Let me start by saying that this post will not be KCporkchop's Big Ole Post of Awesome part 2. This post will be a little more reflective and based in reason as opposed to just pure awesomeness. Think of this as the Ying to my last posts Yang of positive thoughts about this year's team. Unlike the last post, I look forward to some debate on what you all agree and disagree with.
What I have done for this round of Kool Aid is take a look at where we are as a team compared to one year ago. I have broken the team down into 14 areas and will address whether we have upgraded, downgraded, or stayed the same in each one. So here we go, your 2010 End of Pre-Season Glass of Chiefs Kool Aid.
Let me start by saying to all of you who are a little less optimistic about our team then others that by stating the an area has been "upgraded" I am not saying that the area is where it needs to be, simply that it is better then where it was a year ago.
Let's start with the coaching staff.
Head Coach Todd Haley: Upgrade from last year.
The reasoning: He's not a 1st year head coach anymore. He seems to be more comfortable and less "out of control" then he did at times last year. He is also not doing double duty as Offensive Coordinator. Speaking of which...
Offensive Coordinator: Upgrade from last year.
The reasoning: One year ago Todd Haley was in his second week as Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator. This year Charlie Weis has had the entire off season to build on the foundation that Haley laid last year. That combined with the fact that our coordinator this year isn't an over loaded first year head coach makes this a pretty clear upgrade.
Defensive Coordinator: Upgrade from last year.
The reasoning: I'm not a Pendergast fan so this doesn't even need justifying for me. However, I would imagine that even those who liked Pendergast (if they exist) would have to admit that Romeo and his track record and Super Bowl rings is an upgrade.
Next let's take a look at the player position groups.
Quarterback: Same as last year*.
The reasoning: I'm playing it safe here and calling it the same. We have the same starter and same primary back up. I put an asterisk up there because I think Matt Cassel has every reason to improve this year. He just still has to prove he can do it. He's now more comfortable with the system, has better players around him (see below), and his offensive coordinator has a great track record with quarterbacks. Let's save the Matt Cassel debate for another thread and just say that if it turns out to be the same as last year we'll need a new quarterback, but if he takes advantage of the improvements and does well then we'll be in good shape.
Running Back: Upgrade from last year.
The reasoning: Charles is now a star. McCluster adds a new dimension out of the backfield. Thomas Jones, even if no more productive (he has to be though, right?) will at least be a 100% upgrade in terms of his locker room presence and lack of "distractions". Jackie Battle also seems to be coming on.
Wide Receiver: Upgrade from last year.
The reasoning: I think we can anticipate a much better year from Dwayne Bowe, but if that's too subjective for you, how about this. Last year at this time our number two and three receivers were Mark Bradley and Bobby Engram. We hadn't even signed our "savior" Bobby Wade at the time. This year instead of Bradley, Engram, and Wade we have Chambers, McCluster, and Horne (who is too raw to count on right now, but nice to finally have somebody with upside to develop).
Tight End: Upgrade from last year.
The reasoning: I think Moeaki will be an upgrade over Cottam, but again that is something that can be debated. However, what can't be debated is that Leonard Pope is a WAY better blocker then our starting TE at this time last year, Sean Ryan. Don't believe me? Check out a clip of the play from last pre-season where Matt Cassel got injured versus the Seahawks.
Go to this LINK, and then click on the "Matt Cassel Injured" clip. Ryan is lined up next to the right tackle. (You should really look at this for no other reason then a good laugh.)
Offensive Line: Upgrade from last year.
The reasoning: In that same clip above you could see Mike Goff and Damian Sackintosh getting pushed around. Now by this time last year Sackintosh had at least been cut. However, I will still roll with O'Callaghan, Lilja, Wiegmann, and Asamoah over Goff, Smith, Alleman, and Ndukwe who were on the roster at this time last year. Again, not saying that the offensive line is where it needs to be but I think we are clearly looking better then a year ago.
Defensive Line: Same as last year.
The reasoning: Yes, we all hope Dorsey, Jackson, Edwards, etc. will improve with Romeo's help, but the only additions to the group are Smith who has been let go by a couple different teams and a former Green Bay practice squad player. I don't think you can call this group upgraded yet. However, I don't see how anyone could call it downgraded since we didn't lose anybody that was productive for us last year.
Linebackers: Same as last year.
The reasoning: I struggled with this one. I think Studebaker and possibly Belcher will up their game enough this year to call this group improved. However, I'm not sure that I can call that a fact yet and therefore I will call them the same for the time being. However, I feel better about the progress of this group then I do the defensive line. I think Romeo is going to be able to get some production out of this group. If only he could drastically improve their cover skills.
Cornerbacks: Same as last year.
The reasoning: Flowers and Carr are still the starters and should still be good if not great. The real test is the play at the nickel. Arenas should be an upgrade here, but he is still a rookie. I'm not sure that players like Bates and Daniels will be much different then guys like Richardson and Colclogh that spent time on the roster last year.
Safety: Upgraded from last year.
Seriously, McGraw isn't as good as Page, but the upgrade of Berry over Brown trumps that difference. The wild card here is Lewis. Athletically he is an upgrade over McGraw so if he can get comfortable he will have a chance to be in the same league as Page. That would make the upgrade that much bigger.
Special Teams: Upgraded from last year.
The reasoning: Everything about our special teams was good last year except the return game. Enter Arenas and McCluster, all together now...UPGRADE!
Now, the last area I'll look at is the ease of our schedule.
The Schedule: Upgraded from last year.
The reasoning: Normally I don't buy into the whole "our schedule looks this or that" because the landscape changes so fast in the NFL. However, last year before the bye week was just brutal. In those 7 weeks we had Baltimore, San Diego, and the entire NFC East. I really think last year's team with no upgrades might be able to win 5-6 games with our schedule this year.
The Results: 10 of the 14 major areas of our team have been upgraded. 4 of the 14 have remained the same (and a true Kool Aid drinker can even argue some of those might be improved). Most importantly, 0 or the 14 areas have been downgraded. So your official "End of Pre-Season Glass of Kool Aid" is that there is a very reasonable expectation that our team should be better this season. Just how much better depends on the amount of upgrade and if some of those "same" areas can jump up to the "upgraded" zone. I can't wait for a week from tonight when we finally get some real answers. Until then, stay positive AP, this is going to be the year we climb out of the cellar and begin our climb to the top.