Roster Evaluation Time … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs

From St. Joseph, Missouri

The Chiefs hit the two-week mark in their 2011 pre-season on Wednesday evening with a practice under the lights here at Missouri Western State University.

It was only the third practice that had the tempo of a normal training camp, the type that were held in the pre-lockout days and before changes in the labor agreement placed limits on practice. The lack of an off-season and a fast and furious training camp were emphasis has been on conditioning more so than football, has not provided many opportunities for the Chiefs to evaluate the 85 players on the roster.

“We need them to play to the best of their ability so that we as a group can evaluate them,” head coach Todd Haley said. “That’s really what it comes down to is trying to be right on these evaluations because at some point we’re going to have to lower the roster number and we’d like to do a real good job in evaluation so we can make sure the right guys are here contributing to what we’re trying to do.”

As the Chiefs get ready to kick off the pre-season, are they a better team than the one that went 10-6 last season and won the AFC West? Has their talent level improved?

Two weeks into a pre-season, without a lot of football to evaluate, the answer here is no. There are positions that appear stronger, in some cases much stronger. The level of talent at wide receiver is much improved over the last two years. It’s the same thing with the linebacker position.

But a stroll through the roster on a position-by position basis and there does not appear to be an overall increase in talent at the majority of positions. We speak here of additional talent, not the growth of players already on the roster.

In this case, we are judging the new talent that could pay dividends in the 2011 season. There were roster moves and additions done with the idea of the bigger picture of the franchise, that may pay off two or three years down the road, but not pay off for this season.

The question is – Are the Chiefs better at (position) than they were last year?

Here are this man’s answers.

Quarterback – This has essentially been a trade that sent Brodie Croyle away and drafted Ricky Stanzi out of Iowa. Haley says he’s comfortable with Tyler Palko and Stanzi backing up starter Matt Cassel. Let’s see what he says in a couple of week. Are the Chiefs better at quarterback than they were last year? NO.

Running back – The bodies are the same as last year, only Thomas Jones, Jamaal Charles and Jackie Battle all have another year of wear and tear on their bodies. Dexter McCluster has been added to their group, but he’ll be swinging back and forth at wide receiver depending on where he lines up on any given play. Are the Chiefs better at running back than they were last year? NO.

fullback — adding Le’Ron McClain was a huge boost to the level of talent at fullback. McClain has had Pro Bowl  seasons,  andn he’s  thret running, receiving n blocking. Are the Chiefs better at fullback than they were last year? YES.

Tight end – The faces at the top of the depth chart are familiar ones in Tony Moeaki, Leonard Pope and Jake O’Connell. The additions are last year’s practice squader Cody Slate and undrafted rookie free agent Charlie Gantt. Are the Chiefs better at tight end than they were last year? NO.
Wide receiver – This is the position on the Chiefs roster that has dramatically increased its talent level since the end of the 2010 season. With Jonathan Baldwin coming through the draft, Steve Breaston added in free agency and Jerheme Urban coming off the injured reserve list with a torn finger ligament. Add last year’s NFL touchdown-catch leader in Dwayne Bowe to the group and suddenly, the Chiefs have not only depth, but talent at wide receiver. Baring just an incredible number of injuries at the position, there will not be wide receivers coming in off the street and starting the next week. Are the Chiefs better at wide receiver than they were last year? YES.

Offensive line – One long-time starter is gone, another long-time starter is older than dirt yet back for another season, and a second-year guy has been thrown into the starting lineup. Albert-Lilja-Wiegmann-Asamoah-Richardson has the potential to be a good blocking group. Rodney Hudson was drafted with the future in-mind, just as Jon Asamoah was last year. Experienced depth is non-existent. Are the Chiefs better along the offensive line than they were last year? NO.

Defensive line – Losing two key contributors in Ron Edwards and Shaun Smith hurt the depth of this unit. Adding NT Kelly Gregg in free agency was a nice get, but it does not make up for losing Edwards/Smith. Draft picks Allen Bailey and Jerrell Powe have potential, yes potential meaning a couple years down the road. Are the Chiefs better along the defensive line than they were last year? NO.

Linebacker – If a team is going to play the 3-4 defensive scheme it had better have a bunch of talented linebackers hanging around the roster. In 2009-10 that wasn’t the case with the Chiefs. But that situation changed this season. Brandon Siler was signed in free agency, Justin Houston and Gabe Miller were drafted and Cameron Sheffield is back from the injure-reserve list. Yes, losing the intelligence and leadership of Mike Vrabel hurts the defense, but the linebacker talent level has increased. Are the Chiefs better at linebacker than they were last year? YES.

CornerbackThe first four haven’t changed, and behind them was added draft choice Jalil Brown and ’09 drafted wide receiver, now corner, Quinten Lawrence. That’s hardly an influx of talent to one of the stronger positions on the roster. Are the Chiefs better at cornerback than they were last year? NO.

Safety – The first five haven’t changed, and the only addition of note was street free agent Sabby Piscitelli. If McGraw should find himself out and Piscitelli replaces him, the Chiefs would have gained a five years younger version of the same player. Are the Chiefs better at safety than they were last year? NO.

Special teams – The key players are all the same at kicker-punter-snapper- returner-coverage – Succop/ Colquitt/ Gafford/ Arenas/ McCluster/ Copper/ Studebaker/ Tucker/ C. Greenwood/ D. Williams. Additions of note were Breaston and Siler. The receiver had a 73-yard punt return for a TD while playing with Arizona. In 63 games in the regular season and playoffs for San Diego, Siler had 65 tackles in the kicking game. Are the Chiefs better on special teams than they were last year? YES.

That’s the Chiefs roster broken down into 10 positions and at only three have they begun the year with obvious improvement: wide receiver, linebacker and special teams. That’s 30 percent improvement on the 10 positions. Essentially that means Pioli/Haley are counting on the players on the roster from last year to provide the other 70 percent of improvement.

31 Responses to “Roster Evaluation Time … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • August 11, 2011  - jerod says:

    I don’t think you’re judging this positions correctly. Just because we didn’t go sign guys to those positions doesn’t mean we won’t be better than we were last year. Wouldn’t you rater have a 2nd year experienced Moeaki than a rookie? Same with McCluster and Charles who all have another year under their belt. I think Asamoah will be better than a very old Waters. You don’t have to sign guys to improve positions and that’s the only way you show improvement in your ratings.

  • August 11, 2011  - Steven says:

    I agree with jerod. Adding Asamoah and moving Lilja back to his LG position and Richardson having a full season under his belt at RT, I would say without question the OLine is better. Remember, the Pioli way is to “build through the draft”…looks like that is exactly what is happening. I would say losing Croyle might hurt a little, but again, with Cassel having another year under is belt as well will more than make up for that.

    Thanks Bob for the great work and keeping us up to date.

  • August 11, 2011  - Ken says:

    I think that is what Bob is saying,the Chiefs are counting on improvement from last years players, including Asamoah, Moeaki, McCluster, Richardson etc. in addition to the specific improvements made at the positions he identified that have been improved by adding new players: wide receiver, linebacker, and special teams. We all hope that the returning players with upside potential will improve, and that overall the team will be improved over last year.

  • August 11, 2011  - Andrew says:

    I agree with jerod. The vision of Pioli is now getting clearer and clearer. Think about what we had before Pioli and look at our roster now. Across the board in just a few years, the talent/depth in every position has shot up. Our QB is improved through Cassel’s experience against the Ravens in the playoffs; KC also drafted stanzi if cassel cannot prove himself in the playoffs. RB play with JC who actually did break the rushing yard average per season minus one carry just got even better with mcClain. The WR additions of Breaston and Baldwin gives us probably the best combo of size/quickness/dexterity in the league coupled with moeaki. Mccluster’s versatility/lightning speed in the backfield and the slot gives the defense fits. Our defense is getting to an elite level with the additions of kevin gregg,justin houston, jalil brown, and allen bailey. Coupled with one of the youngest/most talented secondaries and with good punter/kicker/special teams, we are looking at a top 10 team at the end of the year

  • August 11, 2011  - BHodson says:

    It has to be a two way street. If you aren’t giving credit for current players who are improving, then how can you discount against another year of wear and tear? Possibly some of your ratings should have been “The Same”?

    Quarterbacks- Same (if we can’t give Cassel and Palko credit for improvement)
    Runningbacks- Same didn’t they lead the league in rushing last year?
    Fullbacks- Improved
    Tight Ends- Same
    Wide Receivers- Improved
    O-Line- Possible decline
    D-Line- Decline
    Linebackers- Improved
    Secondary- Same (if you can’t credit the two rookie safeties earning a year of experience)
    Specal Teams- Improved

  • August 11, 2011  - Mike Parr says:

    Well written article. I do believe the depth at linebacker may be the make or break element for the Chiefs D. Barring injuries to the secondary And assuming the D line can play at least “average”, the fresh legs and depth at the linebacker could be the BIG key this year.

  • August 11, 2011  - ChuckP says:

    Our schedule this year is much more brutal than last years soft schedule. Could be a real tough year for those of us that are able to look at things in a realistic way. Lots of youth on this team but that also means lots of learning trials and tribulations.

  • August 11, 2011  - Mark says:

    “We speak here of additional talent, not the growth of players already on the roster.

    In this case, we are judging the new talent”

  • August 11, 2011  - Tim-mHay says:

    Bob, love you brother but I have to disagree

    QB – Better anything was better than Croyle. We all saw him play and with the exception of the Ravens game he started opening day he has looked awful

    OL – Push/No Change Waters was great, but he was on the decline, Hudson is far superior to Nisewanger. The lack of Tackle and guard depth is a concern

    WR – Better Baldwin, Breston, etc…

    RB/FB – McLain better fullback and has the potenital to be the big back when age catches up with Thomas

    TE – Push/No Change

    DL – Decline, if we don’t loose both Edwards and Smith, I would rate at no change or better but loosing both of those guys is tough. Though I’ve read great things about Powel, but 10 year OL men are going abuse Powell.

    LB – Better, Siler, Houston, retirement of Vrabel

    CB/S – No Change, maybe a slight improvement in depth due to free agent additions

  • August 11, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    I think this is an objective analysis. I will say that a force-multiplier at the QB position is the addition of Jim Zorn.

    My son and I attended Chiefs practice last night and Matt Cassel’s improvement is noticeable. He looks much improved. That doesn’t conflict with Bob’s assessment, but the early returns on Cassel’s growth are positive. That being said, it is hard to believe the Chiefs won’t upgrade the position group with the addition of a veteran QB at some point. We’ll see how Palko plays Friday, but by my eyes, he is a weak link.

  • August 11, 2011  - ED says:

    I disagree Bob with your assessment that this team isn’t more talented than last yr. We didn’t need to overhaul every postion on the team to improve. ONly the positions that were weakness for us in previous year’s. Like wide receiver, fullback, inside linebacker and outside linebacker. I mean I felt like as you’ve already stated we’ve done that. We didn’t need upgrade corner because we have good corners and safeties for that matter. Running back no need there we have one best backs in the league. QB only one guy can play on the field Cassel seems to be more sharp this offseason than in the past. O-line is one few positions yet to be seen but looks like Albert is emerging as all pro left tackle. Asomoah looked good in limited role last yr. Lija did solid job all season.

    Bottom line are we more talented than last season yes. Because where this team had huge wholes at last season it got filled in this offseason. So i fully expect to see better team this yr. Better passing game along with improved defense that produces more sacks due to all talent we have that can rush passer along with more interceptions due to improved pass rush.

    We didn’t need alot of additions at most postions its not only about adding players that improves talent on the team its also about guys on the team getting better each yr. Example Bowe going from one foot out the door at beginning of the season to pro bowl player by the end. Don’t get caught up fans on who all we bring in. You become champions by developing and drafting home grown players.

  • August 11, 2011  - John Morrow says:

    By your own analysis, I believe your concluding paragraph should count improvement in 4 of 11 (36.4%) positions–you omitted fullback in your summary. If you are counting “fullback” (not capitalized) as a subset of “Running Back” (capitalized), then I think you would have to change Running Back from “No” to “Yes”, in which case the conclusion would be improvement in 4 of 10 (40%) position areas. Whether 30%, 36.4% or 40%, I believe you are showing considerable improvement in 1 off-season–especially without allowing for the development of returning, young players.

  • August 11, 2011  - True Red & Gold says:

    Some of you guys should read Bob’s articles multiple times so that you actually get the point that he is making.

    I think his point of which positions are better (not the same or even worse) at this POINT IN PRESEASON is an interesting topic and he makes a very good argument for each position.

    The pass rush is looking better. I think that it will be, but to think that it is going to be remarkably better because it looks good against our OL may be jumping the gun.

  • August 11, 2011  - Adam says:

    I think our O-line is an upgrade. Yes, we don’t really have any depth worth mentioning(although that mim’s guy looks pretty good). As much as I love the man, Waters got to the pro-bowl last year on a name basis. Asamoah is an upgrade(or at least a wash with upside).

    Always love the thought provoking articles Bob. Keep up the good work.

  • August 11, 2011  - el cid says:

    We all have a different point of view but it is hard to believe the written (typed) word can be read several ways. Re-read True Red &Gold if you do not want to do Bob’s.

    I would suggest, without malice, Asamoah is a fan favorite and has hardly ever been on the field. He may be the next coming but we might want to wait for him to actually play ONE game at G before talking up what an upgrade he is. He may be but replacing a vet with the years of playing as Waters is no cake walk.

    So, Bob, I agree going into the first preseason game you are right on. By the end of the season, I expect a totally different analysis. Guys, remember “potential” just means you have not done the job yet. Just look at T Jackson, drafted with lots of potential and as yet not there, maybe this year or maybe not… much for potential.

  • August 11, 2011  - Jack says:

    This is a terrible article. I’ve read well-written articles by you before but this is just terrible. According to you and this article, the only improvements that are acceptable is drafting and free agency. And not only that, but drafting and free agency that yield starters. We get no credit for bringing in people like Allen Bailey or Powe. They clearly add depth and prepare for the future. Also for example at cornerback, we lost no significant talent, but brought in Brown. That seems like an increase to me. Not as significant as WR or LB, but definite increase. In all, I think you could have done much better evaluating “improvements.”

  • August 11, 2011  - james says:

    I can’t really agree with this article. For one, every area did not need upgraded, so including “lost” percentage in those areas is unnecessary. An improved fullback, leads to an improvement in the HB and OL positions as well as just fullback. The potential improvement in receivers, which I believe is a shoe-in improvement, leads to gains in running the football. Tight End Tony Moeaki is no longer a rookie, I would assume he has gotten better over the year. There are many of these examples in this story. I don’t know how well the Chiefs are going to do this year, but I would say the Chiefs only areas of non-improvement or decline this season are the Offensive Line and the nosetackle positions…in my opinion. Anyways, thanks for the read.

  • August 11, 2011  - Jimbo says:

    The good news is the Chiefs have added considerable talent in the most needed positions, very similar to last years needs.
    Pioli is putting his money where his mouth is. Building a consistent contender of a NFL team year in and year out is coming to fruition… right in front of our eyes.
    I’m an old dog as well and I have been hopeful for a good consistent team for a long time. We historically have had several flash in the pan teams with the same ending results. Disapointment, Heartbreak and most notably Embarrassment. I’m not feeling that way any more. Todd Haley and his band of coaching brothers are impressing the hell out of me. We may not make it to the big dance this year but I am truly looking forward to the ride to the top not the roller coaster rides of yesteryear.
    Go Chiefs.

  • August 11, 2011  - Mark says:

    Did the Chiefs need to get better at RB?

    I think the areas in which they lacked concern, WR, LB, DL-pass rush they addressed. Plus they just signed another OL today.

    This team is still growing, and yes, getting better.

    Btw Bob, nice job of writing to get a great response to your article :)

  • August 11, 2011  - SG says:

    I agree with the comments that say excluding development of returning players makes this article ineffective.

    Also, having 2 guys who should fight to be QB3 fighting for backup is a big problem.

  • August 11, 2011  - jim says:

    I don’t know how anybody can make a determination about whether we’re better or not, because we’re comparing last year with a year that hasn’t even started.

    To make the comparisons in question, you’d have to compare the team with where it was at THIS TIME last year, then look a where we are PRECIEVED to be now.

  • August 11, 2011  - Bart says:

    Bob, I am curious to hear your thoughts on how much each position improved or regressed relative to last year. Is the O line 100% of last year or is it 75%, is the full back upgrade 101% or 125%? Furthermore how do you weight the value of each position. Does the upgrade at fullback outweigh a decline in the O-line? Maybe, and if so it suggests that management is using their resources well. If not, then…

  • August 11, 2011  - TimR says:

    I don’t necessarily disagree w/ all of Bob’s views. The one’s I disagree with are both lines. He’s overrating the loss of Waters. I’ll take a young Hudson over an old waters any day. NO doubt this was done before the Gaither signing as well. On D, Edwards wasn’t very good as a NT. He was really “out of scheme”. I’ll take an old Gregg, young Toribio & young Powe over an old, out of scheme Edwards any day. Shaun Smith is a loss, but the young guys brought in through the draft have more athletic talent.

  • August 11, 2011  - Michael says:

    I think Bob was just trying to talk about how much the Chiefs have improved at each poisition by bringing in known quantities from outside the oranization. As everyone has said, and as Bob knows, it’s close to impossible at this point to figure out how the rookies or players already on the team are going to develop. In that light, a 30% + improvement is quite good.

    Asamough started at least one, maybe two, games in place of Lilja last year and looked very good.

    Can we give the TJackson thing a rest for awhile? How about we let him play a handful of games this year, and just see what he look like.

  • August 11, 2011  - Gump says:

    Love your work Bob, but, disagree on a few positions. Not going through them all, but, another year of stararting for Cassel has to help(injury replacement but he did go to the pro bowl). Offensive line is bit of a gamble but I’ve always been high on Albert and I love the kids(Asamoah and Hudson). Moeaki and O’Connel have another year of exper…Sorry, I said I was’nt going through all the positions. Still love your work, have to disagree here.

  • August 11, 2011  - Rob says:

    Ron Edwards is on IR. He isn’t contributing to anything in Carolina.

    Shaun Smith is an idiot. He revitalizes his pro game with romeo and then bails for a payday. He’s had 2 good years, both with Romeo. I would bet he will be back. Laughable.

    Dex improves talent level at RB and WR. That is why we drafted him.

    How can the same guy who torpedo’s Wiegmann for his age, hold the cutting of Waters against the chiefs? Wiegmann is a better player too.

    Gaither was signed. meh.

    a 5 year younger version of Jon McGraw. A veteran standout who is essential to special teams and able to provide limited play making ability. A heady player, student of the game type. I’d take both, although how can the younger version not be better?

    Le’Ron Frickin McClain and short yard situations. JC is a beast but only had 6 TDS. He was a fine sculpting tool when we needed a a little something more. Enter sledgehammer.

    To me, this team is improved.
    qb- To impressionable rookie types vs 1. win
    rb- Dexter, McClain. 2 names tons of talent.
    wr- Massive improvement.
    te- agree with ya bob.
    ol- Better. Gaither.
    dl- Improved gained true NT. invaluable.
    lb- We will miss Vrabel more than we know. Push
    cb- LOL. we are set so kinda doesn’t matter.
    s- I like my savvy players. Better depth. Better.
    st- Added Siler return options, sabby, better.

    my 2 cents

  • August 11, 2011  - cychief24 says:

    I agree with Tenand6, Zorn will be huge for Cassel and Palko. When the last time we had a quality QB coach?
    I’m also happy with the wise additions Piloi has made throughout the roster. Gaither is a great pick up today!

  • August 11, 2011  - chiefmike says:

    is this the most comments ever on a bob post or what?

  • August 12, 2011  - Beaton says:

    Are the Chiefs better at quarterback than they were last year? NO. lets play some games first

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