2016 AFC West Previews & Predictions

The real reason Osweiler may have left the division.

The real reason Osweiler may have left the division.

What is it about the Denver Broncos winning Super Bowls and having quarterbacks retire?? This of course wouldn’t mean as much had Brock Osweiler stayed around. Now they have Mark Sanchez and highly regarded 1st round pick Paxton Lynch. This time around there won’t be a Mike Shanahan brain fart going with untested Brian Griese over veteran Bubby Brister. Hopefully Coach Kubiak will opt for the veteran and bring his prized rookie along slowly.

However an autumn wind is billowing in from the west. Its always fun to watch a team as it starts growing before your very eyes. Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, and Amari Cooper headline a young star studded group out in Oakland. The question is will it grow to a point to challenge for supremacy in the AFC West this season??

raiderfanlogo2016 AFC WEST PREDICTIONS

Oakland Raiders 10-6 *

Kansas City Chiefs 9-7

Denver Broncos 7-9

San Diego Chargers 4-12

Most will scoff at the notion of the Raiders overtaking the Chiefs until you realize Alex Smith is still their starting quarterback. We have seen the best of his abilities and he will just keep you in ball games. At times he plays scared of throwing the football down the field. Jamaal Charles just made it off the PUP list but when will he gain his original explosiveness??  Now with LB Justin Houston returning from knee surgery also can we expect the same production there?? They were 11-5 with the 7th best defense in the NFL and OLB Tamba Hali is coming back from a broken thumb. This team will slide back in 2016.

Anderson will breakout n 2016.

Anderson will breakout n 2016.

In Denver the preseason has played out exactly as The Chancellor thought, no one is taking control at the quarterback position. Mark Sanchez’s penchant for turnovers has come back to haunt him in both preseason games. We still don’t have a starter named going into week 3 of the preseason. First rounder Paxton Lynch still needs grooming. He’s taken a few more sacks than you’d like but could become the starter by mid season if the offense sputters. His arm has shown zip. Now he needs to develop touch and throw the ball on time.

For a team that was 6-1 in games decided by 6 points or less the one thing they can ill afford is turnovers. Turning the ball over 3 & 4 times a game will get a defense in trouble. Even a #1 ranked defense. Go ask the ’85 Bears, 2000 Ravens and ’02 Bucs why they didn’t repeat. So expect Coach Kubiak to lean on RB CJ Anderson who should breakout with a 1,400 yard season. However the ball doesn’t bounce a team’s way 2 years in a row and QB instability will lead to 3 or 4 close losses this season.

Carr will lead Oakland to the playoffs in 2016.

Carr will lead Oakland to the playoffs in 2016.

It won’t be enough to hold off the growing Raiders under Coach Jack Del Rio. Look no further than the stunning development of Derek Carr. Last year’s performance (350 of 573  3,987 yds 32 TDs / 13 ints) marked him as an up and coming superstar and this will be the year he cements that notion. Both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are back as his main receivers along with 1,000 yard rusher Latavius Murray.

The improvement has to come from last year’s 22nd ranked defense. Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton Jr did get LB Bruce Irvin from Seattle this year and signed S Reggie Nelson to replace Charles Woodson. Both are coming from winning organizations which should provide veteran leadership to help a young team learn how to win. First round draft pick Karl Joseph has Nelson to groom him for the pro game.

Circle the week 6 match-up with Kansas City, where the Raiders could be sporting a 4-1 record against a 1-3 Chiefs team. The knockout blow that could ignite an AFC West Championship for the Oakland Raiders.

The Chancellor & Super Bowl LI Trophy at the Hall of Fame.

The Chancellor & Super Bowl LI Trophy at the Hall of Fame.

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Week 15: Will A Dominant Team Please Stand Up?!??

The late great NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle used to speak all the time about parody in the National Football League. Yet what we have seen over the last four days may have been tantamount to what his wishes were but it leaves a lot to be desired.

127888192_crop_650x440First on Thursday night the 11-3 Denver Broncos, who had the inside pole position for home field advantage, lose to the 7-7 San Diego Chargers 27-20. All of a sudden the Patriots can have home field if they win out. Oops they slipped on a banana peel against the 8-6 Miami Dolphins 24-20 and dropped to 10-4. Sure the Patriots had won 5 of 6 before that but they needed last second wins in 3 of those. The Broncos had won 6 of 7, yet lost at Invesco Field. Not the message to send to the league when securing home field.

Greg Jennings and the Vikings stunned the Eagles.

Greg Jennings and the Vikings stunned the Eagles.

Then we move to the NFC East leading Philadelphia Eagles who were on a five game winning streak. All they had to do was keep their #2 ranked offense on track against a 31st ranked defense in Minnesota. Nevermind the Vikings were 3-7-1 in their last 11 games. They fell 48-30 and the chance for the Dallas Cowboys to tie them in the division.

The Cowboys knew that when they took the field agianst the Green Bay Packers led by back-up quarterback Matt Flynn. They stormed out to a 26-3 halftime lead, then did their best Run & Shoot impression and refused to run the football and use the clock. The Packers roared back and won 37-36 scoring on all five second half possessions and Tony Romo… sigh…pulled a Tony Romo. The 8-6 Eagles accidentally still lead the 7-7 Cowboys in the NFC East.

Did we say something about accidentally leading their division?? Take the Cincinnati Bengals. They took the field after the Patriots lost and now can take the #2 seed if they won their game with the Pittsburgh Steelers and won their next two games. Then they hit their heads on the goalposts in Pittsburgh and was down 21-0 at the end of the first quarter en route to a 30-20 loss to their division rival. Viola!! Back to the #3 spot that would have them playing on wildcard weekend.

The Bengals gave up 21 points to the Steelers before they got out of the 1st quarter.

The Bengals gave up 21 points to the Steelers before they got out of the 1st quarter.

Even the Arizona Cardinals almost pulled a fast one on themsleves. In the hunt for the final NFC playoff spot with an 8-5 record, and winners of 6 out of 7 contests traveled to Tennessee. They were up 34-17 in the fourth over a Titan team that had lost their starting quarterback for the season and losers of 4 of their last 5 contests. Wouldn’t you know they played down to their competition and allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to look like Joe Montana in roaring back to tie the game at 34. Just before the Cardinals could botch their season they squeezed out a 37-34 win.

Que the video short of Vince Lombardi screaming “What the hell is going on out here?!?”

Next to screw things up are the Baltimore Ravens. Thanks to the Bengals gaffe last night, they control their own destiny and can win the AFC North. No way can they in this weekend of parody not screw this up and lose to the Detroit Lions tonight. Stay tuned.

As for the teams that are making a case for being dominant, the Seattle Seahawks just finished their 2013 road stanza with a gaudy 6-2 record. Their next away game will be Super Bowl XLIII in the Meadowlands with just one more win. Considering they haven’t lost at home in nearly two years, this is a case for dominance. Counting their  6-0 home record, Seattle’s average margin of victory at home is by 3 touchdowns at 18.6.

Cold beer thrown on him from Oakland fans couldn't cool down Jamaal Charles near record day.

Cold beer thrown on him from Oakland fans couldn’t cool down Jamaal Charles near record day.

The Chiefs aren’t quite making a case for dominance but Jamaal Charles is. Andy Reid and the coaches should be ashamed they didn’t pay attention to the fact that Charles was 1 touchdown short of tying Gale Sayers, Dub Jones, and Ernie Nevers all time record of 6 touchdowns. With 5 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter you’d think someone would get that information to the sideline. Hell George Halas had pulled Gale Sayers with 5 touchdowns until the crowd called for Sayers to go for another.  Well he’ll have to settle for the Chiefs record book with his 215 yards from scrimmage 5 TDs including 4 receiving.

Lost in the shuffle is the fact that a defensive first team the first part of the season has transformed into an offensive team. Going into yesterday’s battle with Oakland, the Chiefs had averaged 37 points per game over the last four weeks. After yesterday’s 56-31 win, that averaged moved up to 41.75 over five games. Slightly better than AFC West rival Denver’s 32.5 points per game. Yet Denver swept the Chiefs and both have 11-3 records. The Chiefs are forced to see if the Broncos will blink in their final contests @ Houston then @ Oakland.  As you’ve just read with all these teams, stranger things just happened.

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Styles Make Great Fights: Kansas City Chiefs v. Denver Broncos Week 11

Now the rest of the sporting press has come to recognize what Taylor Blitz Times readers already knew. The Kansas City Chiefs were going to be a force in the 2013 campaign as we predicted they would win the AFC West. Well, not so fast. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to go into Invesco Field and stop Peyton Manning’s 8-1 Denver Broncos. However the Chiefs come in as the NFL’s last unbeaten team and a perfect 9-0 record.

Tamba Hali has 9 sacks in the Chiefs 9 games. Did you know that is only good enough for second on the team??

Tamba Hali has 9 sacks in the Chiefs 9 games. Did you know that is only good enough for second on the team??

The obvious match-up pits the #1 offense of the Broncos with the Chiefs 9th ranked defense. In all 9 games Kansas City hasn’t given up more than 17 points in any game this season. They lead the league with 36 sacks, twenty between Justin Houston (11) and Tamba Hali (9) alone. The Chiefs are also 6th against the pass having intercepted 12 passes and giving up the 3rd fewest passing touchdowns with 9.

Hosting this big time match-up is the NFL’s “point a minute” offense. Peyton Manning has 33 touchdowns in only nine games. Thirty three?? Yikes… The Broncos have scored 371 points so far this season. How significant is that? Last year’s Super Bowl champion Ravens scored 398 the entire season. You were staring at one of history’s finest scoring teams. With five of their last seven being played outside in colder weather, their scoring should slow some.

Moreno has had a big 2013 and may need to be a bigger factor down the stretch.

Moreno has had a big 2013 and may need to be a bigger factor down the stretch.

The real question comes when the Broncos two backup tackles have to line up and take on Hali and Justin Houston. Will they decide to run the ball with Knowshon Moreno (521 yds / 8TDs) to keep the defense honest?? The Chiefs are only 19th against the run and Nose Tackle Dontari Poe (36 tackles /4.5 sack /3 passes defensed) is on the short list of defensive linemen up for Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year. Will Denver stay committed enough to the run??

They have to get the ball out of Manning’s hands quick with the Chiefs rush coming at them. Kansas City needs to press the Denver receivers and forcing Manning (nursing a high ankle sprain) to hold onto the football for close to 2 seconds before the ball can be thrown. If they do all of these things, the Chiefs have a big chance to win this game.

To win this game, the Chiefs have to rope them into a defensive slugfest and possess the football. Right now the best the Chiefs can do is a low scoring affair won 20-17 or 17-14. If manning can get to 20 first, the game is over and Kansas City will have to wait for the rubber match in two weeks. Alex Smith can’t turn the football over and the line needs to open holes for Jamaal Charles (726 yards / 6 TDs) and a big play is needed from Dexter McCluster.

Funny how folks shape their arguments huh?? Last year when The Chancellor of Football said the Denver Broncos ran out to a 13-3 record and won the AFC West, they hadn’t played anybody. The rest of the AFC West was mired in a 17 game losing streak. Now Bronco supporters are saying the same thing about Kansas City and they might be right. Yet did you know Denver hasn’t beat a team with a winning record in 2013?? That’s right they were beaten in Indianapolis and are 0-1 against a team with a winning record. They were 1-3 last year against playoff teams.

Let’s face facts…. Peyton Manning and the Denver offense could be off for 50 minutes, then poof score 28 and are well ahead in a rout. The Chiefs coming out party is one where they have to play a grind it out game for all 60 minutes. Possess the football and run it at Denver and keep Manning off the field.

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Top Ten Running Backs Going Into 2013 Season

As the NFL has evolved into more of a passing league, it seems that the importance of the running back position should wane. However there is nothing more powerful than a rushing attack to wear down your opponent or take time off the clock. What we have seen is the evolution of the type of back in most instances. Gone is the huge bruiser to lean on the defense and he has been replaced with a smaller, shiftier type of back. The type to take a handoff in a stretch running play whether the quarterback is under center or from the Pistol and Shotgun formations.

Do you realize Jamaal Charles has rushed for over 1,000 yards 3 times in a 5 year career??

Do you realize Jamaal Charles has rushed for over 1,000 yards 3 times in a 5 year career??

The best can operate in multiple sets as well as run routes to catch the ball in space. However there are a few throwback types who smash into the line and come off traps, sweeps, and multiple tight end sets as well. Each team needs to adapt their offense to the type of running and passing plays suited to their back’s ability. To make this list, running backs need to be able to break the first tackle. Well here we are with the Taylor Blitz Times best NFL running backs coming into the new season.

10. Maurice Jones-Drew – Jacksonville Jaguars: Although he’s led the league in rushing with 1,606 yards in 2011, Drew is coming back from a major leg injury where he missed most of 2012, and has carried a heavy load the last four years. He has been the Jaguars offense and could be on the verge of possibly burning out as Michael Turner did. This year we’ll have to watch if he’s able to slip tackles and power through arm tackles as he has over his 7 year career. It’s those 954 runs between 2009-2011 that worry us about burning out. He should be good for 1,000 yards this year but we’re keeping our eye on him.

9. Chris Johnson-Tennessee Titans: Did we say gamebreaker?? Well CJ2K is still on the launch pad down in the volunteer state. With a head coach who is a Hall of Fame lineman in Mike Munchak, it’s expected the Titans will come together on the line. This former 2,000 yard rusher stands on the launch pad destined for another big year, yet the vision of that coming is beginning to wane. However he did flash his explosiveness with a 94 yard touchdown last year. In all he ran 276 times for 1,243 yards and 6 TDs.

Spiller could be the Buffalo Bills second 2,000 yard rusher behind OJ Simpson.

Spiller could be the Buffalo Bills second 2,000 yard rusher behind OJ Simpson.

8. CJ Spiller-Buffalo Bills: Last year he burst onto the scene as the electrifying talent Bills brass and fan base had been expecting. The team needs to quit with Fred Jackson and give the ball to this game breaker 25 times a game. He was on his way to bust status after two years of flashes once he got onto the field. However an injury to Jackson left Spiller as the only runner in town and he exploded for 1,244 on just 207 carries. That is 6.0 yards a crack!! The same average as Peterson who ran for 2,000 yards. This year it should be his year and his team as he shows 2012 was no fluke. He also accounted for 43 receptions for 453 yards and combined for 8 touchdowns.

7. Alfred Morris-Washington Redskins: A surprise rookie performance was turned in by Morris, who was a fourth round draft choice. His 1,613 yards and 13 TDs were among the best in football but let’s ask a fundamental question: Was his performance indicative of his talent or was he the beneficiary of RG III carrying out read option fakes?? He was the second option when it came to rushing the football in many a defensive coordinator’s game plan. Year two will be interesting to watch how teams play him.

Yet you can’t underscore he was a tough durable low center of gravity back that thrived in the Redskin’s offense. He’s shifty enough, he seldom took a real big hit with most of the plays being stretch type runs. It reciprocated in holding linebackers honest and allowed Griffin III to rush for another 815 yards and 7 more TDs. He did disappear in the playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks once Griffin III went down. Would he be nearly effective if he played with another quarterback??

6. Frank Gore-San Francisco 49ers: One of the last of a dying breed, the do everything power back. One huge beneficiary of the new Pistol offense is Frank Gore. There are still running plays where the 49ers line up in power formations but in large part Gore isn’t facing downhill charging linebackers. The Pistol forces teams into 4-2-5 or 3-3-5 nickel variations where the linebackers are a step behind on the front side of the read option.

They are not attacking the run lanes like they do in a traditional sense and this will lesson the wear and tear on a running back entering his ninth year. For the first time in many years, Gore looked fresh the entire season. He started all 16 games while rushing for 1,214 yards 8 TDs while averaging 4.7 yards per rush. His carries will be split between Kendall Hunter and LeMichael James to keep him fresh for the stretch drive. So expect his totals to be a little less also.

NFL Network dubbed him "The Muscle Hamster" as he has shown tackle breaking power in his first season.

NFL Network dubbed him “The Muscle Hamster” as he has shown tackle breaking power in his first season.

5. Doug Martin-Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A shifty power runner in an Emmitt Smith type roll yet he has a better downfield burst. If you’re new to the Taylor Blitz Times, we have touted him as an NFL ready back and produced an article on his Heisman Trophy legitimacy before his senior season at Boise St. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/201301120den.htm His rookie campaign saw him rush for 1,454 yards 11 TDs while catching 49 passes for another 479 yards and a touchdown.

Last year it started when he burst onto the NFL scene with a national televised game against the Vikings. That night he ran for 137 yards with a touchdown while catching 3 passes for another  79 yards and a touchdown. He had a 41 yard run and a 64 yard touchdown on a screen. Just when folks began talking about him he breaks out with his masterpiece. He showed there was another runner on the field that night along with Adrian Peterson.

The following week out in Oakland, in front of his bay area family, Martin ran for 264 yards with 4 touchdown runs of 67, 70, and 41, and 1 yards. For much of the fourth quarter Fox was airing his exploits to all other games since he was so close to the all time record. Walter Payton, Eric Dickerson, Jim Brown, OJ Simpson, nor Corey Dillon had ever run that far as a rookie in a game. No SEC back including Bo Jackson has ever run that far in an NFL game period. Only Adrian Peterson as a rookie ran farther. We’re talking all of NFL history here. He will be a candidate for 1,500 yards again down in Tampa.

4. Jamaal Charles-Kansas City Chiefs: The most underrated running back in football. We have heard former Chief now analyst, Bill Maas proclaim he is a smallish type back. The saving grace for the Chiefs offense last year was former Texas Longhorn Jamaal Charles. Last year he ran with enough power to break tackles and have a Pro Bowl season with 1,509 yards. He had a whopping 5.3 yard average and don’t forget he was a Pro Bowl performer in 2010, when he rushed for 1,467 yards and an even better 6.4 yard average. This is no fluke. He’s only going into his sixth season. Now with Alex Smith and a good passing combo, he should keep up the pace set last year.

Texans Super Bowl hopes ride with Foster.

Texans Super Bowl hopes ride with Foster.

3. Arian Foster-Houston Texans: Going into his 5th season, the Texans couldn’t be more solid at running back with Arian Foster leading the charge. Next to Adrian Peterson, no back in football has been more productive than Foster’s 4,264 yards and 39 TDs over the last three years. He is not the flashy runner breaking the huge play like CJ2K or Adrian Peterson, but he’s a steady performer that churns out important first down after first down as the Texans closer.

2. Marshawn Lynch-Seattle Seahawks: No runner sets the tempo for his football team like Lynch. He brings a physicality and attitude to the Pacific Northwest that is infectious and goes over to a swarming defense. He has been the lightning rod ever since his famous 67 yard touchdown run to oust the defending champion Saints in the 2010 wildcard game.

Although he’s entering his seventh season, he doesn’t have a lot of wear and tear on him. In 2009 & 2010 he only carried the ball a combined 320 times as he played for both Buffalo and Seattle. Last year he thundered for 1,590 yards and 11 TDs as he powered the Seahawks into the playoffs. This is the only running back in the game today that raises the level of the entire football team with his play. Expect another 1,500 yard season easily.

Peterson is the best in the game today and is already a Hall of Fame talent.

Peterson is the best in the game today and is already a Hall of Fame talent.

1. Adrian Peterson-Minnesota Vikings: The 21st century version of Eric Dickerson is absolutely a Hall of Fame running back. Yes you read that correctly. He’s a Hall of Fame runner already. Less than 7 months from damaging his MCL and ACL, he burst for 2,097 yards in a season where the Vikings eased him in. In year’s past we had Jamal Lewis and other runners who tore their ligaments and came back, but they had nearly a full season they sat out or eased themselves into the game first. Not Peterson.

What’s startling is this is the season he’ll hit full stride and should break Eric Dickerson’s record of 2,105 yards. Last year he broke breathtaking runs when he was the Vikings only legitimate offensive weapon. Now with quality receivers on the outside in Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Pro Bowl TE Kyle Rudolph, defenses can’t key on him.

You do realize that he already holds the all time rushing record of 296 yards which is also the rookie record as well. When he get’s to Dickerson’s 2,105 yards, he will be the only back in league history to have two 2,000 yard seasons. There have been only 2 runners who have held these records at the same time. Both OJ Simpson and Jim Brown made the Hall of Fame along with Eric Dickerson. Peterson is already among that group. Another 2,000 yard season will cement it.

Next: Washington Redskins 2013 Preview

2013 Kansas City Chiefs Preview – Tools for A Resurgence

The Chiefs new Head Coach Andy Reid figures to provide an offense the Chiefs have been missing for the past two years.

The Chiefs new Head Coach Andy Reid figures to provide an offense the Chiefs have been missing for the past two years.

If you are a fan

of the Kansas City Chiefs, the 2012 year couldn’t end fast enough. The team had just struggled through a 2-14 season which was one of the worst in the history of a proud franchise. From all the losing to a suicide in front of Head Coach Romeo Crennel, all they could do was start from scratch. Enter new Head Coach Andy Reid.

Whenever a team hires in a new coach, the optimism of a franchise is renewed. Yet why this much optimism?? The staple of the Andy Reid era in Philadelphia was his quarterback development. We’re not just talking Donovan McNabb, think back to the 2002 NFL season. In that year he coached AJ Feeley and Ty Detmer to a 5-1 record while McNabb recovered from a fractured ankle. That year they made the NFC Championship Game. In 2006 he coached an aging Jeff Garcia to a 5-1 record when McNabb was lost for the season and they made the playoffs winning a wild card game.

All this before we talk about the resurrection of Michael Vick’s career and the possible Hall of Fame career of McNabb, Reid develops quarterbacks and don’t forget his role in the ascension of Brett Favre’s career. Every quarterback that has associated with Reid has performed above expectations. He is the replacement to develop quarterbacks the Chiefs have sought since Charlie Weiss’ departure. He may be the best to develop quarterbacks in the last 25 years. Look at what he did last year with a rookie in Nick Foles??

Alex Smith for the first time in his career doesn't have to look over his shoulder. The Chiefs are committed to him.

Alex Smith for the first time in his career doesn’t have to look over his shoulder. The Chiefs are committed to him.

Quarterback: What is strange about the odyssey Alex Smith has led is how easily he was dismissed. It’s been documented how he had six offensive coordinators in seven years however before he was traded he had turned a corner. Although his former 49er team made it to the Super Bowl with Colin Kaepernick under center, he was 19-5-1 in the last two years. His play had matured while he ran a play action offense that played to his strengths.

For 2012, A. Smith completed 70% of his passes for 1,737 yards 13 TDs with 5 interceptions vs 62.4% for 1,814 yards 10 TDs and 3 interceptions for Kaepernick. An uneducated fan will say “Yes, but they made the Super Bowl with Kaepernick” which is true but a total misnomer. They were already on their way there. In 2011, totally under Smith’s control, they were 13-3 and lost in overtime in the NFC Championship Game. In that game he did not throw an interception. The same could not be said for the 11-4-1 49ers that played in Super Bowl XLVII as Kaepernick did throw a 2nd quarter interception that held up comeback efforts.

For the first time in his career he is going to have big play receivers in their prime. Dewayne Bowe was re-signed and last year’s top pick Jonathon Baldwin are big targets. Face it, Michael Crabtree finally panned out last year. He was on his way to bust status that even the most ardent 49er fan would care to admit. All Smith has to do is produce a little offense and this team could win. Did you know this team only scored 423 points in the last two seasons combined?? Over the past two seasons, Chiefs quarterbacks threw for only 21 touchdowns as compared to Smith’s 31 in a season and a half.

What does that mean?? Well during an 8 game stretch after beating New Orleans in overtime last year, the Chiefs lost 4 of those 8 games by 10 points or less. If you factor in those 10 additional touchdowns of Smith v. Cassel and Brady Quinn this team could have had a 6-5 record going into week 12 instead of a demoralized 1-11. He was a winning quarterback when he had a running game when we last saw him and he should be playoff caliber this year for Kansas City. Why not just average?? Andy Reid is a quarterback coach and they play the 5th easiest schedule. Only a .473 winning percentage. Add to that there is little to study of Smith in a true West Coast offense.

Do you realize Jamaal Charles has rushed for over 1,000 yards 3 times in a 5 year career??

Do you realize Jamaal Charles has rushed for over 1,000 yards 3 times in a 5 year career??

Offensive Backfield: The saving grace for the Chiefs offense last year was former Texas Longhorn Jamaal Charles. Last year he ran with enough power to break tackles and have a Pro Bowl season with 1,509 yards. He had a whopping 5.3 yard average and don’t forget he was a Pro Bowl performer in 2010, when he rushed for 1,467 yards and an even better 6.4 yard average. This is no fluke. He’s only going into his sixth season and Reid hasn’t had a running back of this quality in any of his years in Philadelphia.

Add to that when Charles is spelled, the even quicker Dexter McCluster is the out of the backfield pass receiving complement. These two combined are Brian Westbrook 4.0. Last year he pitched in with 52 receptions for 452 yards and 1 touchdown. He can help with first downs between the 20’s. Charles also contributed with 35 receptions for 236 yards and a touchdown as a safety valve.

For battering at the goal line or short yardage situations, we have to see if Peyton Hillis will do it. Or if Reid will have Charles follow a FB into the line. This group needs more touchdowns. This group should be productive to a Super Bowl quality grade.

You have to believe Reid promised to get Bowe the football. He re-signed pretty quick in Kansas City.

You have to believe Reid promised to get Bowe the football. He re-signed pretty quick in Kansas City.

Receivers: Here is where Andy Reid will feel like an adopted kid spending his first Christmas with a new family. So many toys he won’t know which to play with first. Before they acquired Smith, the first priority was to re-sign WR Dewayne Bowe. At 6’3, 230 lbs, Bowe is a muscular receiver that will go over the middle. He isn’t a burner and he can be an X or a Z in Reid’s offense. He’s not the most fluid in the hips and will most likely line up as the X. Nevertheless, he caught 59 passes last year for 801 yards and just 3 touchdowns. Expect these numbers to go up in a better structured offense.

New Wide Receiver Coach David Culley, your mission should you choose to accept it, is to further develop second year receiver Jonathon Baldwin. The 6’4, 225 lbs former Biletnikoff Award winning receiver from Pitt had a modest rookie season. In 6 starts he caught 20 passes for 325 yards and a touchdown. Promising is the fact that he averaged 16.3 yards per reception. This will be the break-out year for Baldwin and the offense as a whole will take off. No secondary in the AFC West will be equipped to cover them.

Chiefs brass has also signed free agent receivers Mardy Gilyard and Donald Avery to challenge for the slot positions. At tight end Anthony Fasano was signed as a free agent and Travis Kelce was drafted in the 3rd round. Incumbent TE Tony Moeaki (33 rec./ 453 yds / 1TD) had better be ready for the challenge and pick up this offense quickly or he will be the odd man out. A playoff caliber group.

Top draft pick Eric Fisher at rookie camp. Its imperative that the line comes to camp healthy and ready to compete.

Top draft pick Eric Fisher at rookie camp. Its imperative that the line comes to camp healthy and ready to compete.

Offensive Line:  One of the places the team is looking to improve is on the offensive line. Here the Chiefs have drafted T Eric Fisher with the first pick of the draft. Then went on to select Eric Kush in the 6th round while designating T Branden Albert the team’s franchise player. To add to the mix the Chiefs have another six offensive linemen signed and will be brought to camp. With draft pick Kush already signed, the priority is to get Fisher into camp on time.

Are the Chiefs making wholesale replacements on a line that gave up 40 sacks or are they making moves to fit Reid’s style of offense?? Either way we have to give this group an incomplete until we know who is starting and where. Even Tackle Eric Winston, a starter in all 16 games last year, was released.

Defensive Line: After being burnt by the drafting of former LSU DT Glenn Dorsey, the Chiefs didn’t draft any defensive linemen even though they needed them. However three Defensive Ends were signed in Ridge Wilson, Josh Martin, and Rob Lohr to team with Tyson Jackson (43 tackles /3 sacks) and Ropati  Pitoitua (51 tackles /2 sacks). This group only reached the quarterback 5 times in 2012. Horrible.

Kansas City was 27th against the run last year and the only interior lineman returning is Dontari Poe. He needs to push the pass pocket more as he didn’t record a sack last year. Along with the offensive line this will line will have open competition with a new coaching staff. They will need to sign another DT or two this summer. Until then, this group is definitely below average.

Justin Houston is a wrecking ball of a linebacker, and at 23 years of age, has just scratched the surface.

Justin Houston is a wrecking ball of a linebacker, and at 23 years of age, has just scratched the surface.

Linebckers: Here is where the Chiefs bread is buttered as a defense. Long time Chief Derrick Johnson turned in a career year with 125 tackles 2 sacks, and 4 passes defensed. He will bring the thump as he also forced 4 fumbles in a Pro Bowl year from his inside linebacker position. If the Chiefs switch to a 4-3, he would flourish as a sideline to sideline defender. We have to wait and see.

However a switch would be detrimental to Justin Houston’s game. He was the best pass rusher on the team from his outside linebacker flank as he recorded 10 sacks to go with his 66 tackles. He can always rush as a nickel defensive end.  At 23 he’s one of the active young defenders that can be built around. When he replaced Von Miller for the 2013 Pro Bowl, the Chiefs sent THREE linebackers to Hawai’i. Yikes!!

Tamba Hali is the Pro Bowl linebacker for the second time in as many years. He had another solid season with 51 total tackles and 9 sacks. He’s turning 30 this year and if the team moves to a 4-3 he can go back to a right end position on the line. As of now this is a Super Bowl quality set no matter how they line up for Kansas City.

Secondary: This group had mixed results in 2013 that may be more of a result from being constantly behind than their ability to play football. On one hand this group only garnered 5 interceptions the entire year. That’s awful. Yet if you think about it, teams could pass whenever they wanted to and weren’t forced to based on their porous 27th ranked run defense.

Yet this group did send SS Eric Berry to the Pro Bowl after an 86 tackle, 1 interception, and 10 passes defensed campaign. Eric Flowers led the team with 3 interceptions to go along with 48 tackles. Gone is underachieving CB Javier Arenas who was traded to Arizona for a fullback. A curious move that alleviated cap room if they cut the fullback instead of Arenas. Good move for cap space but that leaves journeyman Stanford Routt (21 tackles /2 ints) to man the nickle position. They did sign former CB Dunta Robinson, formerly of the Falcons and Texans, to man one corner spot opposite Flowers.

Despite their interception totals, Chiefs brass feels the move for Robinson is an upgrade at the corner. They don’t need that much improvement as they were 12th against the pass last year. If this team can generate some offense and play with a few leads they will be more productive. They’ll improve to be an average secondary from being a bad one.

McCluster will be a wild card for the Chiefs this year. Both as a 3rd down back and slot option and a special teams return man.

McCluster will be a wild card for the Chiefs this year. Both as a 3rd down back and slot option and a special teams return man.

Overall: Once you look at the sum of the parts on this roster, you’ll notice this offense is just in need of a catalyst at the quarterback position. Recent drafts have brought the receivers and two productive running backs and what type of message is team brass sending by releasing an under performing starting tackle and signing five offensive linemen and drafting two others?? This spirited competition on the offensive line this summer looks like the tonic this team needs to get off to a good start.

They are on the road in Jacksonville then come home to host Dallas, before the Andy Reid Bowl in Philadelphia in week 3. If the Chiefs can go into that game 2-0 and come out of it either 3-0 or a good looking 2-1, this team will be off and running.  Reid has never had these big receivers to run the middle routes necessary to make his offense go. He was short circuited in Philly by fleet receivers who wouldn’t.

When he did have bigger receivers they were older players on their last leg. When he had a prime receiver in Terrell Owens, he made it to the Super Bowl after three other trips to the NFC Championship Game. Are we saying he’ll make it that far in 2013?? Take a look at the open competition on the offensive line. Add to that a quarterback who wants to prove himself after being discarded in San Francisco. Now take an offensive minded coach wanting to prove he is still among the league’s elite coaches after being let go in Philadelphia. No shortage of motivational talks and a team that most wont be prepared to play. This team will challenge and may take the AFC West Title. A 10-6 record or 11-5 record will come from a team few see coming…however The Chancellor does.

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

2011 Kansas City Chiefs Preview

What produces a good team?  Is it based upon the accumulation of top shelf talent or can you coach a lesser talented team with top shelf coaching?  Head Coach Todd Haley put together a staff with 3 former head coaches with multiple Super Bowl rings from the 00’s Patriots and 1980s New York Giants. Did you know that current defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has 5 Super Bowl rings?  Yet is overlooked when it comes to credit in formulating defensive gameplans and getting the most out of moderate talent.  The Chiefs lost Charlie Weiss, who went back to the college ranks with the Florida Gators.  Yet the offense he leaves behind was the sparkplug that powered this team to a 10-6 record and the AFC West Divisional Crown.  Haley, who was the former offensive coordinator for the 2008 NFC Champion Cardinals, should have more of a hand in the play calling.  Can the Chiefs improve on the rapid rise and improvement shown in 2010?  Has the talent on this team developed enough to take the next step?

Quarterback: Time to enter the confessional: How many of you were thinking Matt Cassel was the second coming of Scott Mitchell or Rob Johnson? Quarterbacks who filled in for an injured starter, played well, parlayed it into a big free agent contract, then faltered with his new team. Well after a lukewarm 2009 in which Cassel tossed 16 TDs and 16 interceptions, he improved dramatically in his single season under Weiss. Cassel tossed 27 TDs with only 7 interceptions while moving his passer rating to a respectable 8th in the NFL. His improvement from 69.9 in 2009, to 93 was the best turnaround in all of pro football.  These numbers even top his 2008 campaign when he filled in for Tom Brady and led the Patriots to a surprising 11-5 season, which included a 5 game winning streak to conclude the season. Going into his 7th season,, he is entering his prime as a signal caller. One way to get to Cassel is to rush him from his front side.  He seems to throw the ball away or pull it down prematurely at times when he has a split second to complete the throw.  Even though he’s intelligent enough to know when to throw it away, this contributed to his ranking of 18th in passing yards per attempt (6.9yd avg.) along with his dumpoffs. He’s a little quick to move his feet from a throwing position.  So time your front side overload blitzes and jump his short routes when you do.  The Ravens were affective with this in last year’s wildcard playoff loss. Otherwise he can play action pass the Chiefs to efficient drives and to narrow wins. Arrowhead stadium has its most effective quarterback since Len Dawson and quarterback is good in Kansas City.

Offensive Backfield:  This team is set at running back with the continued development of Jamaal Charles. Entering his 4th season he is averaging a whopping 6.0 yards per carry over 3 seasons. His 1,467 yards last year was 2nd in the NFL while snaring 45 receptions for another 468 yards, scoring 8 times overall. His yards per reception average of 10.4 shows you can’t discount Charles in the passing game.  You had better bring some healthy, in shape linebackers to  play Kansas City or you might be in for a long day. At 5’11 199 lbs., it was thought by some that Charles may not be tough enough between the tackles, coming into the NFL.  Last year showed his 1,100 yard season in 2009 was no fluke. He started only 5 games last year and the Chiefs are doing the right thing playing him with 2 backs sharing the workload otherwise Charles might break down.  This keeps Charles fresh and allows him to break big plays once the Chiefs opponents start to wear down. Many good years ahead for this talent from Texas.

One thing we can’t come to grips with at the Taylor Blitz Times is why teams have let Thomas Jones go when he has been so productive? The last two stops he was let go by teams fearing he’d get old on them and not perform which is nuts if you see this guy out of uniform.  In his last year with the Bears in 2006, he led the Bears to the Super Bowl rushing for 1,210 yards. He even ran for 112 yards in Super Bowl XLI, which was the first time since Thurman Thomas in Super Bowl XXV to do so. In his last year with the Jets in 2009, he rushed for 1,402  yards and 14 TDs, leading the Jets to the AFC Championship game.  Then released after those two years?? Are you kiddin’ me? Its no coincidence that Jones physical running style embodied the attitude of his team’s offense on a 3rd successive team that made the playoffs.  Last year was the first time in 6 years Jones didn’t cross the 1,000 yard threshold finishing with 896.

First glance at his 3.7 yard average per rush, you’d think he was slowing down when in reality he carried the ball in all obvious running situations.  The Chiefs may benefit themselves by not telegraphing that they are always going to run when Jones is on the field.  Make no mistake that Jones is in the twilight of his career. Yet this is an extreme physical specimen who keeps himself in great shape with a body weight lifters could be proud of. So even at the age of 32 we expect him to have at least two good years left in him with the current situation.  With teams focusing a little more on Cassel, WR Bowe, and first round draft pick in Pitt wideout Jonathon Baldwin, expect him to cross the 1,000 yard threshold yet again.  As a matter of fact the Chiefs may post the first 1,000 yard rushing tandem in AFC West history.  Rushing the football over 500 times last year, yikes. At running back, Kansas City is Super Bowl quality…better bring some linebackers with “big boy” pads on to play them too.

Receivers: The Chiefs wanted to ensure that teams couldn’t concentrate solely on Dewayne Bowe last year by running effectively, and this year by drafting him a running mate in Pitt’s Jonathon Baldwin.  As for Bowe, he had an explosive year pulling in 72 receptions for 1,162 yards and 15 TDs.  A physical specimen at 6’2 221lbs with good speed, is only going into his 5th season and should be there for the Chiefs for years to come.  With a strong running game to force more 8 man fronts Bowe had a field day against undersized DBs. With the addition of 6’4 228 lbs Baldwin, the Chiefs will field one of football’s largest set of receivers. They will be a team that can move the chains yet we have to see how Bowe comes back after this lockout.  If he’s worked out fiendishly so that his hamstrings hold up, he will be the deep threat with Baldwin the itermediate target. With wideouts this big Oakland had better think twice about Namedi getting out of town as a corner.

The Chiefs are serviceable at TE with Leonard Pope and Tony Moeaki combining for 57 receptions and 5 TDs. Its hard to think of that being productive after Tony Gonzalez manned this spot for so long but these guys are better blockers.  Also 3rd down back Dexter McCluster ate into some of this group’s production running the up and under routes that the tight end would usually run.  With some of the division’s defenses in flux, this should be a good receiving group in Kansas City.

Offensive Line: After leading the NFL in rushing attempts (556), rushing yards (2,627), and finishing tied for 4th in rushing attempts with a 4.7 yards per carry average, this team comes off the ball with consistency.  The seven man sled is alive and well in Kansas City practices.  This team had 72 runs of over 10 yards or more and pushed for first downs on 3rd or 4th and 2, 73% of the time up the gut. Coach Haley has to love that!  How they only had one Pro Bowl lineman in LG Brian Waters is embarrassing.  As always it takes the league 1 year after a performance to recognize emerging talent.  With a heavy dose of running the football, you have to say RG Ryan Lilja and RT Barry Richardson are getting the job done.  They are in their 7th and 3rd years respectively and should be able to maintain their level of play for the foreseeable future.

One of the ways to get after the Kansas City offensive line is to get on top of this team by 7 or more points.  Since they are a heavy run offense they aren’t conditioned to come back or protect the quarterback for extended drives consisting of a majority of passing.  This team ranked 12th in the NFL allowing 32 sacks, and 18th allowing 74 hits on the quarterback.  So they are better suited in pushing off the ball than they are at protecting the passer.  With this line I’d definitely overload blitz in the face of Matt Cassell who gets the ball out a tad early which couples with the tendency that he gets hit a lot on dropbacks.  All told this team has a lot of leads and stays committed to the run so they don’t fall too far behind.  Offensive line is superior in Kansas City and may be a shade better than New England.

Defensive Line: Surprisingly the Chiefs aren’t getting the return they had originally envisioned in DE Glenn Dorsey out of LSU.  This is partially the team’s fault for drafting a 3 technique 4-3 tackle then converting to a 3-4 defense the next season.  He got caught in the middle, just ask former Green Bay Packer DE Aaron Kampman.  Now that isn’t an excuse for an anemic showing with only 2 sacks in nickle situations when they employ 4 man fronts, but he isn’t effective as a DE.  The Chiefs should trade him to a team committed at a 4-3 defense like Chicago, Minnesota, Atlanta, or home to New Orleans and getting something in return.  His build is conducive to be a “rooter”, to shove the middle of a pass pocket and not come from the additional 3 yards away at DE. Since the Chiefs are 14th in rushing yards allowed and average with 1,764 and 4.3 respectively they could use more help on this line.

The combined 5.5 sacks amongst the front 3 needs to be higher, especially for a defense that should be that rested on a team that ran the most in the NFL. DT Ron Edwards and DE Shaun Smith are decent players yet could improve as pass rushers.  The issue is that in year’s 9 and 6 respectively, this is as good as they will be and play for the aging Edwards could slip. To that avail the Chiefs drafted specimen Allen Bailey from Miami to help with that interior push.  The question is where will they play him.  He seems suitable to rush from the inside on nickle and dime packages with his explosion and strength. He should be able to play special teams to keep him engaged in games but again his body type doesn’t lend to a DE, maybe part time DT. He could be disruptive if he learns to fight better with his hands.  The defensive line is slightly below average yet it could make a few strides this season if Bailey disrupts on 3rd down.

Linebackers: The Patriots flat out gave Scott Pioli and the Chiefs brass a gift when they traded Mike Vrabel to them.  A heady linebacker who’s veteran leadership and 3 Super Bowl rings give him the locker room clout to have the ear of his younger teammates. He has shown invaluable in helping the Chiefs grow up fast under Romeo Crennel’s watch.  He is showing signs of wear in not making any splash plays but he just made the right ones yet father time may be catching this 14th year vet. Star of this defense is Tamba Hali closing in at the right side OLB spot.  The Chiefs were hoping he’d improve on his 2009 and he didn’t disappoint charting 14.5 sacks (1st in AFC) and second in the league to DeMarcus Ware with 15. Hali forced 4 fumbles, recovered 2 and knocked down 3 passes and should have been to the Pro Bowl.  He’s only 27 years of age and has steadily improved with now 3 years with over 8 sacks.  Only going to get better.

Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson #56 led the team with 120 combined tackles and returned his only interception for a TD.  He gets to the football and along with Jovan Belcher’s 84 tackles this may be the best younger set of inside ‘backers in all of football.  Combined they had 2 sacks and 4 forced fumbles bringing some thump with their tackles.  Belcher was a rookie and Johnson is only entering his 6th season.  Couple that with the ages of the Jets and Raven’s inside tandem and this could be the AFC’s best within a year or two.  Linebacker is really good in Kansas City.

Secondary: Of all the playoff teams out of the AFC last year, the Chiefs were fair larsonists with 11 interceptions between their starters. They had solid play out of free safeties John McGraw and Kendrick Lewis who combined for 5 interceptions and benefitted from teams throwing away from Pro Bowl SS Eric Berry.  In 2010 Berry had 4 interceptions while making 87 tackles.  Of his 4 interceptions he did take one back for a pick 6 from 54 yards out.  This guy is a playmaker.  At the corner position, high draft pick Javier Arenas could only make the field in obvious passing situations as a nickle back. Why?? Ask the Chiefs brass about the play of corners Brandon Flower with 14passes defensed, and Brandon Carr’s 23.  An active group.  Now throw in Arenas’ 7 passes defensed and 1 interception to go along with the 2 Brandon’s 3 picks and teams had better not throw into this secondary.  With their top three corners all being 24 years old or less, this is the best secondary fielded by the Chiefs since the million dollar secondary of Kevin Ross, Albert Lewis, Lloyd Burrus, and Deron Cherry of mid to late 80s fame.  Superior is the only grade to be given out here and if this team can get another pass rusher to force more errant throws….yikes!!

Overall: Still the best in the AFC West, and if they could take something from the intensity they faced in the wild card round against Baltimore, this team could be headed to the AFC Championship Game or beyond.  Last year early on the question was were they as good as their 3-0 record. They weren’t.  They were better as evidenced by their 5-2 stretch to win the division crown when the pressure was on at the end of the season.  As strong as they are in the phases of running the football and defending the pass, if they get a lead its curtains.  They are well coached and they could make a conference splash this year if age shows up in Pittsburgh and Baltimore.  A team with no obvious weaknesses that has to see Head Coach Haley scout himself and not get pass happy with another big target opposite Bowe. He could get flashbacks to his offensive co ordinator days with the Arizona Cardinals and take to the air.

Careful Coach Haley, you have a good thing building in Kansas City and this team could make a Super Bowl run in these next two seasons.  One of the chances for this team to see growth is in week 10 with a Monday night matchup in New England.  Kansas City comes through with a win there in a championship building block game, this team could be the AFC’s sleeper.  I know that sounds crazy to say of a possible two time division champion, but they are not the sexy pick and most pundits would list them as the 5th or 6th best AFC team. They should finish with a record of 11-5 or 12-4 with another AFC West Title. Plenty of bar-b-que and handwarmers come playoff time in Kansas City.