We’re knocking on the door of a new season and we could also be witnessing a significant transition in Kansas City Chiefs football history. As the Chiefs finalize their roster for the season, sure it’s obvious, they have some holes to fill. It’s also clearly evident that the Chiefs have a large quantity of youthful, tough and talented cornerstone players who will be carrying them to triumph, for many years to come.
So, who’s a pillar and who’s a filler?
How many young Chiefs players are foundational pillars who will lead the team through this era? Which players are fillers who will likely be replaced within a year or three? The good news for Chiefs fans is that there are more pillars on the roster right now than there have been for many a moon.
The formula for continued success of established approaches, like Pittsburgh or New England, is finding and developing a strong core group of young players and then keeping them together for a number of years. Although, the Patriots seem to be going against their usual trend this off season and are bringing in every available veteran they can get their hands on.
Traditionally, if a team only has a few players who become pillars, then the collaborative growth structure collapses and they’re left to re-build every 3-5 years as many organizations do repeatedly. The Chiefs have had 5 coaches since 1997. From 1992 to present the Steelers have had 2 coaches. The Patriots have had 1 coach since 2000.
So, who do the Chiefs have on their roster who you could call a pillar, players to carry them into contention throughout the coming decade?
There’s a boatload!
On Offense it begins with Dwayne Bowe, 26. He’s beginning his fourth season and last year the light went on for him. Bowe should be highly productive for another 6-8 seasons if he stays healthy and focused.
Jamaal Charles, 24, is beginning his fourth season and is near the top of this list. The question for any running back is staying healthy as well but, even more so than wide receivers. As unpopular as it is, Coach Haley’s decision to use Charles as a secondary RB weapon may help elongate his career and keep him in the mix much longer than if he was the primary RB in a system that featured him alone.
Matt Cassel is a young 29 years old with 6 more good seasons to look forward to barring any concussions as often plagues older QBs. Cassel making the Pro Bowl last year places him in more elite company but, he will have to re-prove himself all over again this year to show that last year was no fluke. Cassel will also need to learn how to read pressure in the pocket, and coverages, simultaneously. Hopefully 350 pound Green Bay DT Howard Green taught him that lesson.
Bowe, Charles and Cassel are the main pillars.
Brandon Albert, 26, is a pillar at left tackle. After this preseason many are doubting that. However, I’m going judge him more by his performance the last couple of seasons than by this awkward August of awfulness. I have been one to defend Albert as a left tackle. However, with Jared Gaither now on the roster and making progress I can see the possibility of a switch to the right side or even to left guard, which he played in college, in order for the OL to make room for Gaither while improving the overall performance of the line. So, the poor showing this preseason has opened my mind to the expanded possibilities of how the Chiefs might get better by utilizing the OL personnel to their greatest advantage.
That brings me to Jared Gaither, 25. Coach Haley stated clearly that they didn’t bring Gaither in to sit him. I see no reason that he can’t return to form which was one of dominance. That’s why I’m going to list Gaither as a pillar for the future. Albert and Gaither on the same OL playing at a high level will be amazing no matter where they line either of them up.
Jon Asamoah, 23, is only starting his second season. The Chiefs wouldn’t have let Brain Waters go if they didn’t see something solid in Asamoah. Yes, he had an up and down preseason but, you could see his potential. He had his dominating moments and you could get pretty excited about what he can become. Be all you can be Jon, be all you can be! He can be one of our pillars.
Steve Breaston. Todd Haley knows exactly what Steve Breaston is capable of doing on the field and that’s the reason the Chiefs signed him to a 5 year 25 million dollar deal. Haley also knew who they were getting as a person when they signed Breaston. We haven’t seen what Breaston will do for the team yet but, he will be given every chance to excel as he has for Haley in the past. Breaston just turned 28 on August 20th and looks to have 5-6 more good year ahead of him, if he stays healthy of course. He apparently had knee surgery in the off season which may be a reason he won’t start initially but, I expect him to contribute heavily as the season progresses.
Offensive yet to be determined pillars include the following. Dexter McCluster, 23. Dex is great. Love em. Exciting player to watch. Don’t have clue how long his body will take the NFL beating it’s going to absorb for the next ten years. Rodney Hudson, 22, looked good at moments this preseason. Until I get a peak at him during the regular season I won’t know if he’ll be a pillar or a filler. Jon Baldwin, 22. I’m a fan of his acrobatics on the field but, he hasn’t shown something we can depend upon yet: a consistent mind-set. Would love to include him on the Chiefs pillars of the future list but, he may turn out to be Pioli’s one mistake from this years draft, ironically so, since he was the Chiefs first pick. Le’Ron McClain, 26, is on a one year contract but, I get the feeling the Chiefs are playing wait and see with him. The Chiefs may also be hedging their bets with Charles and Jones health too. If either of them goes down then they’ll have McClain to jump right in. Of course, he’ll already be in the mix which will make that transition easier. I think the Chiefs would like to have him around as a future pillar and if they sign him to an extension later in the season we’ll know soon enough. Tony Moeaki, 24, had a history of health concerns before he arrived in K.C. and that continues to be troublesome. Enough said.
Barry Richardson, Ryan Lilja, Casey Wiegmann, Thomas Jones and a host wide outs all appear to be fillers. Each could be replaceable at anytime this season.
Defensively the Chiefs pillars of the future include:
Tamba Hali, 27, is the linchpin. Oddly enough last weekend when I was doing research for a post called “NFL’s Newest Team: The Sharpest Cuts” on all the players cut in the NFL I observed that locating quality QBs, OLBs and OTs (in that order) were by far the most difficult to locate. I was reminded then that this is also true on draft day and during free agency. This is the main reason why Hali is first and foremost the pillar of the Chiefs defensive future.
Eric Berry, 22, is a distant second. The Patriots just released a Pro Bowl Safety. No trade. No compensation. Berry may have been the greatest single difference in the Chiefs defense last season but, positional values keep him from surpassing the value that Hali has to the Chiefs. At least for a few more years. If he reaches Troy Polamalu value then that may change. For now, all that needs to be said is that he is most definitely one of the Chiefs pillars of the future.
Derrick Johnson, 28, is beginning his 7th season and it looks like it will be his best ever. If that’s the case he may surpass Berry this year in terms of his value to the Chiefs (except for the fact that Berry is much younger). DJ should have gone to the Pro Bowl last season but, with so many excellent LBs in the league it was difficult. Hopefully this year he gets his Pro Bowl. DJ will be 30 years old next year but, has six good years left providing he stays out of the doctors office.
Brandon Flowers, 25, is one of the best corners in the league. I believe he’s now the best in the AFC West. He and Brandon Carr, 25, form one of the best pairs in the whole league. When Flowers went out last year Carr stepped in and made it known he’s a top flight corner too. I don’t know if I’d classify either as a “shut down” corner because I don’t think there are very many of those in the league but, both Carr and Flowers are certainly pillars of the Chiefs future.
Glenn Dorsey, 26, elevated his play last season and was the one player along the defensive front who stayed on the field in all defensive alignments. In other words, he has become invaluable on the DL. Dorsey is entering his fourth season and his consistent play last year made it clear the Chiefs intend to keep him around which makes him a pillar for the future. I expect Dorsey to exert some dominance this year and get some league wide recognition.
Justin Houston, 22, is a solution and he played like it this preseason. Plus, he came a long way in a short, short period of time showing up to camp late and out of shape then looking unstoppable by the time the 4th game of the preseason rolled around. When the real lights of the NFL season begin to heat up we’ll see if he’s still up for the chore but, for now I’m listing him as one of the pillars of the future. I’m a big fan of his and nearly every play that I tracked Houston on this preseason he did a solid, if not superior, job. His potential is Pro Bowl caliber. Let’s hope he brings it hard and often and early.
Defensive yet to be determined pillars include the following. Tyson Jackson, 25. During this preseason, you can see he’s improved his attitude, his effort and his physique is also more sculpted. Now, we need to see it take hold on game day consistently for a year or two. Then he may be a pillar and not a filler. Other players are knocking on his positional door so, if it’s not him, it will be someone else either on the roster or not. Jerrell Powe, 24. I saw flashes. Enough to make me believe he can get there. We’ll see if the Chiefs still bring in other nose tackles but, for now he is second on the depth chart as a rookie. That’s something. I’d love to see his name branded as a pillar of the future but, we’ll have to wait and see. Kendrick Lewis, 23. He looks Berry-esk at times and disappears at others. If he continues to improve he may be around for a long time. As much as I’d like to see that, I’d also like to see the Chiefs bring in an experienced vet and move McGraw or Piscitelli. However, none of those Safeties will figure into the Chiefs future. I don’t know where to place Javier Arenas, 23. More likely in the next section with Gregg and Belcher. Although if he turns out to be a stellar kick returner he’ll be a pillar.
Andy Studebaker, Kelley Gregg and Jovan Belcher all appear to be fillers. Each could be replaceable at any time after this season. Studebaker had the past two seasons to take the job from Vrabel. He didn’t. Now, it looks like Houston may take it from him. Some may protest about Belcher but, as soon as Siler comes back Belcher will not be the starter. Even with Brandon Siler in there I believe the Chiefs will go shopping for an ILB this next year. Which means… Belcher is a filler not a pillar.
As you can see everyone of the Chiefs pillars of the future are 29 or younger. Cassel, Breaston, DJ and Hali top that group. Everyone else is no older than 26. That’s gives me a big boost of enthusiasm, as a fan, because these Chiefs are truly a youthful crew and will be growing together for quite some time.
Todd Haley over uses the word improvement. True. However, that’s exactly what we need to see each of these players do to become solid pillars of the Chiefs future. It’s an exciting year, because a lot will be known by the end of this season about the future of the franchise.
That’s resting squarely upon the shoulders of our up-and-coming “hard core” pillars and they are the ones scratching out the newest thrilling chapter that will alter the Kansas City Chiefs legend.