Oct 31, 2011; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jon Baldwin (89) makes a catch for a touchdown as San Diego Chargers cornerback Marcus Gilchrist (38) attempts to defend in the first quarter of the game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

The 2012 Chiefs Magic? Getting In The Zone

How soon we forget. The Chiefs were one of the lowest scoring teams in the league last season. In fact, there was only one team worse at scoring points per game than the Chiefs: the St. Louis Rams. Sure, it’s a copycat league but, sometimes we take things in the “Show-Me” state a little too personally.

The other missing element to the Chiefs offense was, “getting in the zone.” Do you recall the “zone” that Dick Vermeil’s offense could get into? Being entertained by Vermeil’s teams wasn’t just about getting into the “end” zone. It was about being “in the zone,” period. It was an incredibly satisfying offense to watch, which produced a lot of end zone experiences too but, boy was it a delight to witness.

This offseason, the 2012 Chiefs have generated a boat load of their own excitement while patching holes in their offensive ship and many expect them to be much, much better come the autumn of ‘12.

But, will they be able to… get in a zone, or even the end zone?

Hope endures. So much so, that many are tabbing the Chiefs to win the AFC West, including yours truly.

However, the bottom line is: the Cheifs must get in the end zone with a whole lot more efficiency than they did last season or there’ll be no post season play for the boys in red and gold. After all, the Chiefs only had 5 total rushing TDs for the whole season in 2011.

That’s one TD on the ground every 12.8 quarters (more than three games per).

Back in 2010, Jamaal Charles had five TDs, Thomas Jones had 6 and while playing for the Browns Peyton Hillis had 11. Can we expect the JC-Hillis combo in 2012 to produce more than  JC-Jones did in 2010?

You would think.

So, what have the Chiefs accomplished so far this off season to be encouraged that they’ll be able to get into a zone, or get into the end zone, more than the did last year?

1. The most obvious is the return of Jamaal Charles, who claim he’s faster now than he ever was. As with all injuries, we’ll have to wait and see about that.
2. If we’re listing these in the order of greatest impact then I would list the signing of Eric Winston right there with JC’s return. Eric Winston is a premiere tackle and fitting him into a spot of the greatest weakness on the entire roster should make a huge difference. Winston was an important cog in Houston’s running game and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Texans struggle in the running game without his services. In the meantime, look for K.C.’s rushing attack to vault back to the top of the charts like it was in 2010.
3. Signing Peyton Hillis should help immensely. It’s hard to imagine him not performing better than Thomas Jones has for the past year and a half. Plus, his familiarity with coach Brian Daboll’s offense will not only be a help to himself while he’s acclimating to K.C. but, he’ll be able to help others learning the new system.
4. Signing Kevin Boss. With Boss in town, the Chiefs have Moeaki insurance. While I agree Boss was signed with the primary idea that Daboll’s offense will be instituting dual tight end sets, there’s no denying Tony Moeaki’s history of injury problems.

On Friday, coach Romeo Crennel said this about Tony Moeaki and Kevin Boss,

We were hoping Tony could come back at full speed but, you just never know and so if we could get a guy, who could complement, another guy who could catch, if something were to happen to Tony, or Tony doesn’t make it back to where he was, ya know then we felt that that was pretty good for us.

As in any year, the Super Bowl contestants produced some stats that teams may be looking to emulate. For the Chiefs, the answer seems clear. Offense wins. Both the Patriots and the Giants had defenses that ranked near the bottom of the league. While the Ravens, 49ers and Steelers are known for their defenses, none of those teams made it to the Super Bowl. Also, the playoffs were dominated by decidedly pass happy teams like: the Pats, Saints, Packers, Lions, Falcons and Giants.

Visually, it’s dramatic when you see where the Chiefs ranked in total points scored last season:

(all of the above points were rounded to the closest whole number)

Points per game: the Packers, Saints, Pats and Lions scored 35, 34.2, 32.1 and 29.6 respectively and were the offenses that differentiated themselves from the rest of the league and established immenant domain as the best offenses in the league.

The Rams, Chiefs,  Browns, Jags and Colts scored 12.1, 13.2, 13.6, 15.2 and 15.2 respectively and competed in the Suck for Luck sweepstakes throughout the year.

Fans and sports newscasters alike, were counting the games and quarters that the Chiefs had not scored a rushing TD. It was painful to watch and listen to.

Although many would like to point out that the Chiefs lost the AFC West by a mere field goal, late in the season, the offensive facts and realities are much more sobering.

What I’m wanting to know now is, what’s going to be the Chiefs offensive  “identity?” When Brian Daboll was asked, “Are you a run first or pass first guy” he said, “I think that depends on who you’re playing each week.”

While on one hand I can appreciate a non-descriptive answer like that but, sometimes it can also mean that other teams will be dictating to you what you’re going to be able to get done as opposed to you using your most talented players to dictate to other teams what you want to accomplish, no matter what they are doing.

Being in the zone… is having an identity. Teams that are essentially able to express their identity are also able to “get in a zone” and consequently, the possibility of getting into end zone grows exponentially.

I’m going to give Daboll a break here because that quote came from a March interview and he can’t have been fully familiar with the Chiefs personnel much less their new draft choices.

Examples of clubs getting into a zone:

- The Patriots control the middle of the filed with Wes Welker and their two tight end sets. When they’re passing on all cylinders they seem un-stoppable.
The Packers spread the field by passing to a large core of talented wide receivers. When their QB is hitting all his targets they appear un-stoppable.
The Saints use a myriad of wide receivers and running backs to catch the ball in quick hitting timing routes. When the QB and the receivers and backs are on the same page, they look to be un-stoppable.
The Lions utilize a big QB with a big strong arm and a huge wide-receiver with speed and they throw the ball anywhere on the field and he goes up and gets it. An over-simplification for sure but, they’re essentially un-stoppable when healthy.

The zone I’m envisioning for the Chiefs in 2012 is: stretch, pound, suck, zap.

Players like Jon Baldwin and Dexter McCluster will help stretch the field: long, high and wide.
Players like Peyton Hillis, Steve Breaston and Dwayne Bowe will pound the creases created by the stretching.
Players like Kevin Boss, Tony Moeaki and Devon Wylie will suck the defense into the middle.
Players like Jamaal Charles will zap the crap out of a defense, the ultimate shock and awestruck, producing a lot of “hey, where’d that guy go?”

If the Chiefs can carry out a plan like that — with “applied persistence” — then they can get into a seemingly un-stoppable zone. Which should include many more trips to the end zone.

I don’t know what I’d like to see more — the Chiefs getting into a zone — or the end zone. Because one begets the other. And it wasn’t their offense that lost them a playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts following the 2003 season. It was the defense that couldn’t get the job done and the Chiefs’ current D shouldn’t have those kinds of problems next season.

In 2012, a Chiefs offensive identity that can be executed with consistency, has the potential to be  spellbinding.

The Chiefs have all the pieces. Here’s hoping they can put it all together.

They could be taking us on a magical mystery tour.

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