Nov 9, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Kansas City Chiefs nose tackle Dontari Poe (92) tries to tackle Buffalo Bills quarterback Kyle Orton (18) as he runs the ball during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Kansas City beats Buffalo 17 to 13. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
I have saved the best for last. And I do mean best, because the defense at the end of this season will almost certainly be even better than the defense at the end of the previous season (presuming that the injury bug does not rear its ugly head again).
I specifically say the end of the season, as Justin Houston should be back on the field by that time. Currently, whether he will sign either his franchise tender or a long-term deal before the Week 10 deadline is the biggest uncertainty on the defensive side of the ball.
Tamba Hali will be back, and so will Dontari Poe. So if Houston is on the field Week 1, then the pass rush should not miss a beat. If he waits deep into the season before returning, things could look very different, especially with Kansas City opening the season against two of the best quarterbacks in the league (Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning) over the first three games.
There are a few less unknowns on the rest of the defense than in the other areas I have mentioned. Or perhaps I should say that they are of less concern.
For instance, the lackluster run defense the Chiefs fielded in 2014 will be improved by the return of Mike DeVito and Derrick Johnson. I do not see how there is not improvement provided they stay healthy. However, there is an unknown as to how quickly two guys over 30 years old coming off season-ending injuries will be able to return to their best form.
The secondary is also going to look a little different. Ron Parker is back, and Kansas City snagged the best corner in the draft in Marcus Peters. But a rookie is still a rookie, and someone is going to have to fill the void at safety while Eric Berry is out.
Kansas City was able to manage that feat last year, so I see no reason why that can’t happen again in 2015. Yet, how effective will the secondary be against some tough competition early on is anybody’s guess.
What does all this uncertainty mean for the coming year? It is mostly a reminder to not put the proverbial cart before the horse. The Chiefs were good last year, but inconsistent and vulnerable in a few areas. This year they should be better and more consistent on the whole.
How much better? God only knows.