Reid, Dorsey have plenty of roster decisions
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Over the next few weeks, new Chiefs coach Andy Reid and new general manager John Dorsey will analyze and dissect the Chiefs’ roster, looking for strengths as well as weaknesses that need to be addressed.
Both Reid and Dorsey already have noted that the Chiefs’ roster doesn’t necessarily resemble a 2-14 team, as evidenced by the team’s five Pro Bowl selections. But both Reid and Dorsey also have indicated there’s plenty of work ahead to determine fixes that need to be made through the draft, free-agency or even trade.
Here’s a breakdown of what Reid and Dorsey will be analyzing.
QUARTERBACK: Most likely a total gut job. Matt Cassel, the starter the last three years before being benched this season, will be due over $16 million in base salary over the next two seasons. His shortcomings as a starter in this league – very little pocket awareness and a lack of resourcefulness when plays break down – became evident this season, even to Romeo Crennel. And that’s a lot of money to pay a backup, so it seems likely Cassel will be cut. Brady Quinn is an unrestricted free-agent and proved once again he is not an NFL-caliber quarterback, so he likely isn’t brought back, either. Ricky Stanzi is pretty much an unknown, but if he couldn’t wow the coaching staff enough in training camp last year to beat out Quinn, it seems doubtful that he’s part of the solution. Expect Dorsey and Reid to find a veteran quarterback upgrade from Cassel, as well as at least one, if not two, quarterbacks in the draft.
RUNNING BACKS: Jamaal Charles was an absolute stud coming off knee surgery, gaining over 1,500 yards rushing. Reid will walk into a potentially elite ground game with Charles. Peyton Hillis, though, didn’t impress anyone in Kansas City and is an unrestricted free-agent. The drop-off to fullback Nate Eachus isn’t that dramatic and is more cost-efficient. Tailback Shaun Draughn showed some quickness and is a nice backup to Charles. Rookie Cyrus Gray is a work in progress but gives the Chiefs good depth. Not a position Reid or Dorsey will have to tinker too much with.
OFFENSIVE LINE: A few question marks here. The retirement of Ryan Lilja creates another hole to fill at guard. The Chiefs would be wise to ante up and re-sign tackle Branden Albert. Center Rodney Hudson was showing signs of improvement before he got hurt, and the hope would be that he can bounce back. Eric Winston was a better run blocker than pass protector, but that right tackle position is secure. Donald Stephenson, a rookie, showed good footwork and hands filling in for Albert, but another year as a backup would serve him and the team well. Jon Asamoah was solid at right guard and played hurt. Rookie Jeff Allen filled in well at left guard and drew much praise from Lilja for his toughness. If Albert re-signs with the Chiefs, offensive line will be a position of strength.
RECEIVERS: A shaky group at best. Dwayne Bowe may have played his last game with the Chiefs. He has talent and he has produced, but he is wildly inconsistent. Jon Baldwin, for all his athletic skills, showed nothing. Baldwin rarely got open and he rarely came up with catches when he was targeted. Dexter McCluster is still a valuable weapon in the slot but he dropped far too many balls this season. No one knows exactly what veteran Steve Breaston did to get into Crennel’s doghouse, but it was pretty much permanent during the second half of the season. Rookie Devon Wylie was hurt much of the year and seemed over-matched in his few appearances on the field. Tight end Tony Moeaki was not the same coming off his knee surgery and caught just 33 passes. Tight ends Steve Maneri and Jake O’Connell were decent blockers but offered no help as weapons. This is another group that could be in for an overhaul.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Former first-round pick Glenn Dorsey was hurt most of the year and may not be be re-signed. Linemen Ropati Pitoitua (51 tackles, two sacks) and Tyson Jackson (43 tackles, three sacks) actually showed some flashes, as did rookie first-round pick Dontari Poe (38 tackles). The group lacks depth, Reid and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton should find something to work with here, especially since they’re sticking with the 3-4 scheme.
LINEBACKERS: Pretty much the strength of the team. Derrick Johnson is everything you want in a 3-4 linebacker, and he led the team with 110 solo tackles, earning a Pro Bowl selection. He also never let up, even as the horrific season wore on. Tamba Hali (nine sacks) dropped off a bit from the previous year, but fellow outside backer Justin Houston stepped up his game with 66 tackles and 10 sacks. The new staff will need another inside linebacker with some beef, and the group can use some depth. But this is a solid unit.
SECONDARY: Some work to be done here. Safety Eric Berry’s selection to the Pro Bowl stunned many Chiefs fans who viewed him not only as slow to recover from knee surgery, but also perhaps as regressing. Brandon Flowers is above average but is not a shutdown corner. When healthy, Kendrick Lewis has shown he’s capable of holding down the other safety spot. Rookie Tysyn Hartman showed progress and could be valuable depth at safety. The other corner had been occupied by Stanford Routt, whom the Chiefs gave a $4.2 million signing bonus to but was cut when the team was 1-7. Javier Arenas took over the spot but showed he was more of a chase corner than one with instincts and ball skills. As a group, there is some talent here. But the unit came up with just six interceptions all season, and two of those were by Routt. Needs some tweaking, to be sure.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Punter Dustin Colquitt is a free-agent and it’s unclear whether the Chiefs will invest too much money at that position. Colquitt was outstanding, though, averaging over 46 yards a kick and dropping 45 kicks inside the 20 with only seven touchbacks. Kicker Ryan Succop really had a decent year, making 28 of 34 field goals, including 2-of-2 from 50-yards-plus. He did miss four kicks inside the 40, which stood out on a team so desperate for points. The return game needs all kinds of work. The longest punt return was just a 27-yarder by Arenas, and the longest kick return was just 41 yards by Draughn. Need a weapon there.