New England West is continuing their rebuilding process. Last year, Matt Cassel was brought in to be the franchise quarterback. There are still questions around Cassel’s ability, but he’s way better than any other quarterback on their roster. Brodie Croyle has never won an NFL game, and Pitt products Tyler Palko and Bill Stull round out the roster. Yeah, that pretty much sums up how desperate the Chiefs QB situation is.
They added talent at running back, bringing in Thomas Jones, who had a successful year with the Jets last year. Jones will be the perfect complement back to Jamaal Charles, who exploded in the second half of last season. Charles is a burner and a great receiver out of the backfield. Jones adds the between-the-tackles talent to pick up the tough yards for Kansas City. One of the most exciting players for the Chiefs is WR Dexter McCluster, who the Chiefs will deploy all over the field to create mismatches with his speed. McCluster has good hands and will probably be used mostly as a slot receiver. However, don’t be surprised to see the Chiefs do whatever they can to get the ball in McCluster’s hands. This includes use in the return game, reverses, bubble screens, and possibly even a wildcat set thrown in.
The Chiefs defense now enters their second season in the 3-4 alignment. They went from one of the worst pass-rushing teams in 2008 to the middle of the pack in 2009. Penn State product Tamba Hali led the team with 8.5 sacks last year, just 1.5 short of the entire team’s total from 2008. Former Patriot Mike Vrabel should start at the other OLB spot, but Andy Studebaker should see time as well. The Chiefs defense is weakest down the middle. From the Nose Tackle through the inside linebackers to the safeties. Drafting Eric Berry (S-Tennessee) will be a huge improvement to the secondary. Berry has All Pro potential, and is an absolute ballhawk in the Ed Reed mold. He’ll be an immediate starter, but the other safety position is a huge question mark. At corner, Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr are both young and talented, but still growing into their roles. They’re not the best corner tandem in the league, but they are solid and will keep getting better as they enter their third year in the league. Rookie Javier Arenas (Alabama) will be a solid nickel back who will also see time in the return game.
The Chiefs still don’t have all the pieces in place to compete for a division title. However, they are a young team with a young coach that should continue to improve this season. They lack a few key pieces to make a run, but the talent is there to build around, and the Chiefs won’t be the bottom-feeders of the AFC this year.