What’s up AP? In case you guys didn’t know, it is July 26th. This means… Training Camp starts tomorrow! I am excited, and I know you guys are too. I plan on making the trip up to St. Joseph on August 8th to see our boys scrimmage the Arizona Cardinals, then soon after rush on over to Livestrong Sporting Park to catch a Sporting KC game. Now that is going to be one hell of a day.
On August 8th, there are a lot of things that I’ll be excited to see. The “ACL Crew” will be back in action, we’ll have a new offensive coordinator to show off his new system, and we have a handful of rookies that are ready to impress. Of all the things that I am excited to see though, I would probably have to choose watching the 2012 version of the Chiefs’ rushing attack.
When it comes to the Chiefs’ running game this season, there is a lot to be excited about. Not only do we get back our career 6.1 yards per carry runner Jamaal Charles, we also get the Juggernaut himself, Peyton Hillis. Along with these two backs, we still have the offensive weapon Dexter McCluster entering his third season, and we also get to see what rookie running back Cyrus Gray has to offer.
These four talented backs are going to be the heart of the offense in 2012. In the offseason, Scott Pioli brought in Eric Winston and Kevin Boss, and we also have Tony Moeaki returning. These three are going to help tremendously in the running game this year. Yes, we do have some talented receivers, but Matt Cassel isn’t exactly Tom Brady. There is no question that we are going to run, run, and run the ball some more down the AFC West’s throat this season.
But for this offense to contend for a playoff spot in 2012, we will not need to just run the ball a lot; we will need to run the ball successfully. Two years ago, we had the top rushing attack in the entire NFL, and we came out on top in the AFC West. Which brings me to the obvious question: Can the Chiefs return to the #1 rushing team in the NFL?
Let us take a look at last season. In 2011, despite losing Jamaal Charles in Week 2, we finished the season with the #15 rushing attack. Now, #15 really isn’t that great, but the fact that we were better than 17 other teams in any offensive category last year blows my mind. At the number 15 spot, we garnered a total of 1,893 rushing yards last year, which is a little over 700 yards short of the #1 spot held by the Denver Broncos. Of those 1,893 yards, Thomas Jones had 478, Jackie Battle had 597, and Dexter McCluster had 516. Le’Ron McClain, Matt Cassel, and select other players were responsible for the rest of those yards (you’d be surprised which random players get rushing yards over the years).
Now, every year, the top rushing team usually gets about 2,600 rushing yards, give or take. The average difference between the #1 spot and the #15 spot over the last 4 seasons is 780 yards. So, basically, the 2012 Chiefs need to be about 800 rushing yards better than the 2011 Chiefs to have the top rushing attack.
Do you believe that Charles, Hillis, and 2012 McCluster can be 800 yards better than Jones, Battle, and 2011 McCluster? It is a good possibility. Brian Daboll might limit Charles’ carries early in the season for health concerns, but Jamaal has a ton of talent and will need to be utilized as soon as possible with our early tough schedule. And for those who are concerned about Jamaal returning to 2010 form – just wait. Jamaal is a hard worker and extremely talented, and with this improved offensive line and an entire year to get healthy and train up, I have confidence that he can come back with a bang and maybe even contend for Comeback Player of the Year.
Now, there are also questions about if Peyton Hillis can return to his 2010 form as well. My answer – well, why not? Last year, Hillis was plagued with nagging injuries and had a few behavior problems along the way (nobody really enjoys being in Cleveland), but now he has on a new jersey and is in different but familiar system, reuniting with Brian Daboll. Also, he is on a one year contract, so he is probably going to be playing for that potential long term deal, whether it is here or somewhere else. If Hillis does return to 2010 form, let’s hope that contract is here.
So, let’s say the top rushing team gets 2,600 rushing yards this season. For the Chiefs to land around that number, the projections look something like this: 200 yards for random QB/RB/FB/WR/CB/DT (Dontari Poe at tailback, anyone?) rushing yards, 1300 yards for Jamaal Charles, 900 for Peyton Hillis, and 200 yards for DMC. This also is assuming that everything bodes well health wise.
Obviously, I’m a Chiefs homer so these projections could be flat out wrong. However, I can fully go into this season believing that the Chiefs can contend for the rushing title. If not, I know that with all this talent we will at least be top five.
What do you guys think? Give me your opinions in the comments below. For everyone going to training camp in the next couple weeks, have a safe trip, drink plenty of water, and do not forget to leave some Nick Jacobs’ style analysis on AP for us!