The end of the 2011 season begins a time of reflection for the 20 teams that are not taking part in the NFL playoffs.
With the weekly duties of game planning out of the way, coaches and scouts spent the last week watching tape and passing out final grades.
We did the same this week, although I must admit we did not get as much tape analyzed as the professionals certainly did. But we saw the games live, saw some tape, read our notes, checked without our sources and we’ve come up with our grading of the 2011 Chiefs, from player No. 1 through player No. 53. With each player is his grade the last time we rated the players, and that was a month ago after 12 games had been played.
As you go through the numbers, you’ll see there hasn’t been much movement at the top of the grades. A few players dropped, while a few others moved up a couple rungs on the ladder.
Here are the players we’ve rated No. 1 through No. 25. The rest of the list will come your way on Saturday.
1. OLB Tamba Hali (2) β Although the sacks did not come at a weekly pace, the 2011 season was the most consistent of Hali’s career with the Chiefs. A lot of that was due to his staying away from major injury during the season. In previous season, Hali production would peter out in the fourth quarter of the season because he was always nursing injuries, particularly shoulders, knee and ankle problems. That wasn’t the case this year and that made him a factor for 16 games. Tamba got the big money this summer and he produced on the field.
2. ILB Derrick Johnson (1) β In the 2010 season, D.J. elevated his game. In the 2011 season, he found consistency playing 13 of the 16 games at a high level and only three times was he not the best Chiefs defensive player on the field. That was visible in his statistics, where he led the team in tackles by a wide margin, and added a couple sacks and interceptions as well. His growth was especially visible as the leader of the defense on the field. He did a lot of work getting other players in the right spots.
3. CB Brandon Flowers (6) β He was better in the first half of the season than the second half, but he never really had a bad game from start to finish. Flowers stayed relatively healthy over the season, missing only the second half of the game in San Diego because on injury. His four interceptions tied for the team lead and included a 58-yard TD return against Oakland. A more productive pass rush will continue to benefit the secondary on interceptions as well.
4. K Ryan Succop (3) β His start was bad, going 2 of 5. His finish wasn’t good, going 1 for 4. In between he was 21 of 21 and had a string of 22 consecutive FGs that tied the franchise record. Succop was also very good on kickoffs this year, as the Chiefs got burned only once for a long return, but they did not give up a TD. Succop’s new contract should solidify the position for the next five years.
5. WR Dwayne Bowe (10) β When it came to his overall play β catching, route running, blocking β Bowe had his most consistent season. He disappeared in only three games all season β Buffalo in the opener, Denver at Arrowhead and then at Chicago. In those three games he had 8 catches for 83 yards total. There were other times during the season when Bowe seemed to disappear for awhile, but that may have had more to do with the rest of the offensive problems the team was having along the way.
6. P Dustin Colquitt (5) β It was one of the better seasons of Colquitt’s career, as he averaged 45.9 yards per punt, a career high. His net average was 40.1 yards the second time in his career he was over the 40-yard mark for the season. Of his 89 punts, only 36 were returned, one for 72 yards and a touchdown.
7. LT Branden Albert (16) β There was a five-game stretch in the middle of the season where Albert’s play was riding a roller coaster. But at the start of the season and at the end, he was solid in all blocking, whether it was for running plays or pass protection. Over the season he gave up five sacks β that’s too many as far as the QBs are concerned but a good number considering the Chiefs attempted 500 passes over the season.
8. CB Brandon Carr (20) β This was the most consistent season of Carr’s four-year career, especially in the first half of the year where he did not have a bad outing. But there was a two-game stretch against New England and Pittsburgh where he turned in his worst performances over the last two years. He battled back to finish strong, but those two games really hurt his overall grade. The Chiefs need to get this guy signed to a long-term contract.
9. DE Tyson Jackson (12) β It was a turnaround season for Jackson as he played consistent football all season and really only stumbled against New England, along with a few other individual plays along the way. Jackson has become stout against the run and handled that part of the defense at a very high level. In limited pass rush opportunities, Jackson got one sack and a half-dozen hits on the passer. Compared to his first two seasons, Jackson took a giant leap forward in production.
10. OLB Justin Houston (19) β Without the benefit of an off-season program to prepare him, Houston struggled coming out of the chute at the start the season. It was only after the bye week that his production stabilized and then he became a bigger and bigger factor in the Chiefs defense. By the end of the season, he never left the field and ended up playing over 750 snaps. The only negative in his play was his pass coverage, which for the most part was awful. That can be corrected.
11. CB Javier Arenas (7) β Arenas made big strides this year as a defensive player, and dropped in performance as a returner. Working in the slot, he was able to step up and help the defense handle the Patriots, Steelers and Packers in their passing packages.
12. RB Jackie Battle (13) β Given his first opportunity for regular playing time in the offense, Battle was a solid and consistent contributor until the end of the season when it appeared he ran out of gas, eventually missing the finale with a foot injury.
13. RB Dexter McCluster (8) β While his production in yardage was not exceptional, McCluster had a consistent season and contributed all year to the offense and special teams. His best play came in the last two games of the season, against Oakland and Denver. That’s a good sign for those concerned about his diminutive size.
14. DE Glenn Dorsey (21) β After a slow start, Dorsey finished out the season playing well, doing a good job of holding his corner against the run game. He was unable to produce anything in rushing the passer in very limited opportunities to chase the quarterback. But he got done his main duty β clog his end, stop the run, tie up the blockers and allow the LBs to make plays.
15. C Casey Wiegmann (14) β In what appears to be his last year in the league, Wiegmann was on the field for all 1,087 snaps for the offense. His play was good at times, like at Indianapolis and in the second game against Oakland. At other times he struggled in game against the Chargers in San Diego and against Chicago. For a 15-year veteran, at 38 years of age it was a good season.
16. WR Steve Breaston (11) β Quite possibly Breaston was the most consistent player in his performance on the Chiefs offense in 2011. Some games were better than others, but all had contributions somewhere from Breaston, whether catching or blocking.
17. QB Matt Cassel (4) β He dropped in our grades because if there’s one thing a quarterback needs to earn grades is to be available. Cassel missed the last seven games, and this came after the two worst performances of his season against Miami and Denver at Arrowhead.
18. G Jon Asamoah (18) β The second-year man handled things quite well on the right side. While he had tough games where his performance dropped (Miami and at Denver), he had an outstanding game against Oakland at Arrowhead a. There’s an obvious upside for Asamoah.
19. DE Allen Bailey (22) β There wasn’t much coming from Bailey in the first half of the season, but as the year wore on, the rookie became more and more of a factor on the field, turning in his best performance of the year against Green Bay with his first sack, a crunching knockdown of Aaron Rodgers. Overall, it was a decent start.
20. NT Kelly Gregg (9) β Gregg started slowly, but then played well through the early part of November. From that point on, those 12 years in the league were really showing as he didn’t have much push. Gregg saw a limited number of plays, just over 500 on the season.
21. LG Ryan Lilja (26) β In his 15 games, Lilja had his moments playing very good football against Green Bay and at Indianapolis. But then there were days to forget like the Minnesota and Detroit games.
22. ILB Jovan Belcher (15) β Over the season there was too much up and down in Belcher’s game. He turned in a huge performance against Chicago and was then just awful the very next Sunday against the Jets, in what was a homecoming game for the Long Island native.
23. FS Kendrick Lewis (33) β Too much up and down in Lewis play this year. He earned points by staying on the field, and missing a limited amount of play time because of injury. He just needs more games like he played against the Packers and Raiders at the end of the season and not like he played against Pittsburgh and the Jets.
24. DL Amon Gordon (24) β The journeyman was a consistent performer all season for the Chiefs and did a nice job providing relief at both NT and DE. His best performance came in the Monday night game against San Diego. Funny, but the first game between the Chiefs and Chargers was his worst performance.
25. QB Kyle Orton (NR) β His performance against Green Bay was the best QB play of the season for the Chiefs. A week later against Oakland, he turned in one of the least impressive QB performances. Against Denver he was mediocre but led the team to a victory. Consistency has always been a problem for Orton and the last three games of the season were no different.
Players ranked No. 26 through No. 53 will come on Saturday.