This time of the year is difficult for football fans to bear. The season is close and training camp is ready to begin, yet we will know nothing until kickoff on September 9th against the Falcons. We are, In fact, ready for football now but we will have to wait.
I have come up with a way to get some buzz going about the Kansas City Chiefs. It is not overly optimistic or pessimistic – it’s not even my idea. I have Dan McNeil and Matt Spiegel of 670 the Score in Chicago to thank. The idea is to pick the 10 most IMPORTANT Chiefs for 2012. Not the best 10, not the 10 highest paid players, not the 10 most highly-drafted players, not unshaven nutsack Haley’s top 10 players, not the 10 most likely players to help the Chiefs go 9-7 but the most important Chiefs in the quest to win the Super Bowl.
If these guys aren’t good, there will be problems for the Chiefs. As fans of a team with a lot of injuries, it may not be difficult for you and I to make such a list. This list is a ranked list with #1 being the most important Chief. With no further delay, here are the 10 most important Chiefs (in my opinion):
10. Dontari Poe, NT: It may seem unfair to put him in the top 10 but he is touted as being a three-down nose tackle and the Chiefs must get some kind of pass rush from the defensive line. Even if he becomes a dominant rush-stopper, that will be an upgrade over the passable players that have been in the middle of the 3-4 defensive line the last three years.
9. Tony Moeaki, TE: For a guy who missed all of last season, he is rated rather high here but I don’t have to look much farther than teams like the Patriots and the 49ers. They have some great targets at the TE position and they were tough to beat when they were drawing the poor coverage. Kevin Boss is a good addition as the Chiefs needed to get more depth at the position whether Moeaki is healthy or not. The fact is that Moeaki can be an elite TE like Rob Gronkowski or Vernon Davis. He makes Matt Cassel and the WR corps much better when he is running routes in the middle of the field.
8. Kendrick Lewis, FS: I do not worry about Kendrick Lewis but I do worry about who is behind him. He could be a little more physical this year but that is another story. The Chiefs have not built depth at the position other than young players like De’Quan Menzie and Jalil Brown (who may not be safeties) and veterans like Travis Daniels and Donald Washington (who really aren’t safeties). One of those guys could be alright if need be but one of the purposes of this exercise is to point out positions where, if an injury were to occur, there would be a drop in talent. At this point, I don’t trust the depth here but I hope we don’t have to find out how good the depth is here.
7. Dwayne Bowe, WR: The Chiefs have a good WR corps in Bowe (assuming he doesn’t hold out/go elsewhere this season), Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin. While the Chiefs could get by without Bowe, especially if the TE’s stay healthy and contribute, the fact is Bowe is a top 10 player at his position and it is crazy not to think that he doesn’t make a difference for this team this year. It remains to be seen whether or not the Chiefs will or should sign Bowe to a multi-year deal after this year but he matters to this year’s team for sure.
6. Justin Houston, OLB: While Tamba Hali has been the dominant pass rusher, the Chiefs’ pass-rush could improve and Houston should stand to benefit from any double-team that Hali could draw. The Chiefs could be a top-10 defense this year but they will not be unless Houston is raking in the sacks and or getting to the quarterback along with Hali.
5. Rodney Hudson, C: Hudson takes over the center position and, while he seems to have the chops to play the position, we have not seen him play the position consistently and, since he is expected to be the center of the future, he is an important player.
4. Jamaal Charles, RB: The Chiefs may have insulated themselves at RB by signing Peyton Hillis but, even for a position that means less than what it once did, Jamaal Charles is really good. The Chiefs missed him last year and they, me, you, everyone wants to see JC’s knee go right back to where it was before the injury.
3. Tamba Hali, OLB: As important as Justin Houston is to taking advantage of the opponent dedicating more resources to stop Hali, Hali still has to get to the quarterback to stop drives and force turnovers. There are a lot of facets in a defense but, if a team doesn’t get to the quarterback, the team will eventually get beat by one of these elite quarterbacks. Call me crazy but the Giants monster pass rush was the difference in the Super Bowl last year. Tamba needs help but he leads the way.
2. Eric Berry, SS: Yet another important player who was gone from the field early in the season. His importance is due to the fact that he has the same shallow depth behind him. It helps that the Chiefs did benefit from him playing every single snap in his rookie year and that he could get better. He is not an elite safety yet but he has the ability to be one this season. If he is, opposing offenses may not have a lot of options against the Chiefs. It’s time for Berry to return the favor to some of the players who play for teams on the Chiefs’ schedule this year.
1. Matt Cassel, QB: If the Chiefs are going anywhere in January, Matt Cassel will have to matter. The front office has given Cassel a lot of weapons along with what should be improved protection as well as an emerging powerhouse defense. The Chiefs are basically San Francisco 49ers-lite. The excuses have to go and Cassel must find some receivers this year. There still is no excuse for his and the rest of the team’s loss to Denver with that turdbasket at quarterback last year. This league is about the quarterback and he is it this year. This team was built with him in mind and I don’t want to hear that he doesn’t have this or that. The best quarterbacks find open wide receivers and find their way down the field. Once again, I am rooting for him but the benefit of the doubt is dwindling. It’s time for Cassel to produce.
Who are your 10 most important Chiefs?