Now that the preseason has unofficially ended (I always feel like the final preseason game is more geared toward figuring out your bubble players), we start to get a feel for who the Chiefs will be in 2010.
The good news, folks, is that the Chiefs are going to be better this season. However, don't get too carried away. This is a team that still has a lot of challenges and they probably aren't a playoff team yet. But hey, progress is progress.
Today, I'll talk about the rookies. More after the jump.
So let's break down some areas where I think the Chiefs have improved:
The Rookies: Even though I thought the Chiefs' 2010 draft was exceptional and a lot of experts agreed, I also found that the draft was pretty polarizing among Chiefs' fans. As fans, we often get wishy-washy about whether teams need to draft for need or draft playmakers. When we draft playmakers, we get upset that we didn't draft for need. When we draft for need, we get upset that we drafted average players in the place of playmakers. I believe in the first approach and that's exactly what the Chiefs did.
- Dexter McCluster: we've only seen a small dose of what he's going to do this season. If you rewatch any of the games, pay close attention to how many ways he's being used on the field. He's used as a primary back, he's lined up in split-back sets opposite Charles or Jones, he's lined up in the slot, he motions into the slot into the backfield or on end-arounds. And when he gets his hands on the ball and has space, he is absolutely electric. I have no concerns about his ability to play the game. I do wish and hope, however, that he learns to go out of bounds or fall to the ground every once in a while. I admire the kid's toughness, but given his size, sometimes those extra 3 or 4 yards aren't really worth it.
- Javier Arenas: I don't really know how much he'll contribute on defense, but it seems pretty clear that he's going to be huge in the return game. I know there are some that would argue that Kick/Punt Returning is a fairly non-impactful position, but I would respectfully disagree. Last year, the Chiefs averaged 6.5 yards per punt return; Philadelphia averaged 13.5 Yards per Return. If the Chiefs had the same YPPR as Philly, they would have gained 1,400 extra yards last season. On kickoffs, the Chiefs average 21.6 Yards per Kickoff Return; the Ravens average 26.2 YPKR. That means they would have gained 355 extra yards last season. That's not to say that the Chiefs will come anywhere near those averages, but I don't think it's unrealistic to believe that the Chiefs can gain an additional 750-1000 yards on special teams next season by adding Arenas. Maybe even more. After all, keep in mind how many head-scratchingly bad decisions Wade made last season in terms of letting a ball bounce instead of taking a fair catch, or fair catching a very returnable ball. Not only should Arenas get a better YPPR than Wade, he should also return a lot more punts that Wade would have let go. Those extra yards will not only improve our offense, but also improve our ability to pin opposing offenses deeper into their territory.
- Eric Berry: Duh. Though he's been fairly quiet in the preseason, by no means has he been invisible. He's breaking up pass plays, he's always around the ball, and, man, his closing speed is close to superhuman. The kid is going to be a player, but we all already knew that.
- Kendrick Lewis: I think a lot of people were surprised that Lewis played as well as he has, but I'm not. He's not particularly fast, but what he lacks in quickness he makes up for in smarts. I like the kid a lot. I think he plays with a lot of discipline and I think LeSean McCoy's open run through the middle in the last preseason game is pretty compelling proof that Jon McGraw doesn't belong in the starting lineup. I know the Chiefs might be reluctant to start two rookies at Safety, but they shouldn't be. Lewis even at his rawest is still a heck of a lot better than McGraw.