Well I don't know about anyone else but the start of training camp always gets me back into full obsession mode after a bit of down time between the draft and the start of camp. It's not hard to get excited with all the great coverage we have going on from everyone from Joel to fellow readers who are sharing their experiences. For all the newbs around here, I write these Kool Aid posts on a regular basis. The idea is to give actual well thought out and statistically backed up ideas as to why we as Chiefs fans can be optimistic. So use this information to feed your enthusiasm or defend your team against that Donkey fan at work. Here are some reasons as to why I feel we can be excited about our 2010 Chiefs broken down into seven different areas.
Passing Offense Kool Aid: The passing game in 2009 was not very good. However, given the change in offensive coordinator right before the season, terrible line play to start the season, and a rotating door of WRs that led the league in dropped passes its not hard to figure out why. Let's take those one at a time. Instead of firing the offensive coordinator right before the start of the season and having a first year head coach pull double duty, this year we have one of the most respected OCs in football in Charlie Weis. Weis has developed good QBs and passing games in both NE and at ND so his attention being strictly on our offense and especially Matt Cassel can only be an upgrade. Next up is the terrible line play. The Chiefs gave up 45 sacks last year. That ranked 27th in the league. However, 30 of those were in the first 8 games. I used this stat before, but it's worth repeating, if you take the 15 sacks they gave up over the last 8 games and average it out over a season the Chiefs would have been tied for 10th. So even if Lilja, Wiegmann, and Asamoah don't aren't huge upgrades just picking up where we left off the last 8 games will be an improvement over last year. The WR position is still a bit of a question mark. However there are positives. We will have Chambers for a full season. D-Bowe showed up to camp in shape and took time to work in the off-season with Larry Fitzgerald. While McCluster and Urban may not be "sure things" its hard to imagine they won't be an upgrade over Bradley and Wade. Even our rookie TE Moeaki looks like he could be a real weapon if he can stay healthy.
The passing game may ultimately come down to what Matt Cassel can do. His numbers last year weren't impressive, but they weren't much worse then Trent Green's during his first year in KC.
Cassel: 55% 2,924 5.9 16 TDs 16 Ints for a 69.9 rating
Green: 56.6% 3,783 7.2 17 TDs 24 Ints for a 71.1 rating
Green went on to be one of the most productive QBs in franchise history. For all the reasons listed above I think Cassel will make a big step forward this season. One last thought that relates to the passing game: The Chiefs were a .500 football team (2-2) when they had Cassel, Bowe, Chambers, and Charles all in the starting line up.
Speaking of Charles, how about some...
Rushing Offense Kool Aid: The Chiefs had a good rushing attack last year despite starting Mr. 2.7 for half the season. The Chiefs finished the year with the 11th rated rushing attack (the highest of the 4 major areas: Pass O, Run O, Pass D, Rush D). During the final 8 games with JC starting and the OL playing better they rushed for 1,141 yards. If you averaged that over a full season they would of finished 4th in the league. Charles is a stud, period. His YPC (5.9) were actually better then Chris Johnson who is widely considered the best back in the league right now. In order to make sure we don't run JC into the ground we signed Thomas Jones who "only" rushed for 1,402 yards and 14 TDs last season. The Chiefs are poised to have a great rushing attack this season.
Pass Defense Kool Aid: The Chiefs pass defense finished rated 22nd in the league last year. If you asked most Chiefs fans why that was you would get three main answers: bad safety play, bad nickel back play, and lack of a pass rush. The Chiefs starting CB play was actually pretty good. Brandon Flowers is becoming a shut down corner. He finished with 28 passes defended (4th in the league) and 5 interceptions (12th in the league). He did this while playing dinged up and with little to no safety help backing him up. On the other side, Brandon Carr was solid. When you combine his 19 passes defended with Flowers' 28 you get one of the highest totals for starting CBs in the league. So will they be better? The main question mark is the pass rush. Tamba Hali is coming off his best season where he led the team in sacks despite being the only pass rush presence and being held on almost every play. The Chiefs did not add anyone to the roster to fix this problem so the answer there will have to come from developing current players and having better blitz packages. Let's see, was the safety position upgraded? Yes. The nickel back position was upgraded by drafting Arenas who was a great college corner and seems to have all the makings of a great nickel back. I think the addition of Berry alone will make this unit better. If we can get some more pass rush...look out.
Rush Defense Kool Aid: This is the area where a lot of Chiefs fans are worried. The Chiefs finished last year rated 31st in rush defense with an alarming 156.5 YPG given up on the ground. Statistically, it was the worst of the four major areas I mentioned earlier. You could also argue that the Chiefs did the least to improve this area in comparison with the others I have mentioned so far. So there is no hope, right? Well before we waive the white flag let's dig into last year's numbers a little bit. Yes, we gave up 156.5 YPG and were next to last in the league. We were, and nothing I can show you will change that. However, here is where I see hope and room to greatly improve on those numbers. First, the Glenn Dorsey effect. I know people look at his stats and say he's disappointed so far in his two seasons. I disagree. Last year while playing a new position he anchored our run defense. In the three games where Dorsey was playing hurt or out (Den, Buf, Clv) we were destroyed on the ground. In the other 13 games we averaged 131.4 YPG. So our run defense without Dorsey was so bad that in three games it raised our YPG by 25.1 yards. So if Dorsey can stay healthy and continue to improve we should see a big improvement in the overall numbers. If his fellow first round draft pick Tyson Jackson can show similar improvement in his second year we will be that much better off.
Besides Dorsey's injury there was one other factor that hurt our rushing numbers, the big play. Even when Dorsey was healthy we still gave up runs of over 20 yards in 7 of the 13 games including two that were 60 yards or longer. In those 13 games where we averaged 131.4 YPG we gave up an average long run of 29 yards. So in those games 22% of the yards allowed came in one play. So why were we allowing so many long runs? My belief is that it was due to the ILBs and safeties being out of position. Every front line is going to get beat during the course of a game. The key is having your ILBs and S in position so that a 5-10 yard run doesn't become a 30 yard run. Again, I think Eric Berry will be a huge upgrade on the safety end of this problem. The ILBs will be the same combination of Williams, Mays, Johnson, and Belcher so improvement there is again going to come down to what Crennel can do with these guys. The bottom line: a healthy Dorsey along with the addition of Berry at safety and Crennel at DC could lead to a big improvement in this area.
Special Teams Kool Aid: This area really sells itself for the most part. Succup was good. Colquitt is good. Last year was the best our kick coverage units have looked in years (other then when we faced Josh Cribbs). The only down side of our special teams was the return game. Our kick returners averaged 21.6 YPR (25th in the league) and our punt returners averaged just 6.5 YPR (27th in the league). Early on in OTAs and training camp Dexter McCluster has reminded some of Dante Hall due to his small size and "juke" abilities. However, he is not even the leading candidate to be our return man. Javier Arenas set a SEC record with 7 career punt returns for TDs. Last year he averaged 14.39 YPR on punts and 27.4 YPR on kick offs. It seems a pretty safe bet that the one weakness of the special teams unit should be improved.
Coaching Kool Aid: I won't spend a lot of time on this. Haley can now spend all his time on being the head coach. He's no longer new and seems very confident and and comfortable in the position now. Despite a hard first year and some demanding standards he didn't lose the team and everyone seems to be on board. Weis as the OC should be a huge upgrade over a first year head coach who was trying to do double duties. If Weis can do anything with Cassel like he has done with the other QBs he's coached the Chiefs are in good hands. Crennel over Clancy should also be an upgrade. As I mentioned earlier, I think Crennel's two biggest jobs are coming up with blitz packages that will put more pressure on the QB and getting the ILBs to improve their play. He probably has the hardest job of the coaching staff if we want to be good this year. All in all I feel WAY better about our staff this year.
The Arrowhead Kool Aid: Last year Arrowhead Stadium provided very little home field advantage for our team. We had a blackout for the first time in ages and even in the games where there wasn't a blackout you could see hundreds of empty seats all over the stadium. Several people even commented about how the Cowboys and Steelers "took over" Arrowhead. With all the excitement around the team this off-season culminating with a season opener on Monday Night Football against the division champs the old Arrowhead advantage will be back with a vengeance. How many games it lasts is up to the team, but come Monday night there will be a packed house of wild, crazy, tailgating, screaming fans ready to run Philip Quivers and the rest of the Bolts right out of town. If our boys can step up and win that one the fans will keep coming back and the new Arrowhead will rejoin the elite home field advantages in all of football. (Are you pumped up yet?!?!)
So there it is, your training camp Kool Aid on why there is hope for the Chiefs this year. Drink up AP and mark another day off the calendar. Monday Night Football is getting closer. I can smell the pre-game parking lot already.