2010 NFL Preview, Kansas City Chiefs: The Transformation Continues

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2010 NFL Preview, Kansas City Chiefs: The Transformation Continues

By Joel Thorman, Arrowhead Pride

Introduction

The 2010 Kansas City Chiefs are expected to be a team on the rise in 2010. With just ten wins over the last three seasons there's nowhere else to go but up, right?

That may be the case but the Chiefs have made some moves at player personnel and the coaching staff that many expect to make a world of a difference.

They are now a year into the Scott Pioli and Todd Haley regime, the 3-4 defense and the new attitude that management is hoping to instill.

You wouldn't expect a four-win team to be so optimistic but it's becoming contagious in Kansas City.

Significant Offseason Additions/Subtractions

Gone are some of the guys that were part of the problem: safety Mike Brown, running back Larry Johnson, guard Mike Goff and defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast,

In are some of the guys that are expected to be part of the solution: safety Eric Berry, receiver Dexter McCluster, running back Thomas Jones, guard Ryan Lilja, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.

This was another offseason of change for the Kansas City Chiefs.

The biggest additions came via the draft where they added five players (Berry, McCluster, Javier Arenas, Tony Moeaki and Kendrick Lewis) who are knocking on the door to become immediate starters.

They also added significant pieces on the coaching staff with Crennel and Weis.

Pendergast simply couldn't get it done with the Chiefs defense in 2009. Haley was hired later in the process so his choice of coordinators was slim and he went with a guy that he knew. Crennel, who is experienced in the way Haley and Pioli want things done, should help right the ship.

Haley ran the show on offense in 2009 and, frankly, was in over his head. The addition of Weis, who is familiar with Haley's offensive style, will make a seamless transition into the Chiefs offense.

Offense

The year of Matt Cassel is what we'll call this one.

The Chiefs understand your quarterback determines how successful you are and that's why they brought in Weis to work with Cassel and added offensive weapons like Dexter McCluster. One of the biggest criticisms is that Cassel holds onto the ball too long. McCluster's "jitterbug" like speed will help solve that problem. They also kept key ingredients like Chris Chambers and helped Dwayne Bowe find a newfound motivation with offseason workouts that included the likes of Larry Fitzgerald and Cris Carter.

The Chiefs also made moves in the running game to complement Cassel by adding Jones. He's expected to work with Jamaal Charles, who had a terrific end to the 2009 season, and create a running game that will complement the passing game. I tend to think the Chiefs will be an offense focused on the run game but that will only serve Cassel to make the throws necessary to deliver a knockout punch.

To put it bluntly, there are no excuses for Cassel anymore.

Defense

Arguably the Chiefs two biggest problems on defense in 2009 were the safety position and the front seven (OK, so that's basically the entire defense).

They believe they've solved the safety problem by adding Berry with the fifth overall pick. He'll be a starter for the Chiefs defense from day one. Ideally, he's a guy you put in there and don't worry about ever again. They also added Kendrick Lewis via the draft. He's a fifth round pick but has shown an ability in training camp to pick things up quickly. He'll be pushing Jon McGraw for the starting safety job opposite Berry.

Jarrad Page has yet to sign his restricted free agent tender and he's not expected to suit up for the Chiefs in 2010.

The front seven is a different story The Chiefs have four first round picks there and with the exception of fifth round pick Cameron Sheffield, did nothing to upgrade in the offseason. The Chiefs have some young players there including two top five picks in Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson at each defensive end. Crennel, a former defensive line coach, has been paying extra attention to the defensive line in the offseason so better results are expected there.

The Chiefs front seven is possibly the biggest gamble they're taking on this team. They're banking on the guys in-house to develop -- the importance of which Haley recognizes.

Special Teams

The Chiefs special teams is shaping up to be pretty solid moving forward.

The Chiefs feel so confident in their kicker and punter that they haven't brought any competition into training camp. Ryan Succop, Mr. Irrelevant in 2009, had a solid rookie year and has shown no signs of resembling The Kicker Who Shall Not Be Named (January 1996 Chiefs fans understand that reference...). They've also got punter Dustin Colquitt. He's left-footed and creates some problems for return men. He's among the best in the league.

The return game was a problem in 2009. The Chiefs rotated guys in and out what seemed like on a weekly basis. To solve the problem, they drafted McCluster and Arenas. Early results in training camp say it's going to be one of those two guys -- or both -- that handle the return duties in 2010.

With the addition of those two, retaining Succop and Colquitt as well as hiring ace special teams coach Steve Hoffman, the Chiefs are starting to look like one of the better special teams units in the league.

Coaching

This is where the Chiefs made possibly the most significant upgrades.

On defense, out is Pendergast, who coached the Chiefs to one of the worst defenses in the league in 2009. In is Crennel, who has won Super Bowls with the same Patriot-like influence the Chiefs are trying to instill. Crennel is a former defensive line coach and the Chiefs have lots of money invested in that position group so it seems like a match made in heaven. Don't expect the Chiefs to be a top ten defense in 2010 but also don't expect them to make dumb mistakes like they did in 2009.

On offense, out is Haley wearing two hats as head coach and offensive coordinator and in is Weis. The addition of Weis can't be stressed enough. As we said, this is the year Cassel needs to prove his worth and Weis has had some success on both the professional and college ranks with quarterbacks. He helped develop Tom Brady with the Patriots (heard of him?) and Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen at Notre Dame.

Meanwhile with Weis now focusing on the offense Haley can get back to being a head coach, something he wasn't able to do wearing two hats last year. He's got the Parcells-like demeanor and expects perfection from 1-53 on the Chiefs roster.

Conclusion/Predictions for 2010

Overall, the Chiefs looked at their weaknesses in 2009 and focused on fixing them. With the exception of the front seven, they've done that.

They focused on character in the draft snagging five college team captains and want to build a team that pushes each other on and off the field. The Chiefs philosophy is that the competition never ends meaning each player will continue to work harder and harder to keep their position. It's how the Parcells and Bill Belichick have built their teams and the Chiefs are employing a similar philosophy in Kansas City.

While the optimism is riding high, it's important to remember that this is a team that won four games last year and only ten in the last three years. There are still holes to fill. That said, a promising schedule in 2010 and injuries and holdouts in other parts of the AFC West could see this team go 7-9 in 2010.

Previous NFL previews

32. St. Louis Rams NFL preview

31. Buffalo Bills NFL preview

30. Tampa Bay Bucs NFL preview

29. Cleveland Browns NFL preview

28. Detroit Lions NFL preview

27. Oakland Raiders NFL preview

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