Originally posted on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 8/27/12


2011 in a Nutshell: 7-9

In short the Chiefs 2011 campaign could have been summed up with the phrase, ‘well what else can go wrong?’ Before the season even started, they lost tight end Tony Moeaki to a torn ACL severely depleting their tight end stocks and limiting their passing game. In week 1, their defensive leader Eric Berry also tore his ACL and that was a big loss as Berry had been instrumental in the turnaround of the Chiefs defense during his rookie year. In week 2 against the Lions starting running back (and major fantasy weapon) Jamaal Charles blew out his ACL ending his year and the team would then fall to 0-3 effectively ending their playoff chances. A minor rally got the team back to 4-3 before more tough breaks set in, during the week 10 loss to the Broncos, quarterback Matt Cassel broke his hand and was lost for the season leaving the Chiefs with Tyler Palko as their starter. A break on the waiver wire allowed the Chiefs to bring in Kyle Orton for the final month of the season where he started 3 games and had the Chiefs in contention for the AFC West crown before falling one game short.

2012 Season Motto: More boom, less bust.

Personnel Performance

With the eleventh pick, in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Dontari Poe, the Memphis nose tackle who was the ultimate boom or bust player in the draft. At 6’3” and 346lbs, Poe wowed teams with a phenomenal showing at the scouting combine that took him from a mid-second round projection to the fringes of the top 10. Despite his size, Poe ran the 40 yard dash in 4.98 seconds, an unthinkable time for someone his size. If he works out then it will be a great pickup but we have all seen these workout warriors before so it could very well be Scott Pioli’s last draft if it turns out Poe sucks. Out of their eight picks in the draft five were dedicated to offense with special attention given to the offensive line through Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson, tackles that were taken in the second and third round respectively. A fifth round flyer on Alabama cornerback DeQuan Menzie could turn out to be a legitimate steal as he showed during college some good coverage skills and history has shown, good corners can be found all over the draft.

Free agency saw plenty of roster moves for the Chiefs with things seemingly turning out to be a bit of a wash in terms of the overall skill level of the team which isn’t a bad approach to take considering this team, when healthy, won a division title two years ago. Backup running back Jackie Battle bolted for San Diego but he was replaced by former Madden cover boy Peyton Hillis who, if he is motivated could be a solid compliment to Charles. Veteran back Thomas Jones also left the team but at age 34, there are serious questions about whether or not he can contribute anymore. Top receiver Dwayne Bowe was franchised by the team and not very happy about it, but after a holdout, he signed his tender and got into camp around two weeks ago. Cornerback Brandon Carr, who was a standout player on the Chiefs defense left the club for Dallas and he was replaced by Stanford Routt from the Raiders. While Routt is not quite the player Carr is, he will be able to jump in and do the job that is asked of him. There is also the chance that Brandon Flowers could take over the top spot meaning Routt will not be facing the other team’s top receivers making his life easier.

Key Player for 2012: Eric Berry – SS

Having watched a few Chiefs games from 2010 and 2011, the absence of Berry is noticeable in the performance of the secondary. Even as a rookie his presence on the field is noticeable with his uncanny ability to find himself around the ball at key times. Head coach Romeo Crennel loves what having a player of Berry’s calibre to work with in the backfield as his range and speed mean he can wipe out half the field for an opposing passing game. Berry posted great stats during his rookie year and his breakout run came in midseason when he made interceptions in consecutive games then got 2 sacks the following week showing his ability to get into the backfield as well as defend the pass. Having only found the endzone once in his rookie year, Berry will be hoping to make a few more return trips this year. Having lost his sophomore season to a torn ACL, Berry will be hungry to get back on the field but the key is how will he overcome the mental scars associated with coming off a serious injury like that. If Berry is able to come back with that same aggression fans are used to then he will have no problem returning to his playmaking role in the defensive backfield for the Chiefs.

Season Expectations

Like most of the AFC West, the Chiefs have an offense that has the potential to be so dynamic it could be among the best in the league, but it could also crash and burn to the point where it is as effective as having a toddler calling plays. It all starts with the line and how well they can hold up, the star of the group is left tackle Branden Albert who gets the fun job of protecting Matt Cassel’s blind side. Cassel meanwhile must know that he is in a fight for his football career here as fans aren’t completely sold on him as the future and the fact the team made a run at Peyton Manning. One thing we all remember from his 2008 season in New England though is that Cassel will make the most of his opportunities when given them. He has plenty of options to spread the ball around to when passing the ball, most notably Dwayne Bowe, Jon Baldwin and Steve Breaston who form a solid receiving trio. Add in the tight ends of Tony Moeaki and Kevin Boss and you have five good options right there. Out of the backfield receiver/running back/return man Dexter McCluster is a matchup nightmare as he can go all over the place before the ball is snapped and is a physical nightmare for defenders. As many passing options as the Chiefs have they will remain a run-oriented team with their three pronged tailback approach. McCluster will serve a third down role as a matchup nightmare out of the backfield. Jamaal Charles will be the lead back as he is nearly 12 months off his own ACL injury while new addition Peyton Hillis will be the substitute, power back. If this unit can get itself together then it will be lethal and a major asset in the Chiefs’ push for the division title.

Looking at the Chiefs roster on paper, the talent on that defensive line should be a scary prospect to face with three first round picks lining up in their 3-4 front. Rookie Dontari Poe will be lining up on the nose and if he reaches his athletic potential he will require double teams on every down. 2008 first round pick Glenn Dorsey takes up one of the end spots and has made the transition from a 4-3 tackle very well. While he did not record a sack last year, that is not really a feature of Romeo Crennel’s defense as his job is to eat up blockers and allow the linebackers the space to make plays. With those linemen taking up blockers it will allow one of the league’s best pass rushers in Tamba Hali to pin his ears back and go straight for the quarterback. Middle linebacker Derrick Johnson is coming off a career year last year where he set a new high for tackles, recorded 2 sacks, 2 interceptions and forced a fumble and will look to build on that as he is in the prime years of his career. Combine that front with an athletic secondary featuring Brandon Flowers and Javier Arenas that will be able to make plays and you have a tough defense.

Overall the teams on the Chiefs schedule look tough but they seem to catch breaks with whenever they play them. Atlanta in the opening week should be tough but they get to play them at Arrowhead which has the best outdoor home field advantage in the league. With the rowdy fans behind them, 6-2 at home is a legitimate possibility. In weeks 9 and 10 they get back to back primetime games, first at San Diego on NFL Network before a trip to Heinz Field where they will receive their toughest test of the year. A good record coming out of those games should lead to at least one of their late season games being flexed into the NBC slot, quite possibly their week 17 trip to Mile High where they could be playing for the division title.

Final: Will they be better or worse off than last year?

When I started this preview I did it thinking the Chiefs will be another middle of the road team but having seen their bad luck with injuries in 2011 and the slim odds of that being repeated you have to think the Chiefs are primed for a double digit win season this year.


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