I realize it's a buzzword in corporate and non-profit spheres alike, but it equally applies to sports. The word for today, kids, is "sustainable." While it would be fun for the cameras to shift, for the chair to scream and the sirens to go off like Pee Wee's Playhouse, unfortunately SportsNation or even our sponsor Sprint still hasn't ponied up for such expenses. So we're left to explore the word's meaning without such bells and whistles.
Silliness aside, sustainability is one of the key reasons why I'm so gosh darn excited about the upcoming season. Specifically, the offensive sustainability the Chiefs should/will enjoy this next season places them so far ahead of last season that the record should be directly affected by that alone. Of course, that's not the only improvement on the Chiefs roster and game plan, but it's one that deserves close attention.
Consider the state of things last season, starting with the running game. Larry Johnson was an aging running back who still seemed to have enough in the tank (874 yards, 4.5 YPC in 2008). But behind him were nothing but hopefuls. Everyone hoped Javarris Williams could be something despite his low level of college competition. Everyone hoped Jamaal Charles would merit his reasonably high draft standing. Everyone hoped Kolby Smith could put something together after the injury issues. In other words, one RB with reasonable expectations for solid peformance and the rest were wild cards.
More after the jump:Then of course there was the offensive line and that quickly became a patchwork quilt of sorts. The early trade with the Dolphins for Ikechukwu Ndukwe and Andy Alleman sought to remedy the complete lack of depth along the line and to bring in a bit of versatility. Colin Brown was a project from the get-go, so there was no looking to him. So when a guy who was supposed to be a linchpin struggled early (Branden Albert), things got frustrating really fast. The addition of Ryan O'Callaghan was a step in the right direction, but the holes were there and the depth was not.
With Dwayne Bowe taking his licks from the new regime for dropping passes combined with the four game suspension, the Chiefs top receiver was rendered largely ineffective. And with Tony Gonzalez out the door, defenses could collapse on an already dissolved and frustrating line. Luckily, Chris Chambers came in to provide glimmers of hope where others (Bobby Wade, Mark Bradley, Lance Long) failed to capitalize. Even still, the wide receiver position was a thin one to say the least.
Now, consider the differences at the offensive positions:
1. The Chiefs running game has to be considered among the best in the NFL -- a far, far cry for where the team was even a year ago. Thomas Jones showcased his incredible ability to produce over the age of 30 last season with 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. Jamaal Charles came forward to accept the mantle of RB of the Future with last season's incredible second half performance, resulting in 1,100+ yards and 7 TDs of his own.
In addition, Smith and Williams are still around along with an exciting little guy named Dexter McCluster. Simply put, with Charles, Jones and McCluster, the Chiefs backfield is the most talented and explosive in all of the NFL. And not a single person is talking about them.
2. The offensive line is much, much deeper than it was 12 months ago. Smart, solid veterans like Casey Wiegmann and Ryan Lilja have been brought in alongside most of last season's depth chart to create a strong situation. Promising OG Jon Asamoah should continue to push vets like Lilja and Brian Waters for playing time by season's end and a guy like Ndukwe becomes a valuable, versatile back-up along the line. Smart coaching from Charlie Weis and another year under Haley should bring some more consistency to bookends like O'Callaghan and Albert, even as they were already getting better near season's end.
3. The addition of Tony Moeaki at TE alongside Leonard Pope and Brad Cottam brings more depth than anything the Chiefs had at the revolving door they installed there last season. The same can be said for a full season of Bowe (hopefully) and Chris Chambers, who should both benefit from McCluster's ability to line up at receiver. Although it should be said that WR is still a thin position for the Chiefs at this point in the offseason. Still, Matt Cassel should be a much happier man than he was a year ago when he was first arriving into KC to don the helmet as the Chiefs starting quarterback.
What does all of this mean? This isn't just about adding talent. It's about having talent running deep into the roster. We all know the rigors of the NFL season can take anyone out at any minute. You must be able to not only have quality starters, but be able to withstand the transaction boards that take certain guys out during certain weeks. Not every player on this list is going to suit up and play 100% during all 16 NFL games. It just won't happen.
So what becomes as important as anything is the ability to sustain the long hard road of the NFL regular season and come out strong on the other side. The Chiefs lost five of their last six games of the 2009 season, evidence that there simply wasn't the sustainability needed to succeed such a stretch. This year, the Chiefs are much better equipped to stay hopeful well into the final weeks of the season. And that means fan should be able to enjoy it that much more.