The Kansas City Chiefs are a completely different team now than they were during the 2012 season.
For the 2012 Chiefs, everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong. But now, with a new coaching staff and a slew of new players, Kansas City, on paper at least, is much improved.
Let’s take a look at five reasons the Chiefs will be better in 2013.
1. Alex Smith
It all starts with the QB. As 2012 went on, it became evident that the Chiefs were a team playing with very little confidence. In the NFL, the team goes as the QB goes. Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn did little to inspire confidence in their teammates. Without a leader under center, the Chiefs were doomed.
Smith has had his struggles. Based on his last two seasons in San Francisco, Smith appears to be the kind of QB the Chiefs have been lacking for. If Smith can duplicate his recent success in Kansas City, he could convince his critics that he is a late-bloomer. Was Smith’s poor past performances the result of poor coaching and management or was his recent success a result of excellent coaching and a dumbed down offense designed to limit Smith’s mistakes?
The Chiefs and the rest of the NFL are about to find out.
2. The offensive line
It is looking more and more like LT Branden Albert is going to be with the Chiefs in 2013. If that is the case, KC could end up with the best offensive line in the NFL. There are some question marks on the interior of the line with youngsters like Rodney Hudson and Jeff Allen but Andy Reid and John Dorsey have done a great job of adding depth and competition this offseason. If the interior of the line holds up, the Chiefs will be hard to stop running the football.
3. Andy Reid
Head coach Andy Reid should make a massive difference in the Kansas City locker room. The 2012 Chiefs did not lack for talent, save at the QB position, but they were as a mistake-prone and undisciplined team as I’ve seen in a while. What was most frustrating about Romeo Crennel’s Chiefs was how talented they were. When Herm Edwards led the Chiefs to a 2-14 mark in 2008, it was hard to be angry about the team’s performance. The roster had been gutted and Chiefs fans were basically watching a college team playing in the NFL. They had no chance.
Crennel’s group showed often that they could play with any team in the NFL…but only until the shot themselves in the foot.
Reid will need to use his considerable experience to discipline this young Chiefs team. For all his faults, former Chiefs coach Todd Haley produced a much more mentally tough team that managed to make a playoff run with the likes of Tyler Palko playing QB.
These guys can win but they need the right leader to help them get there.
4. Justin Houston
Justin Houston was one of the few bright spots on an absolutely dreadful 2012 squad. Entering his third-year, Houston had Pro Bowler written all over him. If the Chiefs can manage to move the football and actually play with a lead on occasion, Houston and fellow linebacker Tamba Hali could find themselves among the league leaders in sacks.
5. Eric Berry
To most, Berry has been a disappointment. The former first-round pick has flaws in his game, mainly in coverage. But Berry has had a rough deal. He had a rough start to his rookie season but by the end of that year, he was a Pro Bowler. Then, an injury knocked Berry out for the entire 2011 campaign. 2012 began much the same way Berry’s rookie season did. Yet again, by the end of 2012, Berry was heading to Hawaii for his second Pro Bowl.
While Berry probably didn’t deserve his second Pro Bowl nod, his improvement over the course of 2012 was evident. If he stays injury free, 2013 will be the first time Berry has played consecutive seasons since entering the pros. I don’t expect any steps back from Berry from here on out. Only steps forward.