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.