The Kansas City Chiefs are not the most talented team in the league, or probably even in the AFC West. I wrote last week about the importance of winning the first game on Monday Night Football against the San Diego Chargers. This week, I focus on the individual players. For the Chiefs to have success this year, these are the ones that must play well. These are not, and will not be the Chiefs’ best 5 players in 2010. They are the ones that must perform if the Chiefs want to be good and the ones you should be keeping your eye on:
5. Dwayne Bowe (WR)
Ah, yes, Dwayne Bowe. Every Chiefs fan wants to believe in the talented, but inconsistent, fourth-year wide receiver. Thankfully, D-Bowe’s problems can easily be turned around if he only gets his head screwed on straight, and I think he’ll have it figured out this year. The offense needs Bowe to return to form as the big-play threat that he has been before. Let’s put it this way: if Dwayne Bowe does not have a good season, there’s a much worse chance that Matt Cassel has a good year, which, as I will discuss, is crucial to the Chiefs in 2010.
4. Tamba Hali (OLB)
Let’s be honest: Tamba Hali is the only legitimate pass rusher the Chiefs had last year with 8.5 sacks. Hopefully someone will step up and help Tamba in getting to the quarterback (it sure wouldn’t hurt if the players listed at #3 did their part). Since we aren’t quite sure who else, if anyone, will be a legitimate pass rush threat this year, Tamba must step up huge. Realistically, for the Chiefs to do well in this category, Tamba must have at least 11 or 12 sacks in 2010 unless another linebacker steps up in a big way (I’m looking at you, Derrick Johnson). Is that asking a lot? Sure, but the right-outside linebacker is typically the beneficiary of the 3-4 scheme, racking up a lot of sacks (see DeMarcus Ware, Terrell Suggs, Shawne Merriman, etc.).
3. Glenn Dorsey (DE) and Tyson Jackson (DE)
Yes, they count as one because most everything that can be said about one applies to the other. Yes, I am cheating here. If the Chiefs end up having a good defense in 2010, I guarantee you that means that Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson both had significantly improved performances from 2009 to 2010. The Chiefs got pushed backward easily on most run plays last year (they gave up 4.7 yards per rush in 2009, only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were worse); that starts with the D-Linemen. In order to improve as a run defense, these high-paid LSU guys need to earn their paycheck. An organization simply cannot draft two defensive linemen in the top 5 for consecutive years and not get positive production out of them; it’s a waste of a lot of money and effort. There are no new impact linebackers to help out these guys, so it’s up to them to create some push. In an interview with Shan Shariff that aired on 610 Sports on Friday morning, both Dorsey and Jackson indicated that they were not worried about being labeled as underachievers. Which is good, but please guys, prove us all wrong this year.
2. Matt Cassel (QB)
Matt Cassel is not one of the Chiefs’ top five players. However, because of his position, he automatically becomes one of the most important. Full disclosure: I am not the biggest believer in Matt Cassel. He had an epically bad season last year. He led the NFL in fumbles and had as many interceptions as touchdowns. I constantly screamed at my television last year as I watched Cassel always look to his short pass options, primarily in the flat, first, and never targeted a receiver downfield. The offensive line should be improved this year with the additions of Ryan Lilja and Casey Wiegmann, so Cassel should not have as many turnovers as last year. Also, Cassel has much more to work with in the 2010 season than he did in the 2009 season. Instead of Mark Engram and Bobby Wade, he has Chris Chambers and Dexter McCluster. Instead of Larry Johnson, who started the 2009 season, he has arguably the best running back tandem in the league in Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones. This year Cassel must be able to find men open downfield and hit them with big plays, and with a much more respectable running game, he should be able to do just that this year. If not, and he continues to only be able to drop off short, dinky passes, then the Chiefs should be looking in a new direction for 2011 at the quarterback position. But if Matt Cassel can come up with a productive season in 2010, the Chiefs offense can become one of the better ones in the league.
1. Jamaal Charles (RB)
This kid is the ultimate weapon. He can run for short yardage, he can break free for a 60-yard run at any moment, he can return a kick, he can run off the screen pass, and, perhaps the biggest difference between Jamaal and Larry Johnson, the kid can pass block. Charles is easily the Chiefs’ best player. Once he took over for Larry Johnson halfway through the 2009 season, only Chris Johnson (who had over 2,000 yards on the year) outrushed him, yet Charles still had more yards per carry than the Titan’s dynamic tailback. Jamaal emerged as a star player in the NFL last year and I would be surprised if he does not establish himself as a top 5 running back in 2010. Regardless of who is the “starter” at tail back, the Kansas City Chiefs offense will feature Charles as its centerpiece.
So what are your thoughts? What are your top 5 most important players for the Chiefs in 2010? What did I get wrong? Hit us up with a comment.
Oh, and one more thing: since I am unable to go to Monday Night (damn school), one of you needs to be twice as loud for me. Don’t let Philip Rivers audible, please. MNF, here we come.
My name is Tom Fehr, I will be writing your Saturday post at Chiefs Command every week at 9 AM. Check back each Saturday for more, and follow me on Twitter.