A lot is going in the Chiefs favor this offseason. They had (in my opinion) a very good draft. They assembled a very talented and experience coaching staff. They landed key free agents Thomas Jones and Ryan Lilja and they didn’t overpay. Their schedule appears to be their most favorable in years and the team landed it’s first Monday Night Football slot since 2005.
The entire team has been present for the offseason OTA practices, save Jarred Page, who is dragging his feet signing his tender offer. With all the positive energy at Arrowhead, the Chiefs have perhaps a golden opportunity to reverse their fortunes with a winning record and a climb back to respectability.
To accomplish this task, however, the Chiefs are going to need contributions from unexpected places. It is a given that guys like Cassel, Bowe, Waters and Chambers have to show up but the veterans can’t do it alone. It is time for the Chiefs young players to step forward and make a name for themselves.
Here are 5 players that I think could be the key to a 2010 Chiefs playoff push:
(In no particular order)
1. Jovan Belcher
Jovan Belcher is my dark horse to be a starter at MLB by the time the Chiefs debut on MNF. Belcher was a huge surprise last season. The Chiefs signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Main following the 2009 draft. Belcher worked hard and began the season on the special teams unit. By the end of the season, he was playing middle linebacker alongside Derrick Johnson in passing situations. His season highlight was making a first down saving tackle in the Chiefs thrilling OT victory over the defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. He finished the season with 47 tackles, 45 of which were solo!
Keep in mind, Belcher, like Andy Studebaker, was a small school prospect. Guys coming out of the smaller college programs often need time to develop. James Harrison for instance, played college ball at Kent State. He was cut and resigned by the Steelers multiple times before he finally got it together. Belcher is ahead of curve. He adapted very well to the pace and competition at the NFL level and he could be poised to make a gargantuan year 2 jump. I am very excited to see how a year at the NFL level and in an NFL conditioning program will do for Belcher.
Right now, the only person standing in Belcher’s way is Corey Mays. If Belcher shows improvement in training camp he could very well unseat Mays as the starter. Personally, I think the only think Mays had on Belcher last season was experience. I know a lot of people were upset with the Chiefs lack of interest in linebackers in the draft but the team has some talented young guys that should be ready to step up. Jovan Belcher is one of them.
2. Andy Studebaker
Andy Studebaker, like Belcher, came from a small school and likely needed a year to acclimate to the Pros. Guys going from D-3 schools directly to the NFL is like going from junior high straight to college. They generally need time to catch up.
Studi was very productive in his relief of the injured Mike Vrabel last season. The Chiefs view him as Vrabel’s successor and the more he can push the veteran for playing time, the better it will be for the Chiefs. Andy flashed some play making ability by picking off 2 Ben Roethlisberger passes last year and was also a sack artist in college. If he can demonstrate both of those talents at the NFL level this season, Todd Haley will be hard pressed to limit his playing time.
3. Jon Asamoah
I wanted to keep rookies off of this list because they deserve at least a year to learn the job but Asamoah is massively important. Waters has been pretty durable and reliable throughout his career but Father Time is catching up with him. Asamoah needs to develop and develop fast because there is a very good chance Waters either sees an injury, decline in play or both this season.
If Asamoah is ready he will be extremely valuable to the Chiefs offensive line.
4. Derrick Johnson
No explanation needed here. The Chiefs need Jonson to do whatever is necessary to convince Haley he should be on the field. His play making ability is too valuable to the defense. If he finally gets it right this year, he will give the defense a monumental lift.
5. Brandon Flowers
Flowers has played very well in his first two seasons in the NFL. He has improved each year but the Chiefs need him to be better. Flowers had 65 tackles last year, with 5 interceptions and 23 passes defended. This kid has the chance to be a Pro Bowler. The Chiefs need Flowers to become a shutdown corner. If he can do that this season, KC could have one of the more formidable defensive backfields in football.
Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson
Dorsey actually played very well last season in my opinion. I think he just needs to generate a little more pressure. Jackson obviously has some work to do but cut the kid some slack, he was just a rookie.
These two ARE the defensive line. The must continue to improve.