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4 Kansas City CHIEFS

Sept. 06, 2010
Sept. 06, 2010

Table of Contents
Sept. 6, 2010

GOLF PLUS
LEADING OFF
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
NFL PREVIEW
Departments

4 Kansas City CHIEFS

The draft class of 2010 should set the tone for a long-term turnaround

WHEN general manager Scott Pioli and coach Todd Haley arrived in early 2009 and got a feel for their team, they quickly realized the Chiefs needed a few good men. Pioli and Haley found the locker room almost devoid of veteran leaders who knew how to set an example for younger teammates. So in came the likes of Mike Vrabel, Zach Thomas and Mike Brown on defense, and Bobby Engram, Amani Toomer and Mike Goff on offense. The payoff was disappointing, however—with the exception of Vrabel, the former Patriots linebacker who owns three Super Bowl rings, those veteran additions had little left in the tank, and proud old pros like Thomas and Toomer didn't even make it out of the preseason.

This is an article from the Sept. 6, 2010 issue

Nevertheless, Pioli and Haley had identified a glaring deficiency. So they once again addressed the issue this off-season, taking a slightly different tack. Kansas City added a few still-productive veterans, particularly running back Thomas Jones and guard Ryan Lilja, and made it a priority to re-sign Vrabel. But the Chiefs' brain trust focused primarily on drafting building-block players who've exhibited strong leadership skills at every level they've played.

Six of Kansas City's seven selections in April were team captains last season, including first-round safety Eric Berry (Tennessee), second-round receiver and return man Dexter McCluster (Mississippi), second-round cornerback Javier Arenas (Alabama), third-round tight end Tony Moeaki (Iowa) and fifth-round safety Kendrick Lewis (Mississippi). Not only did the Chiefs reap a mature crop of rookies, but most of those players also appear ready to grow quickly into contributors. If they do, the 2010 draft could go down as a franchise turning point, representing the first step back toward playoff contention for a club that has won just 10 games in the past three years and last made the postseason in 2006.

"That work of rebuilding a program is not always a fun and pleasant experience early on," said Haley, who was 4--12 as a rookie coach in 2009. "You have to stay the course while you're trying to change the mind-set of grown men who think they're already doing things the way they should be done. But at least we got that painful part over with. I don't know if we can be any good, but we're going to be better, and things are going in the right direction."

Kansas City also acquired new coordinators in Charlie Weis (offense) and Romeo Crennel (defense), two old pros who won't suit up but will make an impact all the same. Both are coming off less-than-stellar stints as head coaches—Weis for five seasons at Notre Dame and Crennel for four with the Browns—and the conventional wisdom is that they're both back in the roles they know and are best suited to perform.

Weis's time in New England didn't overlap with that of Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, but the two know each through their mutual friendship with Tom Brady, and so far the fit has been everything Cassel, whom Kansas City acquired from the Pats last year, hoped it would be. "When I got [to New England in 2005], it was all Charlie Weis stories, and it was all great stuff," says Cassel. "Tom said Coach Weis made him a better quarterback and that he'll push us and make us accountable."

And Crennel will similarly raise the bar on defense. That means it's put-up time for a couple of top five draft picks who have underwhelmed thus far: defensive ends Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson. As a former D-line coach who knows the 3--4 scheme inside out, Crennel will make the two ex--LSU stars his personal projects.

Haley, Crennel, Weis and Pioli all learned coaching and personnel management from Bill Parcells, and one of the key instructions in the Tuna's turnaround manual is that teams won't start to win until they fully develop the second- and third-year players on their rosters. That means that in Kansas City the rebuilding is probably a season or two from being done. But like the newly renovated Arrowhead Stadium, the appearance of real improvement on the Chiefs is evident almost everywhere you look.

PROJECTED STARTERS

WITH 2009 STATS

COACH TODD HALEY

OFFENSE

2009 Rank: 25

QB MATT CASSEL

G 15

ATT 493

COMP 271

PCT 55.0

YARDS 2,924

TD 16

INT 16

RATING 69.9

RB THOMAS JONES

G 16

ATT 331

YARDS 1,402

AVG 4.2

REC 10

YARDS 58

AVG 5.8

TTD 14

FB TIM CASTILLE

G 7

ATT 14

YARDS 55

AVG 3.9

REC 4

YARDS 37

AVG 9.3

TTD 1

WR DWAYNE BOWE

G 11

REC 47

YARDS 589

TTD 4

WR CHRIS CHAMBERS

G 16

REC 45

YARDS 730

TTD 5

TE LEONARD POPE

G 13

REC 20

YARDS 174

TTD 1

LT BRANDEN ALBERT

G 14

HT 6'5"

WT 316

LG BRIAN WATERS

G 15

HT 6'3"

WT 320

C RUDY NISWANGER

G 16

HT 6'5"

WT 301

RG RYAN LILJA

G 16

HT 6'2"

WT 290

RT RYAN O'CALLAGHAN

G 14

HT 6'7"

WT 330

DEFENSE

2009 Rank: 30

DE TYSON JACKSON

G 16

TACKLES 38

SACKS 0

INT 0

NT RON EDWARDS

G 16

TACKLES 29

SACKS 0

INT 0

DE GLENN DORSEY

G 15

TACKLES 54

SACKS 1

INT 0

LB MIKE VRABEL

G 14

TACKLES 52

SACKS 2

INT 0

LB DERRICK JOHNSON

G 15

TACKLES 37

SACKS 1

INT 3

LB JOVAN BELCHER

G 16

TACKLES 48

SACKS 0

INT 0

LB TAMBA HALI

G 16

TACKLES 62

SACKS 8½

INT 0

CB BRANDON FLOWERS

G 15

TACKLES 65

SACKS 0

INT 5

FS JON MCGRAW

G 14

TACKLES 46

SACKS 1

INT 1

SS ERIC BERRY (R)

G 13

TACKLES 87

SACKS 0

INT 2

CB BRANDON CARR

G 16

TACKLES 62

SACKS 0

INT 1

SPECIAL TEAMS

P DUSTIN COLQUITT

PUNTS 96

AVG 45.4

NET 40.8

K RYAN SUCCOP

FG 25--29

XP 29--29

POINTS 104

PR JAVIER ARENAS (R)

RET 32

AVG 15.4

TD 1

KR JAVIER ARENAS (R)

RET 19

AVG 29.0

TD 0

New acquisition

(R) Rookie: College stats

TTD: Total touchdowns

2010 SCHEDULE

2009 Record: 4--12

September

13 San Diego (M)

19 at Cleveland

26 San Francisco

October

3 BYE

10 at Indianapolis

17 at Houston

24 Jacksonville

31 Buffalo

November

7 at Oakland

14 at Denver

21 Arizona

28 at Seattle

December

5 Denver

12 at San Diego

19 at St. Louis

26 Tennessee

January

2 Oakland

(M) Monday

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL Rank: T22

Opponents' 2009 winning percentage: .488

Games against 2009 playoff teams: 4

ANALYSIS

Here's a case where a soft schedule can help a struggling club. Even with a difficult trip to Indianapolis in Week 5, Kansas City has the easiest out-of-division slate—including Buffalo and Jacksonville at home—of any AFC West team. If the Chiefs emerge from the early part of their schedule in decent shape, a stretch of winnable midseason games could set them up for a surprise playoff run.

SPOTLIGHT

Thomas Jones, Running back

IT'S NOT every year that a 1,400-yard rusher winds up on the open market, but when Jones wasn't asked back by the Jets, despite finishing third in the league with a career-best 1,402 rushing yards and scoring 14 touchdowns, the Chiefs quickly signed the 10-year veteran to a two-year, $5 million deal.

Jones turned 32 last month, which to some extent explains his availability, but only the Titans' Chris Johnson had more 100-yard games (12) than Jones's seven last season. The tandem of Jones and third-year back Jamaal Charles gives Kansas City a pairing that produced two of the five best rushing days of 2009. Charles, who gained 1,120 yards while starting just 10 games, rolled for 259 yards in a Week 17 win at Denver, and Jones plowed for 210 yards against the Bills in mid-October.

But Jones's robust production is only part of his appeal to the Chiefs. His businesslike approach to the game is contagious. Just ask his former New York teammates, many of whom bemoaned the Jets' willingness to let him walk. "Thomas Jones, he's off the charts," says K.C. coach Todd Haley. "I've never been around somebody who's the complete package like him. The guy is a beast."

With Jones and Charles moving the chains and shifty rookie Dexter McCluster adding some wiggle to the Kansas City ground game, there's no AFC West backfield that goes deeper. The combination could carry the Chiefs' offense further than it has been since the high-scoring Dick Vermeil era.

PHOTODAVID E. KLUTHONEW VISION Berry is one of six Chiefs draft picks who captained their college teams in '09.PHOTOAL MESSERSCHMIDT/GETTY IMAGES