I could have tackled the latest news out of Chiefs corner with this post, but as other esteemed AA contributors have looked at various roster positions across this 2012 KC team, I want to focus this piece squarely on the TE, and just how important it will be this year.
The role of the tight end is certainly a subject Chiefs nation is all too familiar with. For me it still seems like yesterday when I was in the corner endzone stands at Arrowhead watching #88 haul in a high throw away from the defender to where only he could catch it, followed by the signature goal post dunk. For 12 glorious seasons the TE position was a staple of the Chiefs offense. Since Gonzo’s departure in the ’08 offseason, the Chiefs front office has been hard pressed to replace a shell of his production… all due respect to an aging Vrabel, the slowest TE on the planet in Pope, and the apparent misfire drafting of O’Connell.
Tony Moeaki appears to be making a full recovery from his ACL injury suffered during week 4 of last year’s preseason game in Green Bay, and one of the many discredits to Todd Haley. Obviously this is vital for many reasons. When you look at the rookie numbers of Gonzo and Moeaki there are some striking similarities. Let me emphasize the incredibly strong disclaimer that I am not anointing Moeaki the next coming of Gonzo by any stretch. It is, however, safe to assume that everyone loyal to this site would agree on the massive amounts of optimism that we may have for our lynch pin at this position for years to come. Gonzo’s rookie year of ’97 produced 33 catches for 368 yards, an 11.2 yards per catch against 23 yards per game and a grand total of 2 TD’s. Moeaki’s rookie year of ’10, in contrast, produced 47 catches for 556 yards, an 11.8 yards per catch against 37.1 yards per game and a grand total of 3 TD’s. Add to the fact that Gonzo played all 16 games of his rookie season, whereas Moeaki only played 15 games in 2010, and you start to see my point.
The role of the NFL tight end has become increasingly important to offenses for one simple reason: there just aren’t many Eric Berrys, Ed Reeds and Troy Polamalus in today’s game. We’re talking about safeties who can guard the tight end all across the field in a 1-on-1 matchup with no help over the top. When you look at the landscape of some of the league’s most productive offensive ball clubs it becomes even more easy to attribute the value of stellar play from the tight end position. I’m not going to litter you with more stats, but New England with the sick dual threat of Gronk and Hernandez, New Orleans with Jimmy Graham, Green Bay with Jermichael Finley and San Francisco (yes, I said it) with Vernon Davis simply adds a level of output to those offenses that we Chief fans knew all to well for the better part of a decade not too long ago.
Here’s what really excites me when I think about the makeup of the opposition in this AFC West division from a defensive standpoint: I see no major threat at safety that can guard KC’s tight ends. Michael Huff may be ready to prove that Oakland made the right selection with their 1st round pick in 2006, and San Diego has a rookie in Taylor competing with Bigby for their starting strong safety heading into camp. Denver lost Dawkins to retirement and outside of the incoming Porter who’s an upgrade to Goodman, and Bailey on the corners, they have question marks at safety. None of our division foes can say the same in us with the return of #29 this year. This guy is going to flat out be a superstar year in and year out, and every respected NFL beat writer who contributes to the discussion of Berry compares his long term upside to the great Ed Reed. Giddy up.
If Moeaki does indeed make a full recovery, and you add in the addition of Kevin Boss to compliment, this Chiefs offense with Dwayne Bowe now squarely in a contract year and Baldwin ready to prove to his teammates, coaches and fans he’s ready to solidify a legit dual threat receiving core could really make for some red and gold fireworks. Couple all of this with the fact that the Chiefs will be back to 2010 form with a premium running game that will set up the pass with great success, and Matt Cassel ready to dispel the myth that he can’t stretch the field through the air, and we could all have our sights set on a week 17 matchup with the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning at Sports Authority field with a winner-take-all for the division crown.
So what do you think Addicts? Does a healthy and resurgent Tony Moeaki make all the difference in the world offensively for this 2012 roster?