Kansas City Chiefs: Final Report Card for Every Starter in 2011
The Kansas City Chiefs still have one game remaining this season. However, falling for the Oakland Raiders was what ended their playoff hopes, making Week 17 just simply an audition game for Romeo Crennel and his players.
Looking back, there were players on the Chiefs who played well. Some drove the fans crazy. Some exceeded our expectations while others took a step in the wrong direction.
Let's look back and grade every Chiefs player that started in 2011.
QB Matt Cassel
Matt Cassel looked far different from last year after a stellar 2010 Pro Bowl season.
In 2011, Cassel threw 10 touchdown passes and nine interceptions after throwing only seven picks the year before.
Cassel's future as a Chief is in jeopardy. After suffering a season-ending injury, the door for opportunity for other quarterbacks opened up. His first three years as a quarterback in Kansas City has been either really good or really bad.
With a new head coach in 2012, will Cassel return?
QB Tyler Palko
Tyler Palko may not start another NFL game for a while after an abashing season.
It took Palko ten quarters to throw a touchdown pass as the Chiefs' starting quarterback. It came on a Hail Mary pass, which was about to be intercepted by Brian Urlacher.
Palko's two touchdown throws and seven interceptions are all you need to form a judgement on him.
QB Kyle Orton
It is hard to judge Kyle Orton in a three-game window (he will complete his third game as a Chiefs starter this Sunday). Orton helped the Chiefs shock the world in handing the Green Bay Packers their first loss only to throw a pair of interceptions against the Raiders the following week.
Is Orton a viable option as the Chiefs starting quarterback in 2012?
RB Jamaal Charles
Jamaal Charles is arguably the most popular player on the team among the players and fans. His teammates voted for him to win the Derrick Thomas award, which is the team's most valuable player award, for the second straight season coming into this year.
Charles only carried the ball 12 times this year due to suffering a torn ACL. Charles played in only one game plus one drive for the Chiefs this year.
RB Thomas Jones
Thomas Jones is no longer the player he once was. He is on pace to have the fewest rushing yards of his career since 2001. He is also about to have a touchdownless season for the first time in his career, unless he finds the end zone this week in Denver.
But in the end, Jones' 3.2 yards per carry average is a career low and it has set the Chiefs back. With Charles returning next season and Jones' contract expiring, it may be safe to say that Sunday's game against the Broncos will the last time we see Jones in a Chiefs uniform.
RB Jackie Battle
Despite losing Charles, the Chiefs rank 12th in the league in rushing, thanks to Jackie Battle.
Battle has been Kansas City's best runner as he leads the team in yards and touchdowns on the ground. His numbers are not high, but he has done a few things to help the Chiefs to prove that he can be a good backup next season.
Battle is the only player who has a 100-yard game this season for the Chiefs, which took place in Week 5 at Indianapolis.
RB/WR Dexter McCluster
With the absence of Charles, it opened the door for Dexter McCluster. McCluster showed his ability to gain a lot of yards with his break away speed as a rusher and receiver.
McCluster still has a lot of room for improvement. If he can take care of himself during OTAs and training camps he could post bigger numbers in 2012.
WR Dwayne Bowe
It is hard to watch Dwayne Bowe and not call him an elite player. It is also difficult to say he is an elite player. Bowe is a mixed bag after his drop habits returned in 2011.
Bowe is in the top 10 in the AFC in receiving yards and receptions and has earned his third 1,000-yard season. But all of that has been overshadowed with his drops, most notably the drops in the end zone against the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders.
Earlier this year, Bowe had requested a new contract after coming away with two touchdown grabs against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5. The management, surprisingly to many people, did not grant him that request.
However, it seems like Bowe was proven wrong when he felt he was worthy of earning a new contract. After his eye-grabbing performance against the Colts in Week 5, Bowe did not catch another touchdown pass for 10 weeks.
With his contract expiring after January 2nd, will Bowe return to Kansas City?
WR Steve Breaston
Before Todd Haley's departure, Steve Breaston was excited to come to Kansas City and play for Haley, who was his offensive coordinator in Arizona.
There was only one game this season where Breaston scored a touchdown, but that does not take away what he has been able to do this year.
Breaston has been the best No. 2 receiver for the Chiefs since Johnnie Morton. The Chiefs went through Samie Parker, Devard Darling, Amani Toomer, Bobby Wade and Chris Chambers and were dissatisfied with all of them.
Breaston finally broke and has been able to help Bowe carry the load.
WR Jonathan Baldwin
Jonathan Baldwin started three games this season after missing the first six games due to a thumb injury from a fight.
Baldwin was a non-factor in 2011 for the Chiefs, catching only 18 passes for 227 yards.
If Baldwin is given one year to fully participate with the team during OTAs and training camp, we may see a different player in him.
FB Le'Ron McClain
Le'Ron McClain came to Kansas City after four successful seasons with Baltimore. McClain wasn't as good this season, but he cannot be held accountable as the entire offense took a step back this season.
McClain has had 27 touches for short gains and has mostly blocked holes for Charles, Jones, Battle and McCluster this season.
If Charles can have a healthy 2012 season and return to the top five in rushing, a lot of the credit will go to McClain.
The Chiefs have not had a dominant fullback since Tony Richardson.
TE Leonard Pope
Among all tight ends who played this year for the Chiefs, Leonard Pope is the only player worthy having back.
Pope showed some flashes, proving that he can be a good backup for Tony Moeaki, who missed all of the regular season due to a torn ACL in the final preseason game.
This Sunday, Pope needs only one more catch and four more yards to give himself career highs in receptions and yards through the air.
He hasn't been a dominant tight end, by all means. But for a backup who had to step in, he has been a serviceable player.
OT Branden Albert
Branden Albert is quietly becoming one of the better offensive tackles in the NFL. He has gone down with a lot of injuries, but nothing severe as they have been small bruises, forcing him to miss a couple of plays.
Albert might be the best player on the Chiefs offensive line. Next year could be a contract year for him as he is no longer going to be looked at as a young player.
OT Barry Richardson
Barry Richardson is on top of everyone's late Christmas wish list to have out of town.
Richardson has been guilty of many missed blocks, sacks given up and penalties. Richardson was also kept over Jared Gaither, who has become a key player for the San Diego Chargers in his short time with his new team this year.
Richardson is not worthy being a starter in the NFL. Look for the Chiefs to find a new right tackle.
OG Ryan Lilja
Ryan Lilja moved back to left guard after the Chiefs, shockingly, released Brian Waters. Lilja had an inconsistent season at the guard position and seemed to do better at his new position last year.
Along with the majority of the offensive line, Lilja's step back was a surprise to many of us. With the offensive line being an issue, Lilja's future is uncertain.
OG Jon Asamoah
Jon Asamoah was given an opportunity to start when Waters was released and Lilja moved to his original position.
Asamoah has had his ups and down, but proved that he can start in the league.
If Bill Muir does not return as the offensive line coach (and the offensive coordinator) then we may see Asamoah learn under a new position coach.
C Casey Wiegmann
Casey Wiegmann's second stint as a Chiefs center started well. Now it could come to an end.
Like most players on offense, Wiegmann took a huge step back and was unable to help create a lot of holes and block the extra pass rushers coming from the middle.
Wiegmann has shown that he can be beaten, and being 39 before the next training camp begins won't help. Wiegmann will either retire or play for another team next year. Rodney Hudson, who saw some action this year at guard, could play center. Scouts projected him to be a strong center in the NFL.
DE Glenn Dorsey
It's no secret that Glenn Dorsey is not a 3-4 defensive end. He will have his shining moments, but they are rare.
The Chiefs must trade Dorsey to a 4-3 defense and get something from him. His stock is longer high, but there may be a team out there that would want him. (Perhaps Gunther Cunningham in Detroit?)
The fact is, Dorsey is not a good player and deserved another year under the 4-3 scheme.
DE Tyson Jackson
Tyson Jackson is another struggling 3-4 defensive end. The only difference is, he actually has experience in this position and has not been able to prove himself in the NFL.
Jackson has been outplayed by backups Wallace Gilberry and Allen Bailey.
If Crennel is given the head coaching duties it will be interesting to see what he, or even another head coach would want to do with Jackson.
NT Kelly Gregg
Kelly Gregg was another arrival from Baltimore that was not able to live up to expectations. Tank Tyler and Ron Edwards were let go because they could not perform well as a 3-4 nose tackle.
Gregg was expected to make to help the Chiefs improve in the middle of the defensive line. However, he has shown that he is no different than Edwards.
OLB Tamba Hali
Being referred to as one of the most underrated players in the NFL, Tamba Hali is no longer underrated. He shined in multiple prime time games this season, featuring in front of the world what he is capable of.
The Chiefs have not had an impact player on defense since Derrick Thomas. Hali is one of the league's premiere pass-rushers today. Very few offensive tackles have been able to find a way to limit Hali in being able to chase the quarterback.
Hali is clearly the best player on the team and is unstoppable when it comes to going after the quarterback.
OLB Justin Houston
Justin Houston started off the season quietly well. Houston has managed to deflect a few passes and limit some players for short yards gained.
However, Houston has stepped up lately in helping Hali take a small breather. Houston collected four sacks in the second half of this season. Kansas City was not able to get good production from Mike Vrabel and are getting that from Houston.
In 2012, Houston could be a key reason as to why the Chiefs are in the top five in total defense because of the pass rush.
OLB Andy Studebaker
Andy Studebaker might be better off as a backup linebacker in the NFL as he continues to spend most of his time on special teams.
Studebaker started a few games at outside linebacker and is now spending most of his time on special teams.
The Chiefs did sign him to a contract extension through 2013
ILB Derrick Johnson
Derrick Johnson has been all over the field for the Chiefs.
He has forced fumbles, sacked the quarterback and has gotten himself a couple of interceptions. Johnson came through the most this year with his ability to stop the run.
After a career of going through many coaches and defensive coordinators, Johnson has found a rhythm under Crennel and has never played at such a high level.
ILB Jovan Belcher
Johnson would appreciate some help inside. Jovan Belcher has not been able to do much to help stop the run.
Belcher has been beat by many offensive players and is not the best tackler on the team, which is a con for an inside linebacker and a player for his size and stature.
When Brandon Siler returns from injury, he may replace Belcher in 2012.
CB Brandon Flowers
Brandon Flowers is no longer one of the AFC's underrated cornerbacks after earning many votes for the Pro Bowl.
Flowers came away with four interceptions including a two-interception game against the Raiders earlier this season. Flowers is also one of the better open field tacklers among cornerbacks today.
Flowers got off to a rough start, but came back strong this year in helping the Chiefs compete for a spot in the AFC West.
The only problem with Flowers is his consistency to collect more interceptions.
CB Brandon Carr
Brandon Carr is showing that he is a good cornerback in the league. Carr and Flowers are slowly becoming a strong cornerback duo and can form a very strong core of defensive backs in 2012 with a healthy secondary.
Carr has three interceptions this season and has limited his receivers in getting wide open. Unlike previous years, wide receivers have had a hard time getting around Carr, burning him for a big touchdown play.
Carr is turning into a more complete cornerback. 2012 could be a very exciting season for Carr.
S Eric Berry
Eric Berry had a very short-lived season due to a torn ACL injury in Week 1.
The Chiefs defensive backfield struggled at times, showing they missed Berry during several moments, such as last week when it took Carson Palmer one play to put the Raiders in scoring distance in overtime.
After a very strong rookie showing and falling short on the defensive rookie of the year award, Berry has already proved himself as one of the best safeties in the league.
S Kendrick Lewis
Kendrick Lewis deserves a lot of credit after having to step up for Berry's absence.
Lewis has three interceptions and took one back for 50 yards and another one 59 yards for a touchdown. Lewis has been a key reason as to why the Chiefs are one of the best in return yards off of interceptions.
Lewis managed to come away with a strong season, thanks to the help of the pass rush up front. When Berry returns, he and the rest of his teammates at the defensive backfield need to come together and also avoid the injury bug. With this core of defensive backs, the Chiefs have the potential to do many things.
S Jon McGraw
Jon McGraw has always been looked at as a bad player. However, as a backup safety since coming to Kansas City in 2007, McGraw has been a very serviceable backup as a safety for the Chiefs.
When his number is called, he finds a way to come through. This year, McGraw has three interceptions, one forced fumble and a sack. With Berry's absence, this was no easy season for him and his teammates.
Look for McGraw to be a key player, even as a backup, next year with this core of safeties.
K Ryan Succop
After starting off the season making two-of-four field goals, with some chip-shot misses, Ryan Succop bounced back and was helpful in putting the Chiefs on the scoreboard when the offense could not score a touchdown.
After his first four field goals, Succop went on to make 22 straight, tying the franchise record for most consecutive field goals made. Succop's streak was snapped this week with two of his field goal attempts being blocked.
If the Chiefs are involved in more tighter games next season, Succop could prove to be an elite kicker by helping the Chiefs win some games before the end of regulation or in overtime.
P Dustin Colquitt
As one of the best punters in the NFL, the Chiefs are lucky to have Dustin Colquitt.
Colquitt has been on the field many times punting footballs due to a lackluster offense. With the many times Colquitt has had to punt the ball, he has had some mishaps. However, Colquitt has never failed to impress.
His best game was against Chicago, where he punted the ball 11 times and allowed Devin Hester to only come away with three returns.
PR/KR Javier Arenas
Javier Arenas ranked third in the league in punt return yards on average, despite not taking a punt return back for a touchdown.
Arenas has not been as dominant as he was in Alabama. However, the Chiefs still manage to get good returns from him to help set up the offense.
Arenas did have one touchdown called back during his rookie season in 2012 due to a holding penalty. Arenas hopes to have his first touchdown next year on special teams if he does not get it in the season finale.