Each Thursday, I will be looking at and evaluating one player of importance for the Kansas City Chiefs. Since this is the initial segment, I'll start with the most important position on the team.
Matt Cassel is without question the most controversial player here on Arrowhead Pride. Some see him as the man to end the Super Bowl drought while others see him as an albatross holding the team back. Lets go ahead and dive right in by looking at Cassel's numbers in his two years as a Chief.
Year Com Yards Att TD's INT
2009: 55.0% 2924 493 16 16
2010: 58.2% 3116 450 27 7
The main difference last season was a much improved offensive line with the additions of Casey Wiegmann and Ryan Lilja. He was only sacked 26 times and had a potent ground game for the entire season. Any quarterback who has a good offensive line and Jamaal Charles behind him should be able to play decent football, and Cassel has done that.
It doesn't take a hardcore football fan to see his numbers improved from year one to year two. However, the stats in 2010 still don't look great except for the TD:INT ratio. Can Cassel become a franchise quarterback and not just a move-the-chains type of player?
My take: I believe he can.
Last season Dwayne Bowe was the only legitimate outside threat for Kansas City. Chris Chambers was MIA and Verran Tucker wasn't keeping any defensive coordiantors up at night. This season the Chiefs added Jonathan Baldwin opposite of Bowe, which could prove devastating for opposing defenses. With the size of both receivers, Cassel has the luxury of throwing some jump balls downfield. Many know that Cassel lacks a quality deep-ball, so Pioli and Co. have gone out and helped him out.
As we all know, Cassel didn't play in college at USC or during his first three seasons in New England. That my friends is a lot of rust to shake off. Most quarterbacks don't have to sit that long which is why I've been patient with Cassel. It looked as though he made some real progress towards the end of last season until that Baltimore playoff game. I don't pin that on him, but it does leave some serious question marks.
With a tougher schedule this season, I expect to see Cassel's TD:INT ratio slip a little bit. However, I expect to see him play with more assertiveness and actually be a more of a weapon. Kansas City will need him to be if they're to repeat as AFC West champions.
I don't think Cassel has to be much better than he already is for the Chiefs to win a Super Bowl, but it sure wouldn't hurt to see some improvement. My hope is Cassel can complete about 62% of his passes and not throw more than a dozen interceptions. With the supporting cast now in place, Cassel needs to reach his full potential.