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.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

 

 

Advertisements

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.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

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.