Cassel went through his share of struggles last year, but was consistently guided along with the understanding that he didn't have much help. That will not save him this year. I don't think the offense, or maybe I should say the passing game, was improved upon a whole lot from last year, but continuity and cohesiveness should be elevated. Trent Green went through the same struggles his first year with the Chiefs, leading the league in interceptions, before coming into his own his sophomore season. The team's success, as well as Cassel's future in the league, will hinge on his performance this season. Pairing Thomas Jones with Jamaal Charles should provide an astute running game to help keep the pressure off of him, while it remains unclear how much immediate help Jerhame Urban, Tony Moeaki, and Dexter McCluster will provide in the passing game this year. The weight of the offense will come down to Cassel, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, and head coach Todd Haley, with Cassel being the leader in the clubhouse for scapegoat if things falter.
2. Is Branden Albert a legitimate NFL Left Tackle?
Albert's struggles seemed to have stemmed from his enforced diet plan handed down by authority last training camp (which is starting to seem like more of a tone-setting message from Haley with long term implications with a few accepted short term pitfalls- Albert being one of them). His performance improved as the season went on (and as Grandma Larry got further away) along with the rest of the offensive line. Most pundits had the Chiefs selecting an offensive lineman, presumably a Left Tackle, with their first pick in this year's draft. They put a lot of faith in Albert by ignoring the supposed best Left Tackle prospect in Oklahoma State's Russell Okung. Interior help was added in free agents Ryan Lilja (projected starting RG) and Casey Weigmann (I envision him in a backup role), which puts the pressure on the outside pair of Albert and Ryan O'Callaghan. Best case scenario is that Albert was playing below preferred weight, which Haley figured out and now knows how to use him best (remember he was ahead of schedule as a rookie). Worst case scenario is that he is playing out of position and they waited one year too long to pull the trigger (which might seal Cassel's fate in the process).
3. How quickly can Eric Berry develop?
Look, I think Berry is going to eventually become a stud (most highly drafted safeties do, plus the fact of working with defensive guru Monte Kiffin at Tennessee last year), the only question in my mind is when. The defense is undeniably void of playmakers. Tamba Hali is probably one, and well, lets just leave it at that. The success of our defense may be dependent on his development rate (due to the inexplicable decision to not target another rush Linebacker). The other hope is that defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel will implant more exotic schemes to help hide the lack of talent in the front seven. Otherwise, it may be up to Error Bear, which is an awful lot to ask out of a rookie, no matter how promising he may appear to be.
4. What position will Glen Dorsey play?
Rumblings in the offseason revolved around a potential position switch moving Dorsey to the Nose Tackle position of the three down linemen. It doesn't make sense to me. I get that they might be trying to make room for 2009 draftee Alex Magee (remember him?) at Defensive End, but Dorsey simply isn't big enough. We have a position to fill at the Nose, and this move might maximize our talent on the field, but I think the negatives still outweigh the positives. We were pushed around enough with much bigger Ron 'The Dawn' Edwards squatting up the gut. The fact of the matter, is that everybody at One Arrowhead Drive is praying that Dorsey and fellow first round disappointee, Tyson Jackson, make significant improvements this year, or changes will have to be made. There is entirely too much money tied up in the two of them for what little production they are providing. It's tough to tell whether the rumors of the switch were a media creation or actual thinkings of the Chiefs brass, but there is little question that improvements along the defensive front are essential to the Chiefs' chances of fielding a defense worthy of contention.
5. How much of an impact will Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel make?
Championship experience. That's what General Weis and Colonel Crennel bring to the table. They have designed schemes, made gameplans, and called plays in the biggest game of them all (multiple times). If there was one thing the Chiefs were missing last year, it was an ignorance of what it took to win games. The team is/was young, the coaching staff new, and the veterans that have been around haven't seen many games go their way. Weis and Crennel could bring a sense of culture shock to the team. There is absolutely zero question that these two will be an upgrade from who we had dialing up plays in 2009, but how quickly will we see the results? I almost wander if Pioli threw Haley into the fire by overfilling his plate with responsibilities to show him exactly what it took to be successful, and to shrink his head in the process. It's entirely possible that 2009 was completely thrown away to lay a foundation for the future, which I'm totally cool with since last year is long gone, and we're on to 2010. I'll put it this way- If I were a casual observer of the NFL as a whole, Weis and Crennel would be the line of reasoning for projecting the Chiefs to be a surprise team this year.
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