How Good Are The 2011 Chiefs? … Friday Cup O’Chiefs

The progress of the Chiefs from last year to this one will be gauged by how they start the season on Sunday, facing a Buffalo team that pushed them to overtime last year.

The Bills finished the 2010 season with one of the worst records in the NFL, while the Chiefs made the playoffs. But on that Halloween Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium, they were pretty even teams that played to a 10-10 tie in regulation before the Chiefs won in overtime by a Ryan Succop field goal.

What have the Chiefs done to improve themselves since last year? What evidence is there that they are a better football team? What evidence is there that they are worse? Now that the 53-man roster has taken shape, how good can the Chiefs be?

There are any numbers of ways to evaluate the team and roster to come up with answers to those questions. We’ve decided to look at the new faces on the Chiefs roster, players that were not part of the regular season last year. How have they elevated the talent level, whether it’s in 2011 or down the road? It’s an evaluation on little and big picture fits for those 18 players.

My conclusion: this team did not improve enough. Of those 18, two are going to be huge upgrades – FB Le’Ron McClain and OLB Justin Houston. But there are five players of those 18, or nearly one-third that figure to have an impact down the road, not in 2011: WR Jonathan Baldwin, CB Jalil Brown, DE Brandon Bair, QB Ricky Stanzi and OT Steve Maneri. The other players could fit in both categories. Some will; some will not, both in the next few months, or next few years. That’s simply not a big enough infusion of talent in 2011.

Agree or disagree, let me know what you think.

(Grades: players were ranked in two categories of impact with four possible grades in each one: big, moderate, little and none.)

DL Allen Bailey – This 3rd-round choice deserves credit for showing the coaches enough in camp and the preseason that he’s got a spot as a pass rusher in the nickel/dime sub-defense. So far, he’s not really produced much in that role as he had a sack and two quarterback pressures in four games. But the coaches obviously think this is a job that Bailey can handle as a rookie. Time will tell if they are right. Effect on 2011: moderate. Long-term effect on roster at his position: raises talent level at his position.

DE Brandon Bair – Physically gifted undrafted rookie who provides reminders of a Jared Allen type player, without that burst that allowed Allen to get to the quarterback so often. Right now, Bair is a bit of a tweener, at 6-7, 272 pounds. He will either need to get heavier to stay at defensive end or lighter and move to outside linebacker. The chances of him making big contributions during the upcoming season are slim. More than likely, he’ll be a game-day inactive, unless injuries open a door for him. Effect on 2011: none. Long-term effect on roster at his position: slightly raises the talent level at his position.

WR Jonathan Baldwin – The history of first-round wide receivers made it a good possibility that Baldwin would be considered a disappointment before he even said whatever he said to Thomas Jones. But given the fact he’s now missed the last four weeks of practices and games because of that broken right thumb, it’s even harder to see how this young man is going to make an impact as a rookie. If his personality problems haven’t been dealt with, then long-term impact remains very much in doubt. Effect on 2011: little. Long-term effect on roster at his position: at this point moderate to little, until he proves he can be a student of the game.

Steve Breaston – Entering his fifth NFL season, Breaston should be ready to escape the shadow of Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona and establish his presence as one of the league’s most under-rated receivers. Whether because of the knee problem he had taken care of during the off-season and continues to nurse, Breaston has hardly create much of an impression in the practices and games. With the exception of a season where he reached 1,000 yards in an offense with Kurt Warner throwing and Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin catching, Breaston has never posted big numbers in any one season. He’s not likely to do so with the Chiefs, even less of a chance if he’s not healthy. Effect on 2011: moderate. Long-term effect on roster at his position: moderate.

CB Jalil Brown – A talented athlete who had a typical rookie preseason for a cornerback. There were sterling moments, and there were times when he was overwhelmed. Brown is physical and he can run; his ability to close distance in coverage has been impressive. What will hold him back is limited playing time with Flowers, Carr and Arenas ahead of him. Ultimately, safety might be the best spot for him. Effect on 2011: little. Long-term effect on roster at his position: he raises the talent level at his position.

WR Keary Colbert – While it’s one of the best comeback stories of the NFL year so far, we must wonder how a guy who hadn’t played in the previous two NFL seasons was able to come into a team with now background, no off-season program and no first week of camp and earn a roster spot. On his first attempt to make the NFL, Colbert did not impress many people. At this point, only a technician can appreciate his ability to run routes out of the slot formation. He does not have great speed, physical presence or durability. But he made the team and there’s a chance he can put the closing chapter on the comebacker story with a strong season. Effect on 2011: moderate. Long-term effect on roster at his position: none.

OT Jared Gaither – Since he walked away from basketball and went with football in his senior year of high school, Gaither has been a big tease. He’s so physically gifted in height and weight, strength, quickness, speed and long arms, he’s almost a prototypical left tackle in today’s NFL. That the Ravens would allow something so rare to walk away tells you about the tease. The natural gifts come with what at times has been a bad attitude, a poor work ethic and “me first” approach that wore out the Baltimore coaching staff. Effect on 2011: moderate to major, if he has his *#&! together. Long-term effect on roster at his position: huge, if he has his *#&! together. Well worth a one-year gamble.

NT Kelly Gregg – Essentially, the Chiefs traded Gregg for Ron Edwards. Sadly for Edwards, he’s done for the season in Carolina because of an injury. Had that happened with the Chiefs, they would be severely impaired in the middle of the 3-4 defense. Gregg is at the end of the football road. If he plays well and the Chiefs shutdown opposing running games, then he’ll get off the field when they go to the nickel defense. Edwards was a solid, average NT. In his younger days, Gregg was a step above that with the Ravens. But he’s now 34 and will turn 35 on the day after Halloween. Effect on 2011: moderate to little.
Long-term effect on roster at his position: none. He’s a band-aid.

DL Amon Gordon – Essentially the Chiefs traded Shaun Smith and got Gordon in return. Smith was a breakthrough guy last season, who turned in the best season of his career and provided a big contribution to the K.C. defense and season. Gordon’s career before the Chiefs was pretty much the same journeyman history that Smith had before he landed in red and gold. Gordon can play end, he can play tackle in the nickel and he can even take a few snaps at nose tackle. His versatility will likely keep him active every game day. Effect on 2011: moderate.
Long-term effect on roster at his position: none. Like Gregg, he’s a band-aid.

OLB Justin Houston – Hard to say what goes through this kid’s head when he’s away from football. Testing positive for pot at the NFL Combine – when the drug test there is well known – is an indication either of low intelligence or a pot problem. Allowing his agent to keep him out of training camp for the first week has to rank as another questionable decision. Forget all that, or at least put it aside if he can keep his pee clean and stay out of trouble away from the facility. On the field, Houston is a beast, a certifiable pass rusher off the edge that comes with speed, quickness and explosion. He’s a younger version of Tamba Hali. In fact, he may have more natural skills than Hali. The question comes to whether he can put himself in the proper positions in the Chiefs defense. But that’s going to be the job of the coaches to make it easy for him. Effect on 2011: big to huge.
Long-term effect on roster at his position: if he behaves, huge; if he can’t take care of his personal situation off the field, then moderate.

C/G Rodney Hudson – In a short period of time, Hudson has adapted well to the persona the Chiefs want from their offensive linemen. He’s very intelligent, but doesn’t like to show it away from the field, and especially not to the media; he’ll never be one of those go-to guys in the locker room for the horde. On the field, the transition has been up and down for Hudson. It was his missed blocked that got QB Matt Cassel pancaked last week in Green Bay. He got a lot of play time in the last two weeks at left guard and then center. If Casey Wiegmann shares his secrets, the kid may have a chance to play for a long time. Right now, he’s struggling. Effect on 2011: moderate.
Long-term effect on roster at his position: potentially big if he gets through the rookie daze without hurting his overall confidence.

OT Steve Maneri – Too little evidence to make any judgments on this converted tight end out of Temple. Todd Haley says Maneri is now up close to 300 pounds, but when you see him, he’s so tall and lanky it’s hard to believe. Effect on 2011: little.
Long-term effect on roster at his position: moderate to none.

FB Le’Ron McClain – If there’s one position where the talent was upgraded it was certainly at fullback. Sadly, there wasn’t a lot that McClain showed in the pre-season that would make fans excited about his presence in the backfield with Jamaal Charles/Thomas Jones. Essentially, we have to take it on faith that the skills he showed while playing for the Ravens are going to transfer to the Chiefs and the AFC West. Effect on 2011: big.
Long-term effect on roster at his position: big. He’s signed a one-year deal; if he performs, he could take the position off the market for the next half-decade with the Chiefs.

FS Sabby Piscitelli – It’s hard to see that Piscitelli did enough to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. He’s a guy who runs around and hits people, when he can catch them. He was bounced out of both Tampa Bay and Cleveland, not exactly like being released by the Steelers or Packers. There’s obviously something that does not connect with Piscitelli. In four games, he had eight tackles to rank among the team’s top 10 tacklers in the pre-season. Special teams will have to be where he makes a mark and he’ll be fighting to get on the game-day roster. Effect on 2011: little to none.
Long-term effect on roster at his position: none.

NT Jerrell Powe – Big, raw, green as grass force on the inside of the defense, Powe appears to have an upside. If he works hard in the off-season between 2011 and 2012, he could be a factor at the spot for some time. Despite his size – at 330 pounds he’s the biggest player on the roster – he’s shown quick feet and an explosive burst at times. It’s going to take him time to understand and survive at the nose tackle position in the NFL, but he has the tools to do that. Effect on 2011: moderate.
Long-term effect on roster at his position: potentially huge, at the least moderate.

OLB Cameron Sheffield – When he returned this year, he picked up right where he left off last pre-season before his head injury ended the season. He’s got a burst off the edge in rushing the passer; it’s not quite as explosive as Houston, but Sheffield may be a better overall linebacker. He’ll need a season or two to show all those abilities. Effect on 2011: moderate to big.
Long-term effect on roster at his position: big, if he continues to grow.

QB Ricky Stanzi – There was nothing that Stanzi showed in the pre-season that stamps him as a future NFL star. He had what amounted to a normal pre-season for a rookie quarterback – a flash here or there, but too many mistakes and too little consistency. That doesn’t mean he won’t eventually be a starting NFL QB, but that time is not now. Effect on 2011: none.
Long-term effect on roster at his position: too early to tell if he can be the future franchise QB.

WR Jerheme Urban – He’s a first-class person and a man with natural abilities, including speed and good size. But in his short time with the Chiefs from last year’s pre-season before his finger injury ended his season, and this pre-season, he’s displayed inconsistent hands. If everybody at the position is healthy, he’s the No. 4 or 5 receiver behind Dwayne Bowe, Jonathan Baldwin and Steve Breaston. Special teams will have to be a spot where he stands out. Effect on 2011: moderate.
Long-term effect on roster at his position: little. He’ll be 31 in November and he’s never shown that he can be a full-time contributor (most catches in a season 34, career average 14.1 yards per catch.)

13 Responses to “How Good Are The 2011 Chiefs? … Friday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • September 9, 2011  - Chuck says:

    Well here’s just a couple of follow ups to Bob’s Great Analysis of these guys. First I hope that Rodney Hudson doesn’t get Matt Cassel killed this year. THAT ONE REALLY CONCERNS ME. Second, I think Thomas Jones has lost a step. In preseason he looked like a carbon copy of Larry Johnson before we cut him. Third, the more I think about it Iam pissed about the Baldwin/Jones fiasco. This kid is our FIRST ROUND draft pick and thanks to some thoughtless BS in the locker room now he has a broken thumb and can’t play. Jones should be ashamed of himself. Its what the OUTCOME is on SUNDAY that matters not all the BS in the locker room. I’ve looked at this BRUTAL SCHEDULE 7 ways from sunday, and we will be darn lucky to go 7-9.

  • September 9, 2011  - RW says:

    Excellent overview and analysis. The Chiefs remain a work in progress with too many uncertainties to accord them anything more than ‘average’ status for 2011 in my opinion.

    One only has to view the level of play in the opener between the Pack and N.O. to see the miles the Chiefs have yet to travel to get to that position of excellence.

  • September 9, 2011  - el cid says:

    I am with RW.

    Does it concern anyone else that the TE position replacement situation has been handled the way it was? Pope is no answer and OConnel has done nothing in a actual game in 3 years. Of all the missing pieces, injured or not addressed, TE seems to be the one that will bite us in the rear before we have even played a game.

  • September 9, 2011  - Hank Hobbs says:

    I never want to be one of those “Just wait till next year” guys; however, for the Chiefs it seems like our do or die year will be 2012.

    If we can hold on to our EOY free agents and Hudson, Asamough, Gaither settle in on the O-line by years end and Powe on the defensive side we “should” be solid with no glaring line weaknesses next year.

    Then if Houston & Baldwin get enough break in time this year then we should be in our best position on both sides of the ball next year.

  • September 9, 2011  - Pat says:

    Great analysis, Bob! This kind of stuff is the reason I got a membership!

    I’m actually on the fence about the TE position this season. With three possibly good WR and two, possibly four good to great RB, there are PLENTY of weapons on the offensive side of the ball to get buy with just blocking tight ends. Sure it would be nice to have the option, but not really necessary–and the guys we’ve got will probably be fine for the occasional dump pass. However, that’s only if we get good play out of our WR corps. If they are all inconsistent or unreliable, the not having a catching TE will hurt pretty bad.

    Guess we’ll see over the next few weeks!

  • September 9, 2011  - Chris says:

    Just my two cents on Baldwin/Jones. We don’t know all the details. We do know that Jones has always been a leader and he isn’t being punished by the Chiefs in any way so that says something. I have high hopes for Baldwin but if Jones was putting him in his place it’s better now to get it out of the way and maybe it will break him than making it drag out. If any coach can break him I believe it’s Haley and if Baldwin was talking back then I have no problems with what happened to him. It sucks but it may save the kids career.

    As far as the TE position is concerned I’m not happy that we don’t have Moeaki but I will say this it may end up making us that much better in 2012. Cassel will have to rely more on RB’s and WR’s this year than a dump off to the tight end. If that transition eventually pans out late in the year when we get Tony back in 2012 it will make our offense down right deadly barring any other unforeseen injuries and issues.

  • September 9, 2011  - Blake says:

    Everyone says that Hudson was the person that got Cassel hurt, if you remember right, Cassel had all day to throw and just kept waiting then after about 5 seconds he was hit. I dont blame Hudson for that I blame Cassel, the ball should have already been gone. It was amazing that Hudson who is 300 pounds could block the NT that looks about 350 for 5 seconds anyways! That shows you how strong Hudson is.

  • September 9, 2011  - Blake says:

    I look at who was on the roster last year compared to this year:

    Baldwin>Chambers now and future
    Breaston/Colbert>Tucker/Horne much better receivers
    Brown>Jackie Bates now and future
    Gaither>O’Callahan now and future
    Gregg>Edwards now
    Hudson>Niswanger now and future
    McClain>Cox/Castille now and future
    Piscitelli>Langford Langford always injured
    Powe>Toribio now and future
    Sheffield>Walters now and future
    Stanzi>Croyle future
    Houston=Vrabel Houston is more versatile now, but not as smart, in the future Houston>>>>Vrabel

  • September 9, 2011  - el cid says:

    Thanks for the TE comments and I see your points but doesn’t Cassel “need” that safety valve? I have always said Cassel is only as good as the players around him, some might say he not the good with that talent. Not sure he is going to get better with a TE to look to, are you?

  • September 9, 2011  - Randy says:

    excellent analysis Bob…It does seem like next season should be the Chiefs true break out year. They are still depending a lot on the young guys on this roster. We still need better starters at right tackle, tight end, and nose tackle as well as better roster depth at WR, LB, and safety. Still plenty of work to do but this season should be a good measuring stick of how far we have to go.

  • September 9, 2011  - Chris says:

    Well the way I see it if we can get him moving out away from his favorite targets by force then next year it will be more natural to be spread around more. I see Moeaki as Cassel’s security blanket and in a lot of ways that’s great. But this year he won’t have it and he will have to learn to find other receivers. I think in the short term it hurts us but could considerably help us next year and into the future.

  • September 9, 2011  - Michael says:

    I beleive the talent level of the Chiefs has increased, and with continued development of their young players they should be a better team. Wll that mean as good a record or better than 2010? I have no idea.

    I don’t really have any argument with the players they have acquired this year, but I am disappointed they didn’t add more with the money they have available. I didn’t expect them to shell out huge money to huge star free agents, but I did hope they would sign more free agent depth, especially for the O Line and linebacker.

    After the first week of the season, they can sign players at very reasonable prices. There should still be some good veterans who could at least provide good depth for the O Line and tight end, and I think they ought to do it.

    It’s strange, but now that Payton Manning will be out for the Colts when they play the Chiefs, the Chiefs schedule suddenly looks much different. Look at their first 9 games. If they can at least split with the bolts, they could be in pretty good shape heading into the murder’s row of the Pats, Steelers, Bears, Jets and Packers. Hopefully, they’ll be playing their best ball by the time they start that stretch. Then they finish with the Raiders at home and on the road with the Broncos. Hope for 2-0 there, but I’d take 1-1. To me, that’s the season in a nutshell to be successful: take advantage of the opportunities in the first nine games, be playing your best during the toughest stretch and finish out at least 1-1.

  • September 9, 2011  - Canada Brad says:

    The idea of spending more money this off-season has been mentioned often. We know the Chiefs have lots to spend, and they could have spent a bunch in August. Just don’t forget they have 3 years (I’m pretty sure) to reach the salary minimum.

    Personally, I would rather see us spend that money on the guys we know are good in our system versus spend it on a bunch of players that may or may not pan out. For example, at the end of THIS year, Bowe, Flowers, and Carr will all need new conracts. None of them will be cheap to keep. But we should be able to afford them all fairly easily. There are probably other players that will earn the right to an expensive contract in the next couple of years as well (like Hali and Charles just did). And whoever they may be, we should be able to keep them around instead of just letting them go because we spent our money on losers like Haynesworth (think Redskins).

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