31 Days, 31 Teams: Kansas City Chiefs
By Jeff Falconio
I think I fried my computer with all the football research I did so there was a slight delay for today's update (which is actually yesterday's) so without further ado...
During the offseason the Kansas City Chiefs were one of the busiest teams in the NFL. The Chiefs traded away the face of the franchise, hired a new coach, acquired the quarterback of the future and changed their defensive philosophy.
The whirlwind of activity began five days after the Super Bowl with the hiring of Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley. The high-flying Cardinals were a product of Haley which lies in stark contrast to former coach, the conservative Herm Edwards. Kansas City made two significant trades, sending tight end Tony Gonzalez to Atlanta while picking up Matt Cassel from New England. After two years of turning over the roster the Chiefs went after veterans Mike Vrabel, Zach Thomas and Mike Brown to help aid in the transition to the 3-4 defense. The Chiefs also reached for LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson in the draft, a player many believe has the skill set to be effective in the 3-4.
Gonzalez will be missed for sure but wide receiver Dwayne Bowe racked up more than 2,000 receiving yards in his first two seasons. More importantly, for the first time Bowe has a legitimate quarterback to throw him the ball. One thing the 2-14 Chiefs did well in '08 was run the ball as Kansas City averaged 113 rushing yards per game. The tempestuous Larry Johnson returns but he has caused more headaches for the Chiefs than for opposing defenses. Flashy Jamaal Charles can fill in for Johnson but how much the Chiefs will run under Haley remains to be seen.
Burning Question: Is Cassel the real deal? Cassel grew more confident as the season wore on after replacing Tom Brady as New England's signal caller. Indeed, Cassel was one of the best quarterbacks in the second half of the season but a big part of that was having the Randy Moss-Wes Welker duo at his disposal. After Bowe the drop off in talent to Bobby Engram and Mark Bradley is pretty steep.
The Chiefs will be better than last year if: Cassel proves '08 was no fluke and Bowe becomes one of the best young receivers in the AFC. Johnson behaves and brings balance to the offense. The veterans on defense help youngsters Jackson and Glenn Dorsey to put some bite into a defense that registered a mere 10 sacks last year. This allows Kansas City to zip past Denver and Oakland for a solid second place finish in the AFC West.
The Chiefs will be worse than last year if: Bowe struggles without Gonzalez as teams focus on him while no other playmakers emerge. The age is exposed on defense early as the Chiefs struggle with the Ravens, Giants and Eagles in the first four weeks. Worse yet, the Chiefs get swept by archrival Oakland, leading to another last place finish in the division.