I’ve done a little thinking about it, and the conclusion I draw is this: We are short on game-changing players. Players that can make a play that changes the nature of the game on any given Sunday. Keep in mind that I'm analyzing, not bashing here.
Hali likely qualifies as one, and possibly Flowers (when 100%). Past that? Nobody, really. Don’t get me wrong, Charles is very good, and Bowe deserves his #1 Receiver status, but neither one is a threat to take it to the house every time they touch the ball. Cassel is what he is, and he’s no Peyton Manning (or choose your favorite come from behind QB).
The Chiefs are, whether by design or due to a low-risk approach in getting players, a team that is built to be efficient. There’s nothing wrong with efficiency, mind you, but efficient teams generally aren’t dominant or explosive.
Efficient teams can win games. They can win lots of games, in fact. They can even overcome deficits, up to a point, and on occasion. The controlling factor is mistakes. Teams built to be efficient must avoid mistakes as much as possible.
(Details after the jump)
Some possibilities and observations:
The Chiefs offense could become dominant, if the line play firms up enough to allow a scary good running game and a good enough pass attack to keep the opposition honest. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that it will ever be explosive, not as long as Cassel’s under center. His passing skills are just too limited (Note that I didn’t say “bad”, you MC homers). He isn’t accurate enough to force the ball in on tight coverage reliably, and he lacks the deep (30+ yds) ball that stretches defenses and creates breakaway plays. (BTW, no QB can go to that particular well very often, so the ones who do it successfully are the ones who are accurate at long range, not the ones who heave it deep and hope the receiver’s good enough to come down with it.)
There’s more hope on the D side. I believe there’s enough potential within that group that there’s a valid possibility that they might grow from efficient to dominant, for one thing. Much depends on the play of the D-line, and in the 3-4, the key to that is the NT. For another (and yes, I’m really, really speculating here), there’s the outside chance that Hali-Huston might blossom into a pass rush tandem this could be considered “explosive”, or that with Flowers back, the secondary firms up, rises to the next level, and becomes a unit that gobbles up INTs and Pick-sixes. I don’t see either of those as likely, but at least they’re possible.
As the KR/PR, Arenas is again efficient, but he's not a game-changer, the way that Dante' Hall was.
So that’s my story. We have talent at “skill” positions, and since they can’t be counted on to be “explosive”, our only other option is dominance, and when it comes down to that, you have to look at the play of the respective Lines. Can they step up? Time will tell.
At this point I was challenged to defend my assessment that Charles isn't a game-changer, to which I replied:
Not in the sense that he regularly makes plays that change the nature of the game, no.
Charles is a very good RB. One of the best in the league, in fact. The opposition must take him into account when game-planning, as well. He’s that much of a threat.
But in terms of being a game-changer, someone who can be counted on to break a long TD run when the team’s behind and needs to knock the defense back on its heels? Sorry, no. He can be expected to break for first downs on third and long on a regular basis, and without checking the stats, I’d say that he’s good for that 2-3 times a game. He can gash them for 20-30 yards pretty routinely, too. The thing is that those kinds of plays don’t change the nature of the game, not in crisis situations. They keep drives alive. They force the D to focus on stopping the run, too, but they don’t shift the momentum on a single play.
Charles can be expected to break a long one for a TD a couple times this season, perhaps more than that, but even if he does it several times, I don’t think we can expect him to do it more than once in a situation where the team’s behind and turns things around (win or lose). Twice at the outside. Ripping a long TD run when the other guys are already demoralized and falling apart doesn’t change the game any. Also, I’m not talking about getting one of those in a close game, and “breaking the back” of the defense. Note the title: I’m talking “come from behind” here, and by that I don’t mean “down by 3 at the half”.
I don’t think I’m being unfair to Charles in saying this, either. There may be one or two RBs in the league that can do that sort of thing on a regular basis right now. There may not be any at all. The last RB that I can think of that did that sort of thing regularly, reliably, and over the course of several seasons was Barry Sanders. (and the Lions usually squandered his effort when he did.) It’s probably just the nature of the position. After further thought, I'll add LaDanian Tomlinson.
A good running game can grind a D down to the point where it becomes demoralized, and eventually gives up. Charles is quite capable of doing that. But that’s not the same as turning the game around on a single play in a crisis.
Is my point more clear now?