As I’ve said before, a team proves its worth in wins and losses, not in personnel moves and potential. Everything that the new regime has done this offseason will now be put to the test with pads on and real opponents to face in the coming weeks.
However, it is still worthwhile to give this team one last look over and decide where they’ve gotten better, where they’ve gotten worse, and where development has been stagnant. The score, not surprisingly, is quite good.
QB: Way BETTER. The Chiefs really couldn’t have been much worse at the QB position last year. Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn combined for 8 TD’s, 20 INT’s and 10 fumbles with a collective completion percentage of 57.5 percent. They also finished 36th and 38th in DVOA (Football Outsiders’ main QB value measure). In case you had forgotten, there are only 32 teams in the league, making the 2012 Chiefs QB pair worse than the worst quarterbacks in the league. Alex Smith obviously has his limits, but last year our QB’s were literally killing the team. Smith won’t do that at least, and for what it’s worth he came in at 10th in 2012 DVOA.
Also, I’m a lot higher on backup Chase Daniel than most. He’s impressed in every preseason and the Saints showed a lot of confidence in him by keeping him as the only backup to Drew Brees on a team that is built around the pass like no other in the league. The team still has a couple of developmental guys to boot in Ricky Stanzi and Tyler Bray, though only one will make it on the 53-man roster, I’m sure.
WR: BETTER. As always, we have question marks at the number two spot, but Donnie Avery is an improvement over Steve Breaston and we’re still waiting on youngsters Jon Baldwin and Dexter McCluster to rise. Avery also gives this group speed, something it has not had in a very long time.
TE: Also, much BETTER. Tony Moeaki has a lot of promise but was still obviously recovering from an ACL most of last season. Adding Anthony Fasano and drafting Travis Kelce makes this a very strong group.
O-LINE: BETTER. The additions of a healthy Rodney Hudson, Geoff Schwartz and 1st-overall-pick Eric Fisher should solidify a line that was pretty strong last year already.
RB: SAME. This team is built around Jamaal Charles and he has a bunch of young, unproven legs behind him. But, I’ll take the promise in Knile Davis over the 260 lbs of disappointment from Peyton Hillis. But, once again, this unit is not concretely better with proven talent from 2012.
D-LINE: SAME. This one is also pretty much a wash. They switched out Glenn Dorsey for Mike DeVito, which are basically the same guy — dependable run-stuffers with limited pass-rushing ability. In fact, that has essentially been the story for the whole unit. I think what tips this in favor of “better” is the continued development of Dontari Poe and the new defensive scheme brought by Bob Sutton that is going to have these guys attacking, not just holding gaps like they did under Romeo.
LB: WORSE. This is about the only area where I think I lean towards the unit getting worse, and even then it’s far from dramatic. The Chiefs have three pro-bowl LB’s in Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Last year, Jovan Belcher was dependable, if unspectacular at the other ILB spot. Now the spot has been totally revamped with Akeem Jordan, who’s mostly played outside in a 4-3, and 4th-round pick Nico Johnson, who I’ve seen nothing from on film, and I fear he benefited from simply being on the best defense in college football down in ‘Bama.
CB: Also, much BETTER. The Chiefs said goodbye to Javier Arenas in exchange for a fullback (who’d he piss off?) and brought in Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith, probably the top two free agent CB’s out there, both of which started for their previous teams.
SAFETY: I’ll say WORSE, just for the sake of variety. Kendrick Lewis has shown flashes but can’t stay healthy and in the past we at least had instinctive veteran Jon McGraw to step in for him. Right now, the depth behind him is all unproven. Tysyn Hartment (-10 points for that name) filled in well at times last year and Quintin Demps has starting experience, but he hasn’t had an interception since 2011 or a sack since 2008. The rest of the depth includes guys with some promise, but nothing to hang your hat on if Lewis breaks again.
COACHING: A million times BETTER. The Chiefs had by far the worst coaching staff in the league last year, and I’m not one to throw around superlatives like that lightly. To quote NFL Network’s Dave Dameshek, “A relatively talented roster got Romeo’d last season (Crennel might be the worst head coach of the past decade)”. I’ve been an Andy Reid fan since his Philly days and I’m very excited to see what he does with this offense. Bringing in Chris Ault and Brad Childress as specialists is also intriguing and I really like that Sutton is going to get this defense attacking again.
While my Chiefs optimism is tempered with tons of caution as usual, there is simply no chance that this team will not improve its win-loss record this year. Not only has it shrugged off the huge weights that were holding it down for so long in its inept QB and coaching group but it has improved in virtually every other unit on the field. The sky’s the limit, now it’s time for the team to put its money where it’s mouth is.