Chiefs big on ability, but questions abound
The Kansas City Chiefs have every reason to be optimistic about
They have All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles back from a knee
injury, dynamic wide receiver Dwayne Bowe up to speed, and a vastly
improved offensive line. The defense is anchored by Pro Bowl
linebackers Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson, and also features
big-hitting safety Eric Berry.
No wonder folks around Arrowhead Stadium have been talking
Then the Chiefs learned that Hali will miss the season opener
Sept. 9 against Atlanta after violating the league’s
substance-abuse policy. Defensive backs Brandon Flowers, Kendrick
Lewis and Jalil Brown went down with injuries. And the Chiefs
played a couple of preseason duds against St. Louis and Seattle,
the latter a 44-14 loss at home.
Now, all that eagerness about the regular season has turned into
anxiety, and affable coach Romeo Crennel has turned a bit perturbed
by the way things are headed.
”We’re not ready to throw the offense or the defense in the
trash can or anything like that,” said Crennel, who took over on a
full-time basis this season after serving in an interim role last
season, when Todd Haley was fired with the team spiraling out of
”We have to play better. I think that our guys are capable of
doing that,” Crennel said. ”We’ve got good ability on the team. I
still feel that way.”
The ability is certainly there. There’s no disputing that.
Charles, who missed most of last season with a torn ACL, has
looked every bit the breakout star of 2010, when he ran for 1,467
yards and averaged 6.4 yards per carry.
The Chiefs have been cautious in using him during camp, and that
may continue when they open the regular season, but his signature
speed and shiftiness is still there. Charles was averaging better
than 5 yards per carry through three preseason games.
”The offense looks great and we feel comfortable with it,”
Charles said, ”and we are happy with it, and I feel like everybody
on the offense can make plays.”
Charles should benefit from a retooled line that includes free
agent acquisition Eric Winston anchoring the right side. Winston
was a stalwart on the Houston Texans’ line that opened holes for
Arian Foster, and should be a significant upgrade over Barry
To give Charles a break, the Chiefs added bruiser Peyton Hillis
in the offseason.
Everything starts and ends at quarterback, though, and nobody
seems to know whether Matt Cassel will look like the guy who threw
27 touchdowns passes while going to the Pro Bowl in 2010, or the
guy who stumbled through 2011 before sustaining a season-ending
He’s shown signs of both during the preseason.
”A lot of times in preseason you are working different things
out,” Cassel said after a tough night against Seattle. ”It’s not
all negative, but at the same time, we do have to get better.”
One thing that doesn’t appear to be an issue is Bowe, who
skipped the offseason and start of training camp while refusing to
sign his franchise tender.
Bowe reported in time to play against the Seahawks, and should
have enough time to get his rhythm with Cassel and learn the
intricacies of new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s system.
”Me personally, I just need to work on me,” Bowe said. ”Just
taking it one day at time, make sure I learn the offense front and
back and to be able to perform when it counts.”
While the offense has shown signs of brilliance during the
preseason, a defense expected to be among the league’ best has
struggled to get off the field – and that’ with Hali on it.
The standout linebacker won’ be around against the Falcons after
the league handed down a suspension for an unspecified violation of
its substance-abuse policy. Hali has 26 1/2 sacks over the past two
seasons, and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl last season.
The Chiefs could be down to their third-string cornerback if
Flowers can’t return soon from a nagging heel injury that nobody on
the team can seem to figure out, and if Brown has to miss some time
with a groin injury he sustained in the game against Seattle.
Suddenly, that depth chart printed out a few weeks ago – the one
with talent up and down the lineup – appears a bit like Swiss
cheese, and nothing in Kansas City is a sure thing anymore.
”The thing that happens when you lose is you’re perturbed,”
Crennel said. ”If you have one guy that’s not on top of his game,
then the other team can sometimes find that soft spot, so they
found the soft spot a couple times. We’ve got to shore up that soft
spot and not allow there to be any, and then we’ll be able to be
pretty competitive at that point.”
Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and