to say it until Todd Haley proves me wrong: Haley will start Jones going into the 2011 season. It has been rumored that Haley asked Jones, and he delivered, to lose some weight.
With Jones showing this dedication to Haley and the team, I just find it hard to believe he isn’t starting week one. I am not saying it is right, and definitely not what I would do, but it is what I believe will happen.
2 – Jamaal Charles—By far the best running back the Chiefs have; look for Charles to receive between 15-18 touches a game. I believe Charles will eventually become the starter, and get more carries than Jones this year, but Haley loves Jones and will use him as much as he can before he wears out.
Charles will be as electric as ever in 2011 and will be near the top of the league in average and total yards by the end of the season.
3 — Dexter McCluster—Haley was quoted after the 2010 season ended saying that the Chiefs are going to use McCluster more out of the backfield in 2011. My thought, along with many others, is that Haley is contemplating making McCluster the Chiefs third-down back.
“It’s really a role that is closer to what he was doing at Mississippi,” Haley said at the 2011 NFL Combine. “I think it will give him more chances of break off some big plays.”
4 – Jackie Battle—The Chiefs did not draft a developmental running back to eventual take over Jones’ position. This leaves Battle, who is a great short yardage back, as the third string running back entering 2011.
Will LeRon McClain end up coming to Kansas City in 2011?
1 – Shane Bannon—Bannon stats at Yale are nothing to impressive, but he did start at fullback every game his last two season. That experience leading halfbacks through holes could prove vital in the Chiefs' zone blocking scheme. Bannon has a size advantage and a speed advantage over Mike Cox, so he should have no problem earning the starting spot during training camp.
2 – Mike Cox—Cox has been with the Chiefs since he graduated from Georgia Tech three seasons ago. Expect Cox to remain on the roster in the same role he had last year as the No. 2 fullback.
Possibilities—There have been rumors that the Chiefs have contacted LeRon McClain of the Baltimore Ravens. This would be a great signing and would help the Chiefs at FB and RB. The problem is, these rumors have been going on for a week now. With all the quick player movement this offseason, it seems to be the longer he is available the less likely the Chiefs will bring him onto the roster.
It will be nice to see Breaston do this for the Red and Yellow instead of against us!
The Chiefs' woes at wide receiver were well documented last season. The receivers not named Dwayne Bowe only compiled 690 total yards receiving last season.
1 – Dwayne Bowe—In 2010 Bowe was a one man-show for the Chiefs. Bowe had 72 receptions for 1162 yards and 15 touchdowns. With the addition of first-round draft pick Jon Baldwin, and free agent acquisition Steve Breaston, expect Bowe to have even more opportunities to be open and catch passes in 2011.
2 – Steve Breaston—Breaston is a guy that had a breakout season in 2008, under than offensive coordinator Todd Haley, when he caught 77 balls for 1,003 yards and three scores for the Arizona Cardinals. Due to the shorting training camp and his familiarity with Haley-ran offenses expect Breaston to start initially until Baldwin is able to fully understand the offense.
3 – Jon Baldwin—Standing at 6’5” and 230 pounds, and a vertical leap of 42 inches Baldwin will be one of the Chiefs' main threats in the red zone. Baldwin has exceptional hands and should help the Chiefs' wide receivers eliminate a lot of the dropped passes that occurred in the prior two seasons.
Prior to the start of training camp Baldwin as working out with Bowe and Larry Fitzgerald. Additionally, Baldwin also spent significant time staying with Matt Cassel trying to gain an understanding of the playbook and routes.
4 – Dexter McCluster—Dex had a rough, injury filled, rookie season for the Chiefs in 2010. Even though Dex is expected to play more running back this year, he is simply too much of a weapon to not line up in the slot or on the outside. Look for Dex to adjust to the physicality of the NFL game and bounce back strong in 2011.
5 – Kevin Curtis—The Chiefs were so bad off at wide receiver that Curtis was signed off the street right before a playoff game and played most of the snaps. Pioli would not have signed Curtis for just one game, in fact the Chiefs have a contractual right of first refusal, so expect him back on the roster in 2011. Curtis is a proven veteran in the NFL and should have a decent season in Kansas City.
6 – Verron Tucker—In Week 9 of last season Tucker made one of the best touchdown catches of any Chiefs receiver for the whole season. The problem was that Tucker never seemed to get on the field after that.
How much time Tony Moeaki is going to miss in 2011 is still unknown.
The Chiefs had a rather unexpected surprise development for them at tight end last season. That surprise was Tony Moeaki. Moeaki made some absolutely amazing catches for the Chiefs in 2010 and many Chiefs fans are hoping the he will emerge as the next great Tony in Kansas City.
However, last Friday Josh Looney confirmed that TE Tony Moeki will be on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list heading into training camp. It appears from Haley’s comments that this is more of a precautionary move by the Chiefs, but anytime a player is put on the PUP it has to be of some concern.
1 – Leonard Pope—With the news of Moeki’s injury it is hard to imagine him starting Week 1. Todd Haley brought Pope in from Arizona, and he is still here, so obviously he does something the Chiefs head coach likes. Pope is a monster, standing at 6’8” and 265 pounds, who will always be a threat in the red zone. In 2010 Pope had only 10 receptions for 72 yards, but had two touchdowns.
2 – Jake O’Connell—With Moeki hurt, O’Connell must step in behind Pope as the only other tight end on the roster that has experience in the Chiefs’ offense.
Will the Chiefs regret letting Brian Waters go?
The Chiefs' offensive line play improved dramatically in 2010 compared to 2009, the problem was that most of that improvement came from aging players towards the end of their career. The Chiefs addressed the aging offense line in the last two drafts by selecting Rodney Hudson in 2011 and Jon Asamoah in 2010. The Chiefs also made the offensive line younger when they released former Man of the Year recipient, Brian Waters.
LT – Brandon Albert—The talk of moving Albert to RG or OG has been going on for three seasons now and yet he is still there. Albert can handle the role and will remain in the position.
LG –Ryan Lilja—The Kansas City native returned home last year to join the Chiefs roster after several successful seasons’ protection Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. With the departure of Waters look for Lilja to move to Matt Cassel’s blindside for additional protection.
C – Casey Wiegmann—The long time veteran recently decided to return for one more run at it and signed a one year contract with the Chiefs. With Wiegmann resigning, and with a 10,000+ snap playing streak, no way does he not start.
RG – Jon Asamoah—With Lilja moving to LG, it opens up room for second-year player Asamoah. The front office has been very high on Asamoah since they selected him in the third round in 2010, and this is his chance to prove the front office made the right move by letting a veteran leader like Waters go.
RT – Barry Richardson—Richardson was part of a line that led the NFL in rushing last season and he only allowed 5 sacks. While Richardson does have holes in his game, he is still young (24), and the Chiefs support him, evidenced by them not selecting an offensive tackle in this years draft.
LT – Ryan O’Callaghan
LG – Jon Asamoah
C – Rodney Hudson
RG – Rudy Niswagner
RT – Ryan O’Callaghan
Hopefully we see lots of this from Kelly Gregg for the Chiefs in 2011!
Even with the emergence of Glenn Dorsey as a legitimate run stopper, the Chiefs defensive line was below average in 2010. The Chiefs addressed this issue in the draft by selecting Jerrell Powe and several DE/OLB that will be able to contribute on the defensive line.
All news is not good as the Chiefs lost a couple of veteran players, Ron Edwards and Shaun “Perv” Smith, which played a huge role in 2010. Without these two players the Chiefs are going to have no one at the NT position with experience in Romeo Crennel’s 3-4 defense.
LE –Tyson Jackson—Most of T. Jax’s 2010 season was spent on the bench either nursing an injury or watching Shaun Smith play. With Smith signing with the Tennessee Titans the position is Jacksons to lose. Year three is a make or break year for Jackson, hopefully it’s not break.
NT – Kelly Gregg—With the departure of Ron Edwards and Smith, the Chiefs have signed Gregg to attempt to address solidify the NT position. Gregg, who is out of Oklahoma, played nine years with Baltimore compiling 124 games started and recorded 19.5 sacks.
RE – Glenn Dorsey—In 2010 Dorsey had 69 tackles and two sacks and emerged as the Chiefs' best defensive lineman. Look for continued improvement from Dorsey in 2011.
LE – Allen Bailey
DT – Jerrell Powe
RE – Wallace Gilberry
It sure is nice taking from the San Diego Chargers!
With the arrival of Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel in 2010 the Chiefs defense improvement dramatically from the 2009 season. The linebackers showed more improvement than any other defensive group last year. After a heavy dose of linebacker selections in the 2011 NFL Draft, look for that trend to continue into this season.
LOLB – Andy Studebaker – With the retirement of Mike Vrabel and the three year contract extension Studebaker received last year look for him to take over as starter. Time for Studebaker to step up and prove he deserves a starting position with the Chiefs. If Studie is unable to prove he deserves the position done be surprised if Justin Houston quickly takes it from him
MLB – Brandon Siler—The Chiefs recently signed young up and comer Siler from the San Diego Chargers. Siler should beat out last year’s starter Jovan Belcher. Siler made 12 starts the past two seasons in San Diego, compiling 111 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions. Siler was as good as any linebacker against the run when backed up in the red zone and is an outstanding special teams player.
MLB – Derrick Johnson—After a season in Todd Haley’s doghouse in 2009, Johnson emerged as the Chiefs leading tackler in 2010. Johnson had a total of 121 tackles, one sack, four forced fumbles and one interception.
ROLB – Tamba Hali—Mr. Pressure, Tamba Hali had an unbelievable good 2010. While he only had 51 tackles, Hali emerged as one of the NFL’s premiere pass rushers with 14.5 sacks. Look for Tamba to prove once again that he is one of the elite in the game in 2011.
LOLB – Cameron Sheffield
MLB – Demorrio Williams
MLB – Jovan Belcher
ROLB – Justin Houston, Gabe Miller
Thats one bad man!
The Chiefs secondary is young, quick, tough, strong and in my opinion is one of the most complete secondary’s in the NFL. Look for 2011 to be the season the Chiefs secondary becomes the best in the NFL.
LCB – Brandon Flowers—While Flowers did not make the Pro Bowl in 2010 he did take a big step towards putting himself among the elite cornerbacks in the NFL. Flowers compiled 65 tackles, four interceptions, and one forced fumble last season.
RCB – Brandon Carr—While Carr may not have got the attention that Flowers received last season, Carr played very good football. Carr had 57 tackles and one interception for the Chiefs in 2010.
FS – Kendrick Lewis—In 10 starts last year Lewis compiled 30 tackles and three interceptions. Lewis is a quick player who likes to make the big play. With a good rookie season under his belt look for him and Eric Berry to have a great year in the Chiefs' secondary.
SS – Eric Berry—The fifth overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft did not disappoint. Berry was second on the team in tackles with 92. Berry also had four interceptions, two sacks and one forced fumble. Berry was a constant disruption in the run game. Look for Berry to continue his path to becoming the next great safety in the NFL next season.
LCB – Javier Arenas
RCB – Jalil Brown
FS – Jon McGraw
SS – Reshard Langford
It will be nice having Dex healthly and returning kicks again in 2011.
The Chiefs' special teams performance was huge in 2010. There is no denying that overall the Chiefs have one of the better special teams units in the NFL. Look for that trend to continue with a healthy Dexter McCluster returning kicks and the up and coming kicker, Ryan Succop.
K – Ryan Succop—Over the first two years of his career with the Chiefs, Succop has made 45 out of 55 field goal attempts. Succop is still young and improving and he could be the kicker for the Chiefs for awhile.
P – Dustin Colquitt—Consistently referred to as one of the top punters in the NFL things will not change in 2011. In his six seasons with the Chiefs Colquitt has only had three punts blocked and only one returned for a touchdown.
KR/PR — Javier Arenas/Dexter McCluster—This pair of returners started off the season last year on fire, but as McCluster faced injury problem the returning efforts seemed to stall.