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I've put together a list of five core players the Chiefs need to step up in 2010. These are players that, if the Chiefs are going to be successful, need to have a good year in 2010 and moving forward.
Matt Cassel is certainly a core player but not included on this list because it's plainly obvious that if the Chiefs are good then Cassel is playing well.
There are no surprises on this list. All these players need to have important roles with the Chiefs moving forward.
Without further ado, five core players that need to develop for the Chiefs to be successful.
DEs Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson
I put them together because they're one in the same. They both have the same amount of experience as defensive ends in the 3-4 defense even though Dorsey has a full year of experience more than Jackson.
Simply put, this is the most important development on the team. The Chiefs run defense and pass rush was flat-out terrible in 2009 (and 2008). It MUST improve if the Chiefs are serious about being a team that will compete in December.
The job of these two guys is essentially to take up blockers. They need to collapse the pocket and help shut down the run game. They need to free some lanes for the linebackers to get in there and rush the passer.
If the Chiefs are a .500 team in 2010, it's because Dorsey and Jackson took a big leap.
LB Derrick Johnson
It seems that we always talk about Derrick Johnson. He's got the potential to be a great player but has yet to put it all together. There are plenty of reasons why he hasn't done that but those questions need to be answered in 2010.
This is Johnson's year. The Chiefs don't have an elite linebacker and he's entering the final year of his contract, which is when most players step up their game. He knows to get paid, he needs to have a big year.
Johnson needs to be an important part of the Chiefs defense moving forward. Other than Tamba Hali, they have no proven long-term options at linebacker. Andy Studebaker is learning well behind Mike Vrabel but he's far from polished and hasn't been given the opportunity to prove he can be an everyday starting linebacker.
We're not yet sure if DJ is a core player like Dorsey and Jackson but this is the year he makes his case.
WR Dwayne Bowe
Let's face it. Chris Chambers won't be around forever. Without Bowe, the Chiefs have no long-term prospects at receiver. Sure, Dexter McCluster is expected to contribute but he's a different kind of receiver. He's not someone you build your receiving corps around.
The Patriots had Randy Moss. The Cardinals had Larry Fitzgerald. I'm not saying Bowe needs to be on their level but he needs to be a true, competent No. 1 receiver moving forward. Chambers is a 2-3 option. Bowe needs to be in Kansas City and earn his second contract.
The Chiefs clearly know how important Bowe's progression is. They enlisted the help of Cris Carter and Rich Gannon to work with him this offseason.
LT Branden Albert
There were rumors leading up to the draft that the Chiefs might select a left tackle. I never thought those rumors were because the Chiefs thought Albert was a bad player. It's just that left tackle is about as close to guaranteed as you can get at the top of the draft.
After it was all over, the Chiefs said left tackle wasn't a thought in the draft. Maybe they were bluffing, maybe they weren't, but Albert remains a core player for the Chiefs.
Behind quarterback, left tackle may be the most important position in the game because he protects the most important position's blind side.
If the Chiefs will be successful, it will be because Cassel succeeded. And if Cassel succeeds, it will be because Albert kept his jersey clean.
The Chiefs obviously have quite a bit of work to do before they're going to be landing in the top ten of any power rankings. However, that doesn't mean they're not making progress at a few positions.
Here are five positions the Chiefs have to be feeling pretty good about right now. They're ranked on a scale of 1-5 with 1 being the position the Chiefs should feel the best about and 5 being the position they should feel the, uh, fifth best about.
The Chiefs aren't quite stacked at cornerback, but they're on their way.
Brandon Flowers is on the cusp of becoming a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback after just two seasons. He fits the Todd Haley mold by playing hurt most of the season (but got a break sitting out OTAs this year) on a bum shoulder. He's also working on a minuscule contract as a second round pick so he truly is a bargain.
Brandon Carr is a step behind Flowers but still a solid cornerback. Like Flowers, he's just a two-year vet.
With Flowers and Carr, the Chiefs need to only worry about backup help at cornerback.
2. Running back
Running backs are usually a dime-a-dozen since it's the offensive line that makes them great (See: Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson) but Jamaal Charles burst onto the scene in the second half of the 2009 season behind a below average (at best) offensive line. He has something you can't teach, which is speed. He may not last very long but for the next couple of seasons, he's the man.
He's currently in the backfield with Thomas Jones, who won't be a long-term player for the Chiefs. He'll take some of the carries away to preserve Charles for the long run and provide a solution in short-yardage situation and grind-it-out situations.
While this isn't as secure as, say the cornerback position, the Chiefs have to be feeling pretty good about the future of their guards.
On the left side, they've got the Pro Bowler, Brian Waters. Not much has to be said here. When Waters is in the game, he'll be arguably the best player on the line. He doesn't have a ton of time left in the league so it's important they have a replacement for him.
Enter Jon Asamoah. He was a 2010 draft pick by the Chiefs and, while we haven't seen much from him in OTAs, he figures to be part of the future. He's a third round pick so that's fairly high for a guard. The Chiefs must think highly of him.
On the right side, the Chiefs have Ryan Lilja, who was most recently cut by the Colts. A guy that's just been cut usually isn't part of the future but once you dig a little deeper, you realize he might just be. Lilja, once a Chief, was cut by the Colts because they were going bigger. The Chiefs, on the other hand, prefer smaller, more athletic lineman, which describes Lilja well.
4. Defensive end
A little strange to include a group that's received a lot of criticism? True, but these guys do have a good future ahead of them.
On one side, you've got Glenn Dorsey who will be entering his third year in the league with his third defensive coordinator and his second defense (4-3 and two variations of the 3-4). He made progress last year -- it's hard to tell that in a 3-4 defense -- and figures to make another leap this year. It'll help when he comes into training camp in good shape and doesn't have to miss nearly a week trying to pass a conditioning test.
On the other side is Tyson Jackson. He was the third overall pick in the 2009 draft and, while he wasn't a playmaker in year one by anyone's account, figures to make strides. His ranking here is based more on potential than anything. Scott Pioli does a good job of scouting defensive linemen early in the draft so you've gotta feel confident Jackson turns it around.
As a top reserve there is Alex Magee, a 2009 third round pick. Magee won't be a starter in 2010 but he will rotate in and out to spell Dorsey and Jackson. Like Jackson, his future is based on potential and not what he's actually done in the league.
5. Tight end
Once you realize that the Chiefs will never have another Tony Gonzalez again, this is a position that doesn't seem to be doing too bad.
First, the Chiefs love Leonard Pope. He didn't have a ton of catches last year -- and he won't this year -- but he's a solid blocker and, in the right situation, a decent red zone threat.
Second, the Chiefs have Tony Moeaki coming up and already appears to be playing well, despite missing a month of OTAs. He's more of a pass-catcher than Pope but can still block so I think the Chiefs are really excited about him.
Third, Brad Cottam is a guy that the Chiefs could be excited about. Before injuring his neck last season, he was in the midst of producing his best game as a pro (four catches, 60+ yards) and finally starting to become somewhat of a factor in the offense. Like these other guys, he'll never be Gonzalez but he does fulfill a role on the team.
2009 seventh-round pick Jake O'Connell doesn't really factor in here as he's not likely to make the final roster.
The Chiefs finished up all of their OTAs last week and have been doing their own thing since. in fact, the Chiefs don't have any practices until training camp at the end of July.
That's about a six-week vacation.
As Kent Babb of the Kansas City Star wrote this week, it's important that the Chiefs show up to training camp in-shape.
After everything the Chiefs went through last year -- losing over 700 pounds as a team -- Todd Haley wouldn't be happy if any of the players came out of shape. He's stressed doing the little things and coming into camp out-of-shape is an indication that the player can't do the little things unless someone is hovering over them.
Last year there were about 10 players that failed Haley's conditioning test. It's unclear if he'll mandate the players pass a conditioning test this year but I imagine he will. The test involves a lot of running and passing times are broken up by position group.Glenn Dorsey was the most notable one who failed last year.
Haley said last year that the players had to pass the test to participate in practice. It took Dorsey a few days to get on the field.
The Chiefs had near 100% attendance every day in OTAs so Haley knows what kind of shape each player was in.
A good sign for the Chiefs in 2010: This list was much more difficult than the five Chiefs who helped themselves.
There's not a whole lot you can tell during the spring -- particularly with offensive and defensive linemen -- but you can glean a few insights.
After attending a few days of camp this spring, here are a few Chiefs who have some work to do moving forward.
TE Jake O'Connell
My bold statement of the day: Jake O'Connell is not a Chief in 2010.
The Chiefs, continuing their strange love affair with tight ends, traded up in the seventh round of the 2009 draft to snag O'Connell. He was only active a few times last year and didn't produce much at all.
This spring he hasn't looked as sharp as others, particularly Tony Moeaki. He's dropped some passes, which could be a sign of a lack of focus -- a big no-no in Kansas City these days -- and generally hasn't compared to the other tight ends on the roster.
With Moeaki and Leonard Pope locking up the first two tight end jobs, O'Connell doesn't figure to see any playing time in 2010. Now the question becomes will he make the team.
QB Brodie Croyle
OK, so he didn't really need to help himself since he's firmly entrenched as the backup quarterback and the lack of legitimate competition behind him won't change that.
But consider this: The Chiefs hate injured players. Hate it. Croyle has a strong history of being injured.
That continued this spring when he hurt his finger throwing the ball which caused him to miss almost a week of team drills.
It won't have any long-lasting effects but it's yet another injury for a player whose coach hates injuries.
WR Dwayne Bowe
This isn't so much about his play on the field as it is the comments he made to ESPN the Magazine. He'll be on the team in 2010 if for no reason that he's a good value still working off of his rookie deal but this is another mark on Bowe's resume that the Chiefs aren't interested in seeing.
Bowe needs solid production this year to get the Chiefs to forget about yet another mistake.
He's facing even more pressure now that he's not the best receiver on the roster -- that honor goes to Chris Chambers.
NT Shaun Smith
You can't tell much of anything during the spring with offensive and defensive linemen. There are no pads and no contact so we're admittedly just guessing at this point.
But the Chiefs have placed an emphasis on focus this year and Smith is a laid back, fun-loving type of guy. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily but maybe not ideal for the Chiefs who are trying to implement almost a military-like presence about their players.
Todd Haley hasn't said much about Smith other than "he's a character" but if he were excited about him, I think he'd say so.
Smith didn't see any time on the first team this spring, which is too bad, because some have high hopes for him. He had his best season under Romeo Crennel in 2007 and some were hoping he would replicate that.
There's a long way to go but it's somewhat concerning that Derek Lokey saw more time on the first team than he did.
WR Lance Long
Once thought to be a role player at the slot position, Lance Long is now an afterthought. He was battling an injury all spring and didn't see the field in any of the OTAs.
Long was probably a longshot (Pun!) to make the team anyway but his injury paved the way for Dexter McCluster to immediately step into his role on the first team.
Like I said before, folks from the Bill Parcells tree have no time for injuries and Long has been injured in his short time in Kansas City. He's got the motor, which Haley loves, but you can't play if you're not on the field.
The Chiefs have concluded their set of OTAs for the 2010 season. Todd Haley was obviously impressed giving the players the final day off (or Haley was getting tired of meeting with the media).
As we've said previously, everything is going almost eerily well in Kansas City these days. The players are behaving for the most part (see: Dwayne Bowe), guys are in shape and there was 100% participation from those under contract.
Not a bad start to the season.
Here are five players that either helped themselves or met the high expectations bestowed upon them this offseason.
Yes, he looked very smooth in OTAs, as the reports have suggested. He ran well, caught the ball with easy and even pulled in a few acrobatic catches.
Some are even suggesting that he's the front-runner for the starting tight end job, to which I say: Whoa, now!
Moeaki has a shot at the job but to say he's the front-runner may be pushing it.
Know this: The Chiefs brass, including Todd Haley, really like Leonard Pope, the Chiefs starting tight end at the conclusion of the 2009 season. Moeaki may be looking good but he needs an impressive camp to topple Pope.
So why is he included in this list?
Because he was injured (undisclosed) for the majority of the offseason and yet is still making people argue that he could be the starter in 2010. Now that's impressive.
As advertised is the way I'd describe him.
Seeing him in person, you can't appreciate just how big his arms are. An admitted weight room junkie, Jones may have the biggest arms in the league.
But he wasn't brought here just for his arms. It was for his leadership as well.
Already the younger guys like Jamaal Charles and even older guys like Matt Cassel are praising his leadership. Haley says it's possible no one has worked harder than him this offseason.
A third-string quarterback looking good? Well, better, yeah.
Palko took the pre-training camp, third-stringer job from Matt Gutierrez, who is a former New England guy, something GM Scott Pioli loves so you know they must like Palko.
Palko's unique skill set includes his athleticism. He's quick and able to run the ball better than probably any quarterback on the roster (Cassel's not a bad scrambler).
Palko's got a ways to go before he makes the team -- and even then he's unlikely to see the field -- but I like having a third quarterback that is athletic and provides some mismatch problems.
Another Arizona guy and someone with whom Haley's familiar.
Urban has been fluid in offseason practices and has Josh Looney of KCChiefs.com wondering if he'll be the surprise of the 2010 season.
Practicing in shorts and with pads are two different things but heading into training camp there's reason to be optimistic about Urban's chances.
Yes, you remember him, right?
DJ has always excelled at offseason stuff because he's so athletic and looks good in shorts (that's what she said) but this year he's really fighting for a job. It means more this year as he enters the season on a one-year restricted free agent tender.
As he's trying to get his next contract, i suspect DJ will absolutely everything in his power to maximize his time on the field. He knows a good season will yield a big payday so watch out for DJ this year.
Chiefs head coach Todd Haley has seen perfect attendance through all of the OTAs and much of the offseason program. As a reward, Haley played good cop.
He canceled the final practice of the season, which was scheduled for Tuesday.
Haley also cut short the final practice of mandatory minicamp on Sunday.
As we've previously said, all seems to be going almost eerily well at Arrowhead.
The Chiefs will now head to training camp in the new facility at Missouri State Western University in St. Joseph, MO.
First practice: July 30th.
The Chiefs on Sunday wrapped up their final day of mandatory minicamp. Once again, they had 100 percent participation from players under contract. The lone missing player was Jarrad Page, who has yet to sign his restricted free agent tender.
The Chiefs ran some individual drills, broke off into position groups for more drills then concluded things with some 11-on-11.
The offense, which is usually behind the defense at this stage of things, began to catch up.
The play of the day was a Matt Cassel touchdown pass to Tony Moeaki in red zone work. Cassel threw a perfect ball to the corner of the end zone where only Moeaki, flanked by defenders on each side of him, could get it. He caught the ball at the peak of his jump, came down and dragged his feet. An outstanding play.
Travis Daniels continued his solid offseason performance with a Tyler Palko interception. If it were a game, he'd have gone to the house.
That ended minicamp for the weekend as Todd Haley let them out a little early.
Once again, all is well at Arrowhead.
The Chiefs were indoors on Saturday as they continued the second day of mandatory minicamp. The rain around Kansas City moved things to the dome -- which, if you're attending the sessions, is a good thing because it will be huuuumid.
I attended the OTAs last week and minicamp today and I couldn't tell the difference between the two. The Chiefs are seemingly doing about the same thing at each.
On Saturday, not much changed. Here's how they lined up at high competition positions:
Chiefs coach Todd Haley addressed the media after practice. Here are a few notes from his press conference:
The Chiefs are in the midst of Organized Team Activities (OTA) and things seem to be going well. Other than Dwayne Bowe's slip-up a few weeks ago, there hasn't been any controversy out of Arrowhead this offseason.
Here's a quick rundown on what's been going down at Chiefs OTAs these days:
As I said, things seem to be going eerily well. I suspect that will continue up into training camp.
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