Now that we know where Peyton is going in free agency and reflect on what has transpired already in KC, as others have done already http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/03/19/special-monday-10-pack-winners-and-losers-in-free-agency/ , what have we learned? On the surface it seems obvious that we are making efforts to improve our offense through the running game with the additions of Eric Winston, Kevin Boss and Peyton Hillis. What I see are moves that will also take our defense into elite territory this year by keeping opposing QB’s on the sideline and playing with a lead more frequently. The Chiefs front office has finally shown a commitment to win and started orchestrating a plan that could help us win in the playoffs no matter who our QB is or which opposing QB’s we might face. After all, even a hall of fame donkey is just a donkey!
It’s time to walk the walk Matt.
2011 wasn’t a great year for KC’s ground game in general or for 1st downs rushing as the Chiefs ranked 20th in the league with 89 rushing conversions versus 24th through the air with 163. Compare that to 2010 when the Chiefs ranked 2nd with 129 rushing 1st downs and 21st with 167 through the air. The Chiefs O-line weaknesses were exposed in 2011 when Jamaal Charles went out with his ACL tear. They were in the 36% conversion range on third down in both 2010 and 2011 with almost identical attempts (225 and 226) which ranked 22nd and 24th respectively. We went from the 12th overall offense in 2010 to the 27th overall offense in 2011 and the drop-off was Primarily in our ground game (not forgetting Palko). Matt Cassell wasn’t able to carry the team on his shoulders last year, but in retrospect, the ground game really let the offense down. Our free agent additions to date will drastically improve our off tackle and edge rushing attack and should remove all questions about the supporting cast around Cassell. I like Matt personally and can live with the 5 million dollar salary this year, but he has to have a breakout year.
After all, if it walks like a duck it’s a duck right?
One final offensive starter needed in my opinion.
Do you recall our problem of converting 3rd and 1 in 2010? Here’s an archived Bob Gretz article that highlights our woes in case you don’t. http://www.bobgretz.com/chiefs-football/numbers-that-crunched-%E2%80%A6-wednesday-cup-o%E2%80%99chiefs.html . I haven’t found 2011 stats, but I can’t recall 3rd and short going much better in 2011. Our offseason additions are clearly aimed at improving the rushing attack, but what I’m watching for is a T/G/C acquisition via FA or the draft to address the final weak link in the interior of the line by either replacing Lilja directly or shuffling the line to make that happen. Lilja is in the final year of his contract and didn’t look so good blocking 2nd level or against bigger defenders in 2011. He has a 2.1 million dollar salary this year and might get cut if a replacement is found. Pioli wouldn’t pay 2.1 million to a backup interior lineman would he? A popular idea is DeCastro with #11 http://www.arrowheadpride.com/2012/3/19/2886337/the-case-for-og-in-round-1 but there are options in FA also. (I vote DeCastro)
Peyton’s in town and RAC knows how to shut him down
Romeo’s defenses are good against Peyton Manning, but he knows the best way to stop him his to keep him on the sidelines. Time of possession is a defense’s best friend and the opposing quarterback’s rhythm breaker. Now that our O-linemen and blocking TE are potentially capable of pass blocking, zone blocking and power blocking when needed, we should have more success in having a balanced attack. I’m using the 2011 Texans as an example because they did much of this without a franchise QB and they still rushed their way to the playoffs with a good defensive unit and won a playoff game. I also believe we can have similar offensive success with comparable weapons.
Houston’s run offense from 2011 - Houston’s offense was only ranked 13th in total yards (372.1) and 10th in scoring (23.8 pts per game). The correlating stat is the rushing offense for Houston last year as they ranked 2nd in rushing (153 yds pgm). As a result Houston’s time of possession lead the league (32:40 pgm) and not coincidentally, Houston’s Defense was ranked 2nd in yards allowed (285.7) and 4th in pts allowed (17.4).
As a comparison here are the Chiefs 2011 stats. The offense was ranked 27thin total yards (310 yds pgm) and 31st in scoring averaging (13.2 pts pgm). The rushing attack was 15th (118.3 pgm) They ranked 22nd in time of possession last year (29:32 pgm). The Defense was ranked 22nd in yards allowed (333.3 yds pgm) and 11th in scoring (surrendering 21.1 pts pgm), which is incredible when you throw in the Chiefs week 1 and week 2 blowout losses along with missing Eric Berry for 15 games.
The correlation between a successful running game, time of possession and a strong defense isn’t new, but I think it’s a critical component for our defense to take the next step of becoming elite and leading the way to our 1st Superbowl since 1969-70. Will it be enough or will our QB hold us back? Only time will tell