As I sit here in a haze of studying for finals, I find my mind drifting towards the future (mostly because the present is just so unpleasant right now. Why didn't anyone tell me that law school requires a massive amount of reading and studying? It seems like this should be common knowledge or something). The Chiefs are no exception to this forward-thinking-day-dreaming.
Now, I know that the Chiefs are not technically eliminated from playoff contention as of today. There are all kinds of scenarios in which they could sneak in. And frankly, with the way the defense is playing as of late I can't say I'd be totally stunned if the Chiefs managed to somehow get in, especially if Kyle Orton is healthy and able to provide at least adequate quarterback play (you know, the kind where you score touchdowns throughout the normal course of the game, not just on desperation hail mary's where your smallest guy makes an incredibly heads-up play).
But despite this, I still find myself thinking about next year for our Chiefs. And since I don't have the time to think of anything better to write about (seriously, I'm getting KILLED right now), I'm going to think of some things I'm looking forward to in the future...The Continuing Emergence of Justin Houston
Remember a few short weeks ago, when Houston was just another bust and an example of GM Scott Pioli's failure to address the pass rush? Yeah, me either (I always thought it was an incredibly reactionary, short-sighted argument). Well, this is one situation where the "excuses" being thrown out for Houston seem to be ringing true.
Maybe Romeo Crennel wanted Houston to become a complete player before letting him do what he's already comfortable doing. Maybe the defensive scheme called for more coverage than rushing from the outside linebacker. Maybe Jovan Belcher's inadequacy in coverage made it necessary. Maybe they thought Wallace Gilberry would be better than he's been. Maybe Romeo had a bet going with Todd Haley as to how long he could keep the defense playing in "hold the line" rather than "attack" mode before Arrowhead was stormed by a mob. I have no idea.
But Justin Houston is one of the things I'm most looking forward to seeing, now and in the future. He was quietly improving and providing additional pressure for weeks, but many dismissed it because he wasn't getting the sacks. Well, now we've watched him absolutely dominate at least one game. And I think it's the first of many. I see the Chiefs as having a scary-good pass rushing combo for years, and I look forward to seeing RAC continue to attack offenses with it (seriously, Romeo, no more "sit back on your heels, bend-but-don't-break." You've got two legit pass rushers. Use them).
Getting a quarterback
This speaks for itself. I don't know what will be done, but SOMETHING needs to be done. I look forward to seeing it happen. And if it doesn't? Well... there are ways of dealing with that.
The Continued Contributions of Dexter McCluster
Cue "McReach" or "McFumble" jokes here. Well, allow me to retort! DexMex (I don't know why I love that nickname, but I do) has 425 yards rushing and 203 yards receiving through 12 games this year. I know, I know, you're not impressed, but I'm still retorting here so zip it for a second.
First, while those totals are not overwhelming by any stretch of the imagination, when you look at offensive numbers for Dex I believe one needs to take into account two factors: the ineptitude of the offense and the playcalling that has utilized him.
With regards to the offense... In case you didn't know, it's bad. Really bad. Really REALLY bad. Like, you just told your wife that she ought to start working out bad (never had to do it myself, but I've heard it's bad. Yes, that was a shameless plug of the fact that I married a hottie. It's good to be me, I admit it). The fact that Dex has put up even borderline respectable numbers in this offense makes him one of the biggest contributors. Sad, but true. He's averaging 4.7 YPC while the other backs are at 4.1 and 3.0 (thanks again for your contribution, Thomas Jones). Imagine the offense without him for a minute. Yeah, it's even uglier.
On the playcalling... it's horrible at times. We've got basically three or four types of plays in which Dex gets the ball. I know it, you know it, other teams know it, even my wife has noticed it (there's two wife references, I may try to get a half dozen in before I'm done). I believe Dex has been as hindered as anyone by the mediocre-to-inept playcalling.
He doesn't get much love here anymore, but at the end of the day Dex has been a pretty big contributor, and one of the few playmakers for the Chiefs this year. I look forward to seeing him in a proper role as a side contributor on a good offense.
The Birth of a Defensive Juggernaut
While the cynical side of me is fully expecting this new attitude on defense to fall out from under us at any minute, it's tough to not get excited about the possibilities. I already talked about Houston, but I'm psyched about many aspects of the defense. How about I just list them by name?
-Derrick Johnson- Best ILB in the NFL right now. Bar none. There is not an ILB in the league I'd take at this moment. I cannot get over how lights out his play has been. He's not only on pace to shatter the Chiefs' all-time tackle record, but he makes at least a half dozen "holy crap" plays a game. (Too bad Clark Hunt's too cheap to lock him up long term and... wait, what?)
Tyson Jackson- How far we've come, T-Jax. From "Bust" to "Pretty much a bust" to "He's OK" to "I'm comfortable with him at DE" to "Hey, he's a pretty good player" to "Beast mode." Now that's just a journey (much like marriage... OK, that one was weak. I can do better). He's become a rock against the run, and is even (gasp) rushing the passer a little! Who knew 3-4 DE's could do that sometimes?!
-Brandon Flowers- He seems to have largely overcome the inconsistency that plagued him early this year. When he's on, he's a top three corner. Throw in his tackling (absolutely elite) and we've got ourselves a stud CB. Too bad Hunt's too cheap to lock him... wait, again?
-Tamba Hali- Duh. C'mon, we all know he's a beast. And with Houston opposite him... ohboyohboyohboyohboy! (to get the full effect there, picture me hopping up and down and clapping my hands). Unfortunately, Hunt's cheap and we'll never splurge on an elite pass rusher's contract so... what do you MEAN, we've got him locked up?
-Brandon Carr- Great, great number two corner. Hunt and Pioli, I'm defending your spending habits here (I could make a GREAT wife comment here, but I fear for my safety since she joined AP). Get this guy signed up. Like now (Also: Bowe. Seriously. There's enough stuff to address this offseason without worrying about those two. The Chiefs have the money to get these guys and address the other needs. Get it DONE. Or I won't passive-aggressively defend you anymore!)
-Kendrick Lewis- I love this guy as a FS. He's a great "roamer." I feel for him, not having Berry next to him. This guy was born to play next to a SS like Berry.
-Eric Berry- Dear Eric, please get well soon. Knowing you, as I type this you're likely somewhere killing it in rehab while studying the finer points of the game, ready to come back better than ever.
-Allen Bailey- Too soon to tell the big picture, but he's 100 times better than he was at the start of the season. Go back and watch Houston's second sack against da Bears. The reason their QB couldn't step up into the pocket is that Bailey MANHANDLED two blockers and left him nowhere to run (while this was happening, Wallace Gilberry was getting absolutely stonewalled by one blocker. Just sayin'). Again, too soon to tell, but when I see a player improving as quickly as Bailey has, it gets me all warm and fuzzy inside.
-Aman Gordon- Yeah, he's relatively old, but I LOVE this dude. He's made me forget all about Crotch-Grabber and Big Ron. I hope the Chiefs keep him around awhile, but if they don't, it's OK. Because it seems like Romeo can take any old vet and revitalize his career.
-Jerrell Powe- He's been riding the pine, I know. But when he's played, he's looked all right. Now, to be fair, I'm basing MOST of this off of his preseason play, when he was dominating 2nd and 3rd teamers. But hey, when your 6th round pick is, with little preparation time, dominating other teams' backups, that's a GOOD sign (plus his "This is the stuff of legends" tackle of Josh Johnson. Watch it again. That was epic). Why is he sitting? Personally, I think Romeo is comfortable with Kelly Gregg at NT, and with the Chiefs not having a NT in there at all half the time, they don't need two pure NT's most game days. Watch for this kid. I have a feeling (also known in some circles as "homerism")
Whew, that's a crapload on the defense. But that's only because there's SO MUCH too look forward to with that group.
Getting a REAL QUARTERBACK
What, I said this already? Too bad. It's that important. Kyle Orton is not a long term solution barring him somehow being about 15 percent better in Kansas City than he's been anywhere else. Matt Cassel isn't either unless (again) he gets about 15 percent better on a consistent basis (which, frankly, he's had three years to do). Ricky Stanzi's a rookie and we have no idea what he's got. Tyler Palko is useless besides his ability to somehow use psychic powers to dislocate Orton's finger (which one would think we could use to our advantage, but it doesn't really seem ethical).
Honest to God, I'm at my wit's end (like my wife when I accidentally threw away our credit cards. Am I at a half dozen yet?). I have this inner hope that Scott Pioli sees what we see. That he sees that the Chiefs have an excellent WR corps. That he sees that the Chiefs have a good TE and great RB coming back next year. That he sees the defense is legit, with a nice chance of being something special. That he SEES the line, other than RT, isn't that bad (I know, Weigmann is almost washed up. Enter Hudson. It'll be all right). What's left is a gaping, glaring, giant, massive, huge, gronking (thank you, Dirk) hole at QB. I have to hang onto that hope.
There are multiple scenarios we can look at that get the Chiefs a new QB, no matter where they're picking in the draft. We've got some trade chips in Glenn Dorsey (sorry dude, you've regressed and your contract is running out. It's time.) and Wallace Gilberry, as well as what SHOULD be a willingness to spend a few picks to trade up. There absolutely will be teams in the top seven that do not need a QB. It's a deep QB class at the top. The second biggest team need (RT) is the type that can be addressed in the 2nd or 3rd round or free agency
Never, ever, have I seen such a perfect storm of opportunity to get a franchise QB in the draft. Pull the trigger. I'm looking forward to seeing this happen. And if it doesn't? Well... my wife's hot, so I've got that going for me. I'm not sure how all of you will get through it, though.