2 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

September 04, 2011

An already potent offense added some powerful weapons

Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel would sit in the film room last season and shake his head in amusement at what he was seeing on the big screen. Week after week, defenses would attempt to cover Kansas City wide receiver Dwayne Bowe with one defender. Game after game, Bowe would make them pay by finding the end zone. Bowe finished the year with a franchise-record 15 receiving touchdowns while scoring at least once in seven consecutive games, also a new Chiefs standard.

Fast-forward to the off-season: Cassel is replaying K.C.'s 30--7 playoff loss to the Ravens in his mind, and he's shaking his head—again. Only this time it's in frustration over how easily Baltimore stifled Bowe by committing two defenders to him, one underneath and one over the top.

Bowe had zero receptions; in fact he had zero passes thrown in his direction. It was the first time in 60 career games that Bowe wasn't targeted at least once. The relative ease with which he was neutralized was as bracing to Chiefs coaches and management as the 14° windchill in Arrowhead Stadium that day. It also set in motion a plan to ensure it never happens again.

Already blessed with the league's top running game, Kansas City beefed up its receiving corps by using its first-round draft choice on Pittsburgh's Jonathan Baldwin and then signing veteran speedster Steve Breaston as a free agent. Couple those moves with the continued development of second-year tight end Tony Moeaki (47 catches as a rookie in 2010) and veteran Jerheme Urban's return after missing all of last season with a finger injury, and defenses will think twice about doubling Bowe.

"It's always important for every offense to have balance, and not just run-to-pass balance," Cassel says. "That also means balance on both sides of the formation in passing situations, where you have guys on each side who can stretch the field or be a threat. If you become one-dimensional in the pass game, where you say you're always going to try to look for this guy first, it becomes a lot more challenging for you to succeed when you play good teams."

When they run the ball, the Chiefs can play smash-mouth or finesse. They led the league with 258 rushes of at least four yards and tied for seventh with 15 carries of 20 yards or longer—three of which went for at least 50. The impact of averaging 164.2 yards per game on the ground was felt on the passing game. Defenses had to keep a safety near the line of scrimmage to try to slow Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, which created one-on-one opportunities for Bowe, who set career receiving highs with 1,162 yards, a 16.1 per-catch average and the 15 touchdowns—one fewer than he had in his first three seasons combined.

If Bowe's statistics drop this year, it could be good news for Kansas City—as long as other receivers are sharing the wealth. A diverse group of targets will make the passing offense that much more difficult to defend against.

"This offense has a lot of potential; there are a lot of weapons," says Breaston, who spent the previous four seasons with Arizona and had a 1,006-yard season with the Cardinals in 2008, when K.C. coach Todd Haley was the offensive coordinator. "The thing that Coach Haley does a good job with is, he gets the playmakers the ball. He puts people where their strengths will help the team."

Breaston spent much of training camp learning each of the three receiving positions, and though he worked primarily in the slot, it's possible his early work will come on the outside, as Baldwin suffered a thumb injury in camp that could keep him out of the season opener. "I don't know exactly how it's going to work out when the season comes around, but I feel like I'm going to have a lot of opportunities to touch the ball," Breaston says, "not only in the offense but also in the return game, which I didn't do last year. I would love to get back to that."

The Chiefs would love to repeat as AFC West champs, which they have never done, and reach the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1995. The challenge, in a division that includes an explosive San Diego franchise, could be as daunting as defending Bowe with one cornerback. Cassel is up to the task.

"I'd much rather be defending AFC West champs than not have that target on our backs," he says. "That just means that everybody has to elevate their level of play. We want to set a tradition of winning, year in and year out."

One way to do that is with a passing game that's as lethal as the ground attack.

PROJECTED LINEUP

WITH 2010 STATS

OFFENSE

2010 Rank: 12

QB MATT CASSEL

ATT 450

COMP 262

PCT 58.2

YARDS 3,116

YD/ATT 6.92

TD 27

INT 7

RATING 93.0

RB JAMAAL CHARLES

ATT 230

YARDS 1,467

REC 45

TTD 8

FB LE'RON MCCLAIN

ATT 28

YARDS 85

REC 21

TTD 0

WR DWAYNE BOWE

REC 72

YARDS 1,162

AVG 16.1

TTD 15

WR JERHEME URBAN*

REC 18

YARDS 186

AVG 10.3

TTD 0

TE TONY MOEAKI

REC 47

YARDS 556

AVG 11.8

TTD 3

LT BRANDEN ALBERT

G 15

SACKS 7¾

HOLD 2

FALSE 4

LG RYAN LILJA

G 15

SACKS 1½

HOLD 1

FALSE 3

C CASEY WIEGMANN

G 16

SACKS 0

HOLD 3

FALSE 0

RG JON ASAMOAH

G 15

SACKS 0

HOLD 0

FALSE 0

RT BARRY RICHARDSON

G 16

SACKS 5

HOLD 2

FALSE 5

RB THOMAS JONES

ATT 245

YARDS 896

REC 14

TTD 6

WR STEVE BREASTON

REC 47

YARDS 718

AVG 15.3

TTD 1

DEFENSE

2010 Rank: 14

DE TYSON JACKSON

TACKLES 31

SACKS 1

INT 0

NT KELLY GREGG

TACKLES 38

SACKS 0

INT 0

DE GLENN DORSEY

TACKLES 69

SACKS 2

INT 0

LB ANDY STUDEBAKER

TACKLES 16

SACKS 2½

INT 0

LB JOVAN BELCHER

TACKLES 84

SACKS 1

INT 0

LB DERRICK JOHNSON

TACKLES 122

SACKS 1

INT 1

LB TAMBA HALI

TACKLES 52

SACKS 14½

INT 0

CB BRANDON FLOWERS

TACKLES 65

SACKS 0

INT 2

SS ERIC BERRY

TACKLES 87

SACKS 2

INT 4

FS KENDRICK LEWIS

TACKLES 29

SACKS 0

INT 3

CB BRANDON CARR

TACKLES 57

SACKS 0

INT 1

LB BRANDON SILER

TACKLES 35

SACKS 1

INT 1

SPECIALISTS

K RYAN SUCCOP

FG 20

FGA 26

XP 42

PTS 102

P DUSTIN COLQUITT

PUNTS 88

GROSS 44.4

NET 37.6

*2009 statistics

BOLD: Projected starter

Italics: New acquisition

TTD: Total touchdowns

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

SACKS: Sacks allowed

HOLD: Holding penalties

FALSE: False starts

2011 SCHEDULE

2010 RECORD: 10--6

September

11 Buffalo

18 at Detroit

25 at San Diego

October

2 Minnesota

9 at Indianapolis

16 BYE

23 at Oakland

31 San Diego (Mon)

November

6 Miami

13 Denver

21 at New England (Mon)

27 Pittsburgh

December

4 at Chicago

11 at N.Y. Jets

18 Green Bay

24 Oakland (Sat)

January

1 at Denver

COACH: TODD HALEY

AGE: 44

THIRD SEASON WITH THE CHIEFS (14--18)

This is a big year for Haley, who wants to show that last season's divisional title was no fluke. Team insiders say he was instrumental in the development of quarterback Matt Cassel and that he has the respect of the veterans. Haley should become the first Chiefs coach since Marty Schottenheimer in the 1990s to have back-to-back winning seasons.

SPOTLIGHT

KELLY GREGG, Nosetackle

His name won't often be recognized by casual fans, but the 12-year veteran could be a key to the Chiefs' season. Kansas City plays a 3--4 defense, which requires a nosetackle who can command double teams and hold his ground. Gregg is such a player.

The Chiefs mixed and matched at the position the past two years, but Gregg is a legit 3--4 noseman who spent 10 seasons with the Ravens and understands the ins and outs of the scheme. A sixth-round draft pick out of Oklahoma in 1999, the 6-foot, 320-pound Gregg is 34 but has been durable, playing in at least 14 games in eight of the last nine years, and he is the second-leading tackler in Ravens history. Rex Ryan, one of his former coordinators in Baltimore, made a call to Gregg in hopes of luring him to the Jets, but Gregg chose to sign with Kansas City on July 30 because it's closer to his Edmond, Okla., home and because the Chiefs are, in his opinion, an up-and-coming team.

Another part of Gregg's value to the team is that he'll be asked to tutor rookie Jerrell Powe, the team's 6'2", 331-pound sixth-round pick from Mississippi, who is the heir apparent at the position and is expected to be part of the rotation. The Chiefs are also hoping that Gregg will be a mentor to former top five picks Glenn Dorsey, who is better suited to the 4--3, and underperforming Tyson Jackson.

PHOTOPETER READ MILLER PHOTOPETER READ MILLERDOUBLE TROUBLE A strong group of receivers will make teams think twice about double-teaming Bowe, who set a franchise record for TD catches last season. PHOTOTIM UMPHREY/TUSP

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
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