Tony Gonzalez remains the brighest star in the mess that is KC.
BY ANDY GOLDSTEIN AND DEREK JONES
What Went Right
Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, the Chiefs were 4-3 heading into the bye week. They proceeded to lose their next nine games to finish 4-12. Overall, they lack talent on both sides of the ball in key positions. The brightest shining star, besides TE Tony Gonzalez, turned out to be rookie wideout Dwayne Bowe. His size and explosiveness gives the Chiefs something they have lacked on outside for decades. However, his productivity going forward will be directly tied into whether the Chiefs decide to address one of the worst quarterback situations in the NFL.
What Went Wrong
Well, there was the whole part about how we were very much right about Larry Johnson. Of course, we’re not ones to pat ourselves on the backs about doing our job well. Nope, we tend to be more of the “shout it from the mountain top” types. Woo! We’re awesome! We nailed this one! All hail us!
Ahem. Anyway, despite a couple receiving targets doing well, the quarterbacks failed to deliver. Damon Huard was slightly tolerable with a 77 quarterback rating, but no fantasy owners could rely on him as anything more than a limited spot starter.
Where do you start in rebuilding this mess? To Kansas City’s credit, it has taken proper steps to rebuild the team. The Chiefs released WR Eddie Kennison, OG John Welbourn, CB Ty Law, LB Kendrell Bell, TE Jason Dunn and DE James Reed. This helped to clear up much needed cap space for the team. The Chiefs have needs at nearly every position. KC holds the fifth pick in the draft and drafting an offensive tackle at that spot may suit them best. The team’s once-proud offensive line has been reduced to rubble over the past few seasons. Last year, the line allowed 55 sacks, which was the most the team had allowed since 1980.
Apparently, coach Herm Edwards was happy to get the fifth pick. Kansas City was in a three-way tie and could have gotten either the fourth or fifth picks. But who would want more of the best prospects in the world to choose from? That just means that if the Chiefs mess up, there are fewer players that fans will wish they had taken. Awesome. Over at NFLDraftCountdown.com, they think the Chiefs will go with an offensive lineman. That makes sense to us, but it still wouldn’t make us bump Johnson up to a top five back position.
State of the Team
Quarterbacks – Awful. Putrid. Sad. Those are the words I choose to use in summing up Kansas City’s offense in 2007. The quarterbacking was at the forefront of the team’s woes. Brodie Croyle and Huard combined for 17 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions. While they lacked solid pass protection, they compounded that by making poor decisions and proved that they can’t be counted on in the long run. Croyle is seen as a “quarterback of the future” type, but he did nothing to turn Chiefs’ fans into believers. Unfortunately, in the NFL, solid quarterbacks are not often free agents and Kansas City clearly has to play the hand it’s been dealt in 2008. Look for Croyle to start.
Running Backs – As Andy pointed out earlier, Johnson’s struggles in 2007 were far from unpredictable. One of these days, perhaps one of us will write an article on teams who reward their star backs after they are already used up. The Chiefs decided to reward Johnson for his past efforts. Unfortunately for KC, he couldn’t return pay the team back on the field. Johnson finished the year with only 559 yards rushing after suffering a season-ending foot injury against Green Bay in Week Nine. Priest Holmes offered very little in his return to the NFL and finally retired. Meanwhile, rookie Kolby Smith tried to fill the void, but found ineptitude from his line instead. Johnson will be back as the starter in 2008, but if you’re waiting for him to return to his 2005 stock again, don’t hold your breath. He might be 28, but he’s already on the downside of his career.
Wide Receivers – As if this column didn’t have enough bravado, last spring, we were excited about what Bowe could bring to the table. No, we didn’t have him ahead of Calvin Johnson, but we did have him solidly entrenched as the next best rookie wide out. The sky is the limit, as he showed not only his field-stretching ability, but also his penchant for finding open spaces in zones and a willingness to go over the middle. Aside from Bowe, it’s still a wasteland, but that just means more looks for the big guy.
Tight Ends – I guess Gonzalez is sticking around. At least, that’s what he’s saying. It will be interesting to see how the Chiefs continue to work him into the gameplan despite his lack of blocking prowess. It was never an issue when the Chiefs’ line was dominant, but now that they are average at best, it shows when the tight end is more interested in not getting hurt during running plays than actually paving the way for the back.
Defense/Special Teams – On defense, it’s the Jared Allen Show. The Chiefs wisely applied the franchise tag to their standout end who had 16 sacks in ’07. Tamba Hali showed some flashes at end as well with eight sacks. Defensively, Kansas City is not a mess but it needs to address its defensive backfield which is now missing Ty Law.
The special teams offers little in playmaking. Eddie Drumond returned kicks and punts last year, but did not make any game-changing plays. Kickers John Carney and Justin Medlock split duties a season ago. The days of Kansas City possessing strong special teams seem to be long gone.