31 Days, 31 Teams: Kansas City Chiefs
Is the rebuilding process finally over for Kansas City? After years of stripping away the roster and stockpiling picks the Chiefs are trying to turn the corner with a solid running game, an up-and-coming secondary and a most unlikely reunion.
The first step for the Chiefs was to land a franchise quarterback which they did in 2009 with the acquisition of Matt Cassel from New England. After a successful 2008 campaign in which Cassel subbed for Tom Brady the numbers dipped considerably in '09. Cassel threw for only 2,924 yards, was intercepted 16 times, coughed up the ball on 14 occasions and was sacked 42 times. The transition was a rocky one but not all Cassel's fault. Number one receiver Dwayne Bowe was suspended for four games and led the league in drops. Bowe returns as does Chris Chambers and the Chiefs drafted Dexter McCluster in the hopes of turning him into this year's Percy Harvin. The real strength of the Chiefs was running the football thanks to a breakout year by Jamaal Charles who tallied 1,120 yards on just 190 carries. That's an eyebrow-raising 5.9 yards per carry. Kansas City then signed Thomas Jones in free agency to strengthen the backfield. While Jones is 31 he has proven most useful in a backfield-by-committee situation.
Kansas City switched to the 3-4 defense last year and there was definitely an adjustment period. Tamba Hali adjusted nicely, registering 8 1/2 sacks. Unfortunately that accounted for more than 1/3 of the team's sack total. To make matters worse, the Chiefs were badly ripped by opposing running backs and KC finished the year 31st against the run. Any successful 3-4 defense needs a quality safety and the Chiefs hope they found one in fifth overall pick Eric Berry. The Tennessee product is known for his athleticism, drawing comparisons to Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu, and is an upgrade over last year's starter Mike Brown. Brandon Flowers led the team with five interceptions and though undersized has a nose for the football. For added depth the Chiefs drafted Javier Arenas. But if the Chiefs want real improvement they'll need to get better at stopping the run, especially with Ryan Mathews, Knowshown Moreno and Darren McFadden in the division.
Perhaps the most important pickups for the Chiefs will stay on the sidelines all year. Charlie Weis is the new offensive coordinator while Romeo Crennel heads up the defense. The two last worked together in New England where the Patriots won back-to-back Super Bowls thanks in large part to the coaching. Both washed out as head coaches but have proven to be more than capable as coordinators. The Chiefs are on the rise and while no one will mistake them for the 2004 Patriots, Kansas City should see improvement this year.