In no real particular order but somewhat? haha..:
#1 Offensive line - Many ?'s here. Who will play C? Niswanger, Goff, or Eric Ghiaciuc? IMO, Niswanger is better fit at RG and Goff can play C. Who's playing RT? Herb Taylor, Barry Richardson, Colin Brown or McIntosh? Herb Taylor was impressive when he filled in for Branden Albert during his injury. Barry Richardson's knock out of college was his attitude. They said he didnt show that he loved the game and took it as serious as many professionals. Perhaps his focus was on getting his degree? Now that hes graduated and had a year to develop even more, who knows what kind of progress he could have made. Colin Brown was a good RT at Mizzou. I'm sick of McIntosh, I dont care if he was showing signs of getting better after making the switch. Hes getting old, hes lost a step, his first step is extremely slow, he was blown by repeatedly last year and I cant stand to watch it again.
#2 Larry Johnson & Co - LJ and Charles could be the "Smash and Dash" tandem of KC. This strictly depends on how well #1 goes. If the O-line improves, the running game should improve. LJ is runnin for the money on his next contract and I think Pioli and Haley have put him in his place as far as where he stands with the team. Charles and Smith could get looks but I see Charles taking most of the extra runs and catching some passes out of the backfield. Hes got great hands and his speed is deadly if he gets out in the open.
#3 Wide Receivers - Bowe and Bradley have got to step up. Bowe had an excuse in the sophomore slump last season. Hes got to prove it was just that curse and not a sign of things to come. If Bowe is going to break out, NOW is the time to do it. Without TG, DBowe should command doubleteams, freeing up Bradley, Charles and Engram (or whoever plays slot). This leads on to #4..
#4 Matt Cassel - This, more than the others, will depend on the other factors. An improved OL, effective running game, and the play of the receivers should give Cassel what he needs to succeed. Cassel needs as much help as he can get so a combination of any of the above will gladly be taken. All of these have so far been in order. With no OL, Noone can run, receivers cant get open, cassel gets sacked, throws a pick, fumble, etc. The line is the most important part of this puzzle. Cassel proved last year he can play. He improved throughout the season, but he had the best supporting cast in football. Hes got to prove he can work with what he has.
That is the key to this team. The OL. If the OL improves, everything improves. Period.
Defensive side of the ball:
#5 Defensive Line - Jackson, Dorsey, Tank, Magee, and Edwards have got to pick up the 3-4 quick. These guys are the key to the defense, the same way the OL is to the offense.Several scenarios can happen for these guys to dominate and in any combination. 1, they can plug the OL. Commanding double teams are things Jackson and Tank and even Dorsey are all capable of. Magee, I'm not sure. Taking up the DL allows the LB's to blitz freely, stuff the runner, force the bad pass, whatever the case may be. 2, they can power past the OL to get after the QB. I'm not sure if our OL would be successful at this but it would be nice to see any of those guys toss around some linemen and make the sack. In any scenario, get after the QB, force the bad pass and our Secondary will DOMINATE. As well as they played last year with ZERO pressure being put on the QB, I cant wait to see what they can do when QB's arent getting to sit back in the pocket and pick us apart.
#6 Linebackers - These guys have to clean up after the DL's mistakes and they gotta do it efficiently. The young DL is going to make mistakes, so its good that we have so many veterans at LB. We must do a better job of not letting the runner into the 2nd level and getting blocked and cut off on running plays. Hali, Vrabel, DJ, Demarrio, whoever it is must get after the QB. SOMEONE has got to step up here in order for us to be a decent team.
If you havent noticed, this isnt just the key to our success, but the key to any teams success. Teams are built in the trenches, Offense wins games, defense wins championships. I didnt list our Secondary because I think they are already great. Last year could have been much worse if we still had Warfield, Mccleon, Woods and Wesley or whoever we had in the vermeil era. Flowers, Carr, Leggett, Page, and Pollard are gelling together. they have chemistry between them which you cant coach. Flowers Carr and Leggett are only in their 2nd years. The addition of washington brings added depth. Our secondary will be fine.