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Talking Chiefs and Stats with Football Outsiders

A few days ago, we were given an opportunity to check out the Chiefs section on Football Outsiders' 2009 Almanac.  If you're not familiar with FO, they're the sabermetrics of football.  They break the games and players down into insanely detailed statistics that help predict what a team, position group or player will do.

They are very good at what they do.  Check out the website to gain a better understanding of a few of the things they do.

If you're interested, here's a link to the FO Almanac 2009.  It's cheap and definitely something we're going to keep our eye on for the Chiefs upcoming season.

Below, we asked Bill Barnwell of FO five questions about the Chiefs this year ranging from Larry Johnson and the 'Curse of 370' to Turk McBride playing at linebacker.

The Chiefs ran a shotgun formation 63% of the time last year. What percentage do you expect them to run the shotgun this year after bringing in Matt Cassel?

I think somewhere around the same percentage of the time. Todd Haley used the shotgun 69 percent of the time in Arizona, and while Kansas City doesn't have the sort of receivers that Arizona did,

Cassel's comfortable working out of the shotgun from his days in New England. It was also where he did his best work; he had a 7.8% DVOA in the shotgun, but a 2.2% DVOA under center.

Despite the infamous F.O. "curse of 370," do you think Larry Johnson has a chance to make the Pro Bowl this season?

I think a far bigger concern would be the quality of the offensive line play in front of him. The line should be better than it was a year ago, and if the passing attack plays better, then Johnson should have more opportunities to run without having to break tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Of course, the possibility exists that Johnson could also either get hurt or lose his job to Jamaal Charles. We're very high on Charles, who was far better than either Johnson or Kolby Smith a year ago. I think the chances of Johnson making it to the Pro Bowl are probably a little below that of Johnson losing his job to Charles altogether. So we'll see, I guess.

Will the loss of Tony Gonzalez (a) hurt much worse than anticipated; (b) be mitigated by Brad Cottam and others; (c) barely be remembered at the end of the season?

I think it really depends on how Todd Haley deploys his offense. He barely used a tight end in Arizona; they had a tight end on the field 58 percent of the time, while every other offense in the NFL had a tight end on at least 70 percent of plays. Obviously, that wouldn't have been the case if Gonzalez had been around, but Haley might have moved him to wideout; Gonzalez was essentially playing as a wideout in the Pistol, anyway.

I suspect that Haley won't call Cottam's number frequently enough to have him or any other tight end stand out. If the offense plays well, Gonzalez won't be missed, but if it doesn't, well, it's an easy scapegoat.

Does 2007 second round pick Turk McBride have a chance in KC?

I don't see how McBride will have an impact, personally. His body type isn't a good fit for the 3-4 -- at 275 pounds, he's too big to play outside linebacker, but far too small to play end, meaning that he'll have to diet down some to play OLB. He doesn't have any experience at linebacker, and he wasn't particularly effective at the position he had any experience at, defensive end.

I would say to take this as a cautionary tale and avoid spending second-round picks on players who weren't even starters in college, but, well, the Chiefs did the same exact thing in acquiring Matt Cassel.

You call the Chiefs' safeties Jarrad Page and Bernard Pollard "average." Should the Chiefs be looking to upgrade their safety positions anytime soon?

I think that (as I believe Scott Pioli also thinks) you build your team from the lines out. Safeties look better when there's an excellent front seven in front of them; it keeps offensive linemen off of them and allows them to roam to the ball, and in coverage, they don't have to stick on guys for more than a few seconds.

Considering the way the Chiefs defense has played over the past couple of years, I don't think average is a bad thing. I'd hold onto them for now, see if they develop any further, and worry about them next year at the earliest.

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