The Kansas City Chiefs play their final game of the preseason tonight, and although they may have only found one win — I’m predicting they beat the Packers — they did discover a few things about their players, and possibly their football team as a whole. The front office probably won’t be forthcoming with these findings, so that leaves the door open for us fans to speculate. Although the preseason may not give us much indication of what we can expect from the 2010 Chiefs, it’s all we have to go on for now. Based on what we’ve seen in the first three exhibition games, below are five predictions from the offensive side of the ball. Look for five more from the defensive side next week.
1. The Chiefs will be one of the best rushing teams in the NFL.
The Chiefs currently rank second in the league for preseason rushing yards per game. Todd Haley said they were going to run the ball, and it looks like he meant business. Jamaal Charles didn’t gain all the yards, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be the featured back. Haley knows this year–as he did last year–that Charles is the most exciting running back in KC since Joe Delaney. Haley was obligated in the first half of 2009 to showcase Larry Johnson in an attempt to get some kind of pick for him. Although it didn’t work, he really didn’t need to waste the precious carries of a premier running back during the first year of a reconstruction era. The same reasoning was used this preseason while restricting Charles’ snaps. Every team does this with their elite talent during these “practice games”. Although we don’t know yet how many carries Charles will get this year with Charlie Weis calling the plays, if Charles doesn’t lead the league in rushing, he will lead the league in average. He’s that good! (There’s a bonus prediction at no extra charge!)
2. The offensive line will be improved.
Maybe Charles and company are making Kansas City’s front five look more effective this year over last in their run blocking, but I think they are getting better. Not only is the offensive line starting to open up holes for the running game, they have also taken steps to decrease the 45 sacks they suffered last year, which was the fifth worst in the league. Some of the responsibility fell on Matt Cassel, but look for that number to drop this year with the upgrades to the line. Weis will keep using the speed of Charles and Dexter McCluster to shorten the time the line has to hold their blocks. Hopefully Tony Moeaki will develop into another dump-off point for Cassel, which will help the pass protection as well. Although we didn’t invest that much in the guys up front this year, look for them to continue to improve over the course of the season.
3. McCluster will get the ball often, and he will take the hits.
Weis is going to find ways to get McCluster the ball. The Chiefs didn’t hide him in the first game against Atlanta, and there are no plans to start. Hopefully, the genius of Weis will keep surprising defenses in the way he gets him the ball. If anyone was worried about McCluster’s smallish frame, he showed in the preseason that he plays tough. As long as his body holds up against the punishment this year, Weis will continue to create plays which hand, pitch, or pass him the ball all year long.
4. The offense will put up more points.
Last year in four preseason games the Chiefs put up 42 points. That’s their total going into tonight’s game, so unless they get shut out — and they won’t because I’m predicting a win — they will have improved from last year. That total still puts them toward the bottom of the league for the preseason, but they have added play-makers on both sides of the ball and on special teams. Those players will get in the end zone, or set up a short field for the offense to score. This year’s new players will provide an increase in the total points per game. We’ll wait until we’re into the real season to factor in way the Chiefs will benefit from Weis calling the plays, but no doubt they will.