Football is a game of chess on a grass field 120 yards long and 53 yards wide. Every team has it's pawns and bishops, its rooks and knights, its king and well, its queen.
It's been a very productive offseason thus far for the Kansas City Chiefs. Scott Pioli felt like changes needed to be made in certain spots and he didn't hesitate to add pawns and rooks alike. While many teams were busy swinging (and mostly missing) on the kings and queens, Kansas City was focused on bringing in quality pieces to fill out the roster.
Peyton Hillis was inked as a battering compliment to Jamaal Charles. Brady Quinn was taken from Denver to upgrade the biggest disaster ever witnessed on a gridiron in Tyler Palko. Eric Winston came over from Houston to fill the black hole that was the right tackle spot. Kevin Boss and Stanford Routt joined the team to step in for Leonard Pope and Brandon Carr respectively.
Outside of the Carr/Routt swap, every one of those moves clearly makes the Chiefs a deeper and more talented unit. With those moves, Kansas City has undoubtedly vaulted itself into the conversation as a more legitimate contender in 2012.
The funny thing is when everyone including the fans are assessing this year's group in comparison to the previous edition, most forget to mention the three most important pieces: Eric Berry, Tony Moeaki and Charles.
All of the acquisitions over the previous month or so look very good, but none of them will make the impact of those returning stars perhaps sans Winston.
Along with Derrick Johnson, Berry is the unquestioned leader of the defense by words and more importantly actions. He solidifies what is arguably the best secondary in football and adds a Troy Polamalu like dimension to the Chiefs defense. He can look like a linebacker against the run and dominate versus the pass.
Moeaki makes Matt Cassel instantly better. Many have argued that Cassel was good in 2010 because Charlie Weis was running the show. It's easy to make a case that he was better that season because he had a great tight end to throw at if all else failed for the only time during his tenure here.
Moeaki also makes the running game infinitely more effective because he's a terrific blocker. Pope couldn't block his way out of a paper bag despite his frame. Moeaki is adapt at getting to the second level and sealing off would-be defenders.
Of course, Charles coming back into the fold will be the biggest boon to the offense. Unlike most backs, Charles can make not just something, but a touchdown out of nothing. If a blocking assignment was missed with Thomas Jones or Jackie Battle in the backfield, the play was sunk. With Charles, Kansas City could and probably will gain yardage.
Charles is another reason to believe Cassel will be more efficient this year. Very few running backs are better at catching the ball on various routes. Not only can Charles execute a screen or an angle route, but more than a couple times he's also been known to run deep wheel routes.
The Chiefs are not just getting back a couple of their best players. They're getting back some of the best players in the NFL.