Earlier in the week I brought you my thoughts on the 5 areas that I think the Chiefs upgraded this offseason. Now, as promise, I’m going to go all pessimistic on you and review the 5 areas that still need to be addressed.
Without further ado…
1. Defensive Line
It is hard to believe that after investing so much time in effort into the defensive line over the last couple of draft that the Chiefs still need help there but it is the truth.
A lot of Chiefs fans have a lot of problems with the defensive line. Let’s do a quick review of some of the favorites:
1. Tyson Jackson did not play very well last year. Panic is setting in. Pioli reached for T.J. and he is “Bust City.”
2. Dorsey is too small to play DE in a 3-4 scheme. His arms are to short and he isn’t explosive enough to penetrate into the backfield and disrupt plays. Yes, the 3-4 DE is not as important as a 4-3 DE as far as sacks go but they should get some and Dorsey has exactly 2 sacks in 2 years.
3. We don’t have a freaking nose tackle, which, incidentally, is the most important freaking position in the defense that we run. Ron Edwards is old and average at best. Shawn Smith has experience in the NT position but most reports are that he is a backup, not a starter. What the hell are we going to do? Why did we pass on Terrence Cody and Cam Thomas? Ahhhhhh!
More after the jump:
These worries are perfectly valid. While I don’t totally agree with them all, there is nothing I can tell you that absolutely refutes them. I can tell you that I think it takes defensive lineman about 3 years to get their swag. Jared Allen didn’t really explode until his 4th year…though to be fair he did show plenty of promise before that.
I think Dorsey has had a bum deal in the NFL shifting positions in his first two years. He may get an even worse deal if the Chiefs decide to try to play him at NT this season. Still, I think he has all the tools to succeed at any position on the D-line. The NFL is fully of guys who were told they were too small, not fast enough or not talented enough to play the position they are playing. If Dorsey has the drive and he works hard enough he should be fine.
T.J. is simply too early in his career to judge at this point. When these kids are in college, they are sometimes going up against inferior athletes. The player is often able to use his physical advantages to beat his man on a regular basis in college. Why learn technique when you can just push the guy over using your superior strength?
Guys in the NFL can’t get by on talent alone. They have to work hard too. Rookie defensive lineman are often going up against guys who have been in the league and no a lot of tricks. The young guys need adjust their game a little bit and learn on the fly. It takes some time.
KC’s end positions could be boom or bust. The jury is still out. The concern, however, and the reason D-line begins this list, is the NT position. The Chiefs have got to have a plan for the NT position, I just don’t know what it is. It may be that they feel Ron Edwards and Shawn Smith combined make a very solid NT. They could be right.
Once Tank Tyler was traded last year, Big Ron was pretty much on his own. He had to play almost 80% of the snaps and for a guy like Edwards, at his size and at this point in his career, that is simply too much.
If an Edwards/Smith combo is the plan it might work but we haven’t seen it in action yet and until we do, NT has to be considered a major weakness going into the season. The Chiefs would be wise to make a move there before the Chargers come to town for Monday night football. It is always better to be safe than to have Ryan Matthews break some sort of rushing record in his first ever game as a pro.
The chiefs MLB’s put up a high sack total last year but that is about all they put up. Demorrio Williams and Corey Mays were good soldiers but they were not an effective combo.
Todd Haley took a lot of flak for sitting Derrick Johnson and I think he deserved it but if you were paying attention, as the season went on, D.J. was finding himself on the field more and more.
Early in the year, the Chiefs were getting eaten alive over the middle. Mays and Williams, Mays in particular, could simply not cover the TE. It seemed like every time the Chiefs got the opposition in a 3rd and long, there would be a 20 yard pass over the middle to a wide open TE.
This continued but around mid season, they slowed a bit. I soon noticed that Haley was rotating in Jovan Belcher and Derrick Johnson on third down. D.J. and Belcher seemed to do a much better job covering the middle of the field. Remember, Johnson was working his way out of the doghouse and Belcher was an undrafted free agent who went from a special teams player to a semi starter over the course of one year.
The Chiefs certainly have depth at the linebacker position but it still remains to be seen if they have two solid starters. Guys like Belcher, Walters, Williams and Mays are all good, solid workers but we just don’t know if they can be the presence the Chiefs need in the middle of their defense.
Williams likely will not get any better than he is right now. Mays may get a little better but he looks to be a solid backup at best. Belcher and Walters are unknowns and D.J. has big play ability but he has not been reliable over his career and we haven’t seen anything to believe that will change.
I think this position is a weakness but I don’t think it is as bad as we think. If the Chief can add one more guy to play along side D.J., I would feel a lot better about KC’s run defense heading into the season. If they don’t, one of the young guys is going to have to step up and step up fast.
3. Wide Receiver
I know, I know. I listed WR as an area that the Chiefs improved in my last article. While I do feel the WR position was upgraded, I don’t think it is complete and thus, I feel it still needs to be addressed.
Bowe and Chambers are the Chiefs only proven receivers. Both coul dhave a fantastic year in Weis’ offense and both are capable of having over 1000 yards receiving. The addition of McCluster in the slot as well and more explosion and power in the backfield will certainly help make things easier on the Chiefs top 2 receivers.
That being said, both are not reliable. Bowe because of his drops and Chambers because of his age.
Chambers isn’t ancient but there is no telling when his production will drop off. He also is at a greater risk of injury than a younger player. If Chambers Chambers gets hurt and Bowe doesn’t improve his catching abilities, the Chiefs could be in for another long year on offense.
Had Scott Pioli been able to pull off the Anquan Boldin trade, I would be thrilled with the Chiefs WR’s and the position group would not be in this column. Unfortunately, the Ravens stole Boldin and the Chiefs could really use more depth, size and youth at the WR position.
4. Offensive Line
Here is another position group the Chiefs improved upon but that still needs help. Scott Pioli did a very good job of shoring up the interior of the Chiefs line but there is very little depth at the tackle position.
I feel comfortable with Branden Albert and Ryan O’Callaghan but there is little to no depth behind those players. Both are young and seem to be pretty durable but this is the NFL and injuries are bound to happen. If Branden or Ryan were to go down and miss significant time, the Chiefs could have a hard time protecting Matt Cassel.
I would like to see some veteran lineman added once teams start making some more cuts.
The Chiefs need more pass rush. They should get more production out of Dorsey and Jackson this year if both improve but other than Tamba Hali, the Chiefs have no other real pass rushing threats.
Mike Vrabel will likely be the starter again opposite Tamba and while he is slow and steady, Vrabel isn’t exactly a world-beater when it comes to sacking the QB.
Behind Vrabel, the Chiefs have Andy Studebaker who did very well in relief last season. Studebaker may be next in line to start at OLB if he can continue to improve but we don’t know much about his pass rushing skills. He was a sack master in college playing DE so if he can develop fast, unseat Vrabel and make himself a threat on the outside, the Chiefs should be in good shape.
Still, the OLB position has very little depth and the Chiefs can’t let their pass rushing hopes hinge on Andy Studebaker’s development.
The thing about all these areas is that most of them can be taken care of by developing the young players the Chiefs already have. If many of the players I mentioned are able to step up and make an impact, these weaknesses could quickly turn in to strengths. Unfortunately, we won’t know what players are going to make the jump until the season is underway and filling all of the Chiefs holes in this offseason would be impossible.
Let’s hope the guys who are already Chiefs help close the gap faster than expected. If they do, Scott Pioli might be adding pieces for an extended playoff ruin next offseson.