The new NFL Rewind package has made for a totally geeked out weekend for me. Here's what I saw: With one exception, the Kansas City Chiefs are going to be a vastly improved roster in 2012.
We'll start with the exception: Cassel and Orton really are in two different worlds. It's a shame that Ortons quick read-to-delivery time isn't around with better talent this year.
With Orton being able to progress all the way down to Becht, Pope, Copper you have to wonder what a year of Boss, Moeaki and (hopefully) a better route running Baldwin would do. Orton's 'inability to score in the redzone' would never be brought up if several receivers, including McLain, Bowe, Breaston didn't forget their hands when trying to catch his passes.
You get the feeling the plays Cassel runs, they're developed for the timing of his longer setup for release and have a specific receiver intended each time. The cleverness is in the OC's hands and not Cassel's. The timing gets thrown off sometimes a bit because of Cassel's inconsistent footwork on his drops.
These are the two most important people on the Chiefs roster: Hali and Bowe.
Bowe is special. His route running and ability to get to where the QB needs his is scary. Before the film I wasn't too concerned with a deeper 2012 receiving corps going on without Bowe, but the reality is, he's not replaceable. Even with his perceived drop problem, he really moves the chains. I still say he's not a top ten play maker for QBs with a long ball, but his short(er) game is perfect for Matt Cassel. He fits very well with the Chiefs.
The Chief's defense is centered around Tamba Hali. The rest of the defense gets to time their jumps, reads, etc knowing that the QB is going to be pressured. Regardless of Hali's actual sack count, the opposing team's plays are timed and developed to count on his pressure. When the QB has to hurry during a Hali attended three man rush, that opens a lot up for the defensive play makers. I was excited for Houston as the next Hali, but Hali really is special. He makes any contribution the rest of the team makes a lot better.
The secondary is going to see vast improvements. Langford, McGraw, Piscetteli were outmatched and were responsible for some really big plays and penalties against the Chiefs last year. Even if Routt isn't the play maker Carr is, the quality of the secondary between the two outside cornerbacks are going to make things tough on the AFC West QBs. Even average to above average years from Elam and Berry will be a big, big difference here.
I was buying into Belcher being 'acceptable' from the fan base until watching him. This guys is painfully unathletic. I wonder if the Chiefs had Kuechly circled before Poe in the draft. The Chief's run defense looks pretty bad 80% of the time, and just killer the rest. The main difference is how big the line package is/how much a run is expected. They do well when it's a sure run. I hope Poe and Siler have opportunities to change that in the some of the passing oriented sub packages.
Pioli didn't add top playmakers to the squad, but like on the defense, he's taken most of the worst players and added some quality average to slightly above average players.
The Thomas Jones / Jackie Battle duo being replaced by Charles and Hillis is a big deal. Argue that Charles isn't 100% and Hillis has lost it, but it doesn't take much to be a big upgrade over the body of work Jones and Battle put out last year. Even average to slightly above average years from these two will be a huge upgrade and will help Cassel with 8 man boxes on the PA.
Boss/Moeaki are a huge upgrade over Becht and Pope. I saw defenses change against the Chiefs last year that didn't respect the running game of the Chiefs (for good reason). This made it harder on the whole offense.
My opinion of McCluster has improved greatly. If he learns to quit putting his feet out in front of him (stopping his momentum on cuts) he would be an even more important key. It's understandable than an OC would have a hard time finding a true placement for him when Charles and Breaston seem to be 'purer' versions of what McCluster does, however.
I've caused some angst in the past by indicating that some of our favorite Chiefs players aren't top ten players- with the exception of Hali and possibly Derrick Johnson- they arent. But they don't need to be. Pioli has done a great job at taking maybe 5-6 of the 8 worst players on the 2011 squad off and replacing them with some quality players that will reduce mistakes, and occasionally make some good plays. No real strengths were added, other than taking away the very big weaknesses.
2012: Look for an exciting defense if Tamba stays healthy, and I dare to say a somewhat 2010 like Offense if the running game gets reestablished. Hopefully the line is a bit tougher against big power defenses this time around and make the 'push' through 2013.