Some Bold Predictions

SAINT JOSEPH, MO - JULY 31: Defensive lineman Jerrell Powe #95 practices during Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp on July 31, 2011 in Saint Joseph, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Does anyone know what it's like to have a paper to write and absolutely no idea what to write about?  I do.  It sucks.  Writers call it "writer's block", but since I'm not a good enough writer to justify using the term I'll just call it "stupidity".  But honestly, I sat and stared at the computer for an hour, trying to think of an interesting story to write for you today.  After all. what is there to cover right now?

Our free agency moves?  Well, that'd be fun, but seeing how I just did that last week it seems pointless (yeah, I just hyped one of my own pieces.  My ego knows no limits).  Of course, if anyone could get 2000 words out of Le'Ron McClain signing with us and Tamba Hali getting a contact extension, it'd be me (I do it by adding a bunch of digressions in parentheses.  It adds to the length of my paragraphs and makes it seem like I'm in the same ballpark as Texas Chief and Aiken as a writer {even though I'm not.  That's right, we're in parentheses within parentheses.  I think if I do one more we'll travel back in time, so let's move on}.  Works like a charm.  And I just added 70+ extra words.  Lesson adjourned).

So what to write about?  We've seen stories on the newest moves by the Chiefs already by guys who can write me under the table.  We've seen tons of great breakdowns of the Chiefs practices.  We've seen updates on the rest of the AFC West and how our rivals are slowly but surely dismantling themselves.  I'd link all those stories for you, but I think it's important you learn to do the work yourself.  Also, I'm lazy.  Except when I'm linking you to my own stories, of course.

So what do I write about?  Well isn't it obvious?  My bold predictions on a few things Chiefs.

 Bold Prediction- Le'Ron McClain is going to go down as one of the best signings in FA.  For anyone.  Even if no one notices except us.

This sounds dumb even as a type it, but I don't care.  I didn't say I was going to give you my timid predictions, did I?  Or my "really super realistic with no chance of being wrong" predictions?  Nope.  These are BOLD predictions.  And this one could very well come true.

Yeah, I know.  He's gonna play fullback for us, not RB.  Haley's made that clear.  Uh oh, we all say.  Well, stop it.  Because that's the best possible scenario for us.  Think back last year.  Think of the number of times you got frustrated seeing Castille or Cox get a pass thrown their way and either not catch it or not make a whole lot out of it.  Or the number of times you saw one of those guys do a mediocre (at best) job clearing a LB out of JC's way.  Now I want you to reach into your memory, pull out our average FB (whichever one happened to be in on that play), and put in a top-tier FB.  Isn't that nice?  

Here's something else to think about.  It's been much-hyped and well-noted around here that we were awful in 3rd and short situations last year.  The exact stat for 3rd and 1 is 11 for 26 (or about 42%), more than TWENTY percentage points lower than the league average (about 65%).  That is God awful.  We're talking Jaws: The Revenge awful (if you've never seen this movie, that reference probably makes no sense to you since as a rule all Jaws movies are awesome.  But seriously, worst movie ever).  

How many of those 3rd and 1 situations could have been converted if we had a back capable of moving the pile?  Obviously we can't say for sure, but having seen tape of how McClain pushes for that necessary yard or two I'd say he's good for getting us at least up to the league average.  Which by itself would be an extra 6 first downs.  And how many 3rd and 2 conversions did we miss out on?  How many times did 2nd and 1 or 2 become 3rd and 4 or 5 after we lost yardage running a sweep, counter, or draw because of our lack of a "move the pile" RB?

(Quick parenthetical footnote that is important enough to deserve its own paragraph.  I know our line isn't built for short yardage situations.  In fact, that's why we NEED a guy who can move the pile on his own.  Because in power running situations our line can't do it.  They're built for speed and pulling, and it works great most of the time.  But when it's time to get that one yard and power right over the defense, the best our line can do is hold its ground.  There isn't a push.  So when you've got a back like Jamaal Charles or Thomas Jones, who can't move the pile by slamming into it, you don't get the yard or two that you need.  That's why I'm talking about our backs, not our line.  Well, except here.)

Add all those situations up and you can safely say we're talking at LEAST twenty to thirty first downs, and probably more.  But I'll say twenty-five to be safe.  That may not sound like much, but think about it.  How many extra plays is that at a minimum?  seventy-five plays!  That's seventy-five extra shots at the end zone.  Seventy-five more chances for JC to break a big run.  Seventy-five more chances to at least get into field goal range.  And if you assume we manage to get another first down on, say, half those drives, that number just gets bigger and bigger (someone call hmills and ask him to do that math; it's over my head).

Want to know where else this helps out?  That's at least seventy-five snaps that our defense isn't getting called back onto the field. I think we've all seen in the last few years (and in last year's playoff game) how debilitating it can be for a defense to be on the field all day.  So our new FB even helps the defense!

Le'Ron McClain will help our team solve perhaps its greatest weakness on offense; the short yardage situations.  That contribution will not show up on the stat sheet directly.  It won't make Sportscenter highlights.  And it won't be something other teams' fans notice when they check us out prior to gameday.  But it'll have an enormous impact on our offense and at least a small impact on our defense.  Just by giving us extra chances we didn't get last year.  Who would've thought one or two yards could mean so much?

Bold Prediction- Jonathan Baldwin is going to be better than I (and many of us) originally thought

When we drafted Baldwin, I was like, "Hmmmmm... Well, OK I guess."  

My opinion didn't really change as I read through scouting reports and listened to what other Chiefs fans had to say.  But I have been wooed.  I have been swayed.  And yes, this is based entirely off a ton of highlights and a little more than a week of camp.  Sue me.

You know what really got me when I was watching his highlights?  The fact that he didn't even look like he belonged out there with college players.  He looked like some high school senior who decided to play ball with the 8th grade team.  The guy is a monster.  Just a freakish combination of size and speed.  He's Calvin Johnson huge.  You see pictures and videos of him standing by Dwayne Bowe (who is himself a big, physical receiver) and he makes Bowe look average-sized.  Just ridiculous.

Another thing that stood out to me when I watched his highlights.  His quarterbacks were TERRIBLE.  I mean, I know it's been mentioned here more than once.  But they were so bad it bears repeating here.  In fact, I'll even repeat my repetition.  His quarterbacks were TERRIBLE.  A lot of the catches that made his highlight films shouldn't have been highlights.  But the throws were so horrible that Baldwin had to make a stud play just to get to the ball.  Half the time he snatched away what looked like a sure pick from a corner (who you could just tell was thinking, "What the &%$# is coach doing having me cover this guy?  Dude's ten feet tall and jumps like a pogo stick on a trampoline.  Seriously, what the &%$# am I supposed to do?  Take out his knees?").

I know Cassel isn't (insert whatever QB floats your boat here), but I can tell you right now he's about 100x better than any QB Baldwin had throing him the ball in college.  That alone is going to help him.  Also (crossing myself and locking all the doors to my house), having had to adjust to poorly thrown balls in the past is something that will help Baldwin do well with Cassel.  Because sometimes Cassel makes some pretty crappy throws.  Please don't kill me.  I have a family.

What Baldwin's been doing at camp (at least according to the awesome reports we've been getting from those here at AP, as well as from Gretz and others) has sealed it for me in a I-know-this-is-premature-but-who-cares kind of way.  

First, he's been giving a ton of effort.  Given that the supposed question mark with him was effort, this is huge.  Pretty much every scouting report said something to this effect: "If Baldwin puts his head down and does the work, there isn't much a ceiling for him even at the pro level.  But will he?"  Well, it's only a week in, but so far he is.  I'm going to not exaggerate at all and decide this means he's going to put in that kind of effort his entire career (see with the logic?).

Second, he's already making it a point to own a shorter CB in Javier Arenas at camp.  No disrespect, Javy.  I love how physical you are, how you return punts, and how well you progressed last year as a nickel CB.  But from what I've read Baldwin's been having no trouble with you.  And you know what?  It makes me happy (of course, I'd be a lot less happy if Arenas was our starting CB.  Then it'd be more concern than happiness).  Most corners in the NFL are in that 5'9" to 5'11" range.  Baldwin is going to feast on them on 3rd downs and in the red zone.  Or with any jump ball situation for that matter.

Maybe those two things don't seem like a lot, but hey, it's all I've got after a week, other than my own gut feeling (of course, my gut also says that Powe is going to surprise everyone by taking more and more snaps from Kelly Gregg as the year progresses.  And that Allen Bailey is going to wrench playing time from someone.  And that Justin Houston, despite everything, will get at least 7 sacks this season.  So there's a slight possibility my gut is just a crazy stinkin' homer).  But I see Baldwin as doing way more than what we originally thought when we drafted him.  You know what, let's make a stats prediction!  I'm gonna go with 59 catches for 985 yards and at least mention in the ROY talk.  

C'mon, tell me that isn't a bold prediction!

Bold Prediction- Tamba Hali's sack numbers will go down this season, and there will be a fierce debate on AP about whether or not we overpaid for him.  

I figured I've spent all my "homer" cards for one day, so I'll end on a little more pessimistic note.  I just don't see Tamba getting to the QB quite as much this season.  I think we'll have more sacks as a TEAM, but I also think that teams are going to focus on stopping Hali even more so than in the past.  This will open up opportunities for guys like Andy Studebaker, Wallace Gilberry, Justin Houston, and maybe even Glenn Dorsey or Allen Bailey (why not?!?! Give me one good reason why not!!!!  Sorry... I have a serious man-crush on Bailey.  It's a bromance.  Don't question it).  But it'll mean a tougher time for him.

The problem with having a guy who is contributing in ways other than stats (like, say, if Tamba's sack number went down to 10 but he drew all kinds of double teams, caused pressures, and opened things up for our entire defense to be better) is that the casual fan freaks out about that kind of thing (cue Aiken saying, "You mean like TJ?") and doesn't always do the research before reacting.  This leads to a lot of negative comments and/or posts, especially when you're talking about a $12 million a year guy like Hali.  Some will expect huge stats, and if he doesn't provide them there's going to be a fallout around here.  Which is then going to lead to a massive response by the more optimistic fans, which will lead to the always-entertaining "Hater" vs "Kool-Aid Drinker" name calling.  So... that's something to look forward to, right?  

I hope I'm wrong and Hali tears it up just as much this year, but I just don't see it.  

 

I've got more bold predictions, but no time.  Plus, some of my other thoughts are a little too out there for me (some predictions that missed the cut by being a little too "out there": DJ regresses after getting paid, JC's not going to be quite as effective, Cassel will make the Pro Bowl again, and our defensive line becomes a borderline powerhouse that stuns the NFL world).  

Got one for me?

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