The Chiefs uphill climb for success in 2011 just got significantly harder.
The Kansas City Chiefs are certainly an up-and-coming team in the NFL. They have dynamic young talent on both sides of the ball. They have cap room to work with to bring in more players if they need or lock up their own young guys for the long-term. They have a possible offensive and defensive MVP in Jamaal Charles and Tamba Hali respectively. They also have impact players at most key positions -- Brandon Flowers at corner, Eric Berry at safety, Derrick Johnson at linebacker, Dwayne Bowe at wideout. But the loss of tight end Tony Moeaki for the season might hurt the team more than they know.
Today it was announced that Moeaki would be placed on Injured Reserve for the 2011 season with a torn ACL. Moeaki had a tremendous rookie campaign last year with with 47 receptions for 556 yards and 3 touchdowns. The early word this preseason was that he was going to be featured even more by lining up in the slot, and Peter King compared him to Dallas Clark of the Colts in his training camp report on the Chiefs. Simply put, he was going to be the primary target alongside Bowe despite the presence of additions like Steve Breaston and Jon Baldwin.
Now those hopes are gone, and the Chiefs hopes of repeating in the AFC West might be gone with him. Losing a tight end shouldn't make such a difference, but against a much harsher schedule this season, the Chiefs already had the odds slightly stacked against them. The Chiefs needed more receiving options to keep teams from placing 8 in the box against the Chiefs vaunted running attack and Moeaki had developed a nice chemistry with Matt Cassel already. Now there's no guarantee the Chiefs can overcome last season's obstacles.
Simply put, the loss of Moeaki comes at the worst time since Jon Baldwin is injured and needed significant preseason time to establish himself as a new option. Breaston now has more pressure placed on him to perform and thus far in his career, he seems to excel when there's a few more receiving options. Dexter McCluster could also step in since he's not been properly utilized to this point.
The Chiefs already signed tight end Anthony Becht, but that was as a blocking option to go with Leonard Pope. They might try to find a good receiving candidate on the waiver wire or they might just roll with the punches. But an uphill climb for success in 2011 just got significantly harder.