2009 Kansas City Chiefs Season Preview
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2009 Kansas City Chiefs Predictions
By Adam Barone
There’s no shortage of changes happening in Kansas City following a 2-14 season. Herm Edwards was replaced by former Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley as head coach. Former Cardinals defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast followed Haley to Kansas City. New General Manager Scott Pioli brings experience and confidence from the Patriots’ organization. The trade of tight end Tony Gonzalez to Atlanta means there’s a shortage of talent on both sides of the ball, and Haley is a first-time head coach, so a lot of questions will need to be answered.
When you have two quarterbacks, usually you don’t have any. Two is not better than one, and the Chiefs have three. Matt Cassel was acquired from the Patriots in the offseason, while Tyler Thigpen and Brodie Croyle are still on the roster. Cassel threw for almost 3,700 yards in ’08, while Thigpen threw for just over 2,600. Both are in a new system now under Haley and coordinator Chan Gailey, so it’s tough to know what to expect. The two will compete for the starting job, but Cassel is the favorite.
Running back Larry Johnson is not what he once was, though he did average 4.5 yards per carry last season on just 193 carries. He’ll be 30 in November, and hasn’t topped 1,000 yards since his eye-popping 416 carries in 2006. Kolby Smith and Jamaal Charles are also on the roster, but Smith is returning from a knee injury and Charles isn’t more than a third-down back.
If the offense is going to be successful under Haley, considering the Cardinals’ success last season and the limitations at running back, it’ll be through the air. The loss of Gonzalez leaves Dwayne Bowe as the go-to-guy on offense, which isn’t as bad as it may sound. Bowe caught 86 passes in 2008, topped 1,000 yards and scored seven touchdowns. Veteran Bobby Engram was signed, but at least one of the other receivers, Mark Bradley, Devard Darling, Terrance Copper, and rookie Quinten Lawrence, will need to step up.
There’s talent on the offensive line, but very little depth. Former Chargers’ right guard Mike Goff was signed as a free agent, and will play alongside right tackle Damion McIntosh. Brian Waters is a Pro Bowl left guard, and second-year left tackle Branden Albert has plenty of potential. Center Rudy Niswanger may be the weak link.
Like seemingly everyone else, the Chiefs are transitioning to the 3-4 defense after finishing 31st overall last season and accumulating a pathetic 10 sacks. Rookies Tyson Jackson and Alex Magee figure to fit well into the new system, There’s some talent in the group, but questions regarding where everyone will play. Ron Edwards and Tank Tyler figure to play tackle, while Glenn Dorsey, Alfonso Boone, and Tamba Hali will play end. Hali could move to linebacker.
The linebackers might actually be alright, as Mike Vrabel was acquired via trade and Zach Thomas was signed as a free agent. The ultra-talented Derrick Johnson is still around, and figures to have more success with the added talent around him. Free agent Monty Beisel will probably round out the starting group.
The secondary is as deep as it is young and inexperienced. Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr are the corners, while Jarrad Page, Jon McGraw, and Bernard Pollard are the safeties. Pollard had a respectable 98 tackles in 2008, but the starting cornerbacks totaled just four interceptions. Another year of experience and an improved front seven/pass rush may help this group out.
Connor Barth is probably the kicker after a solid end to last season, though Ryan Succop is also on the roster. Neither the punt or kick returner jobs could be any more up-for-grabs.
This may or may not be a turning point for the Chiefs, and it’ll probably still be difficult to tell at the conclusion of the coming season. Pioli’s presence suggests that there’s a good chance that things are headed in the right direction, but Haley will need to prove that he has what it takes to be an NFL head coach. It’ll be tough with such a young team, though there is some talent.