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Cheifs Chatter

Take a Memo

 

Chiefs should go deep into playoffs

KC will ride its productive offense to AFC West title

Posted 9/04/03

For a long hot summer of speculation it seemed as if the Chiefs 2003 season would hinge on the health of Priest Holmes' right hip. Every conjecture written by any writer would have the term “if Priest is healthy.” And rightly so. Priest Holmes has been the best player in the NFL for the last season and a half and when he went down with a hip injury in week 15 of last season that stubbornly didn’t seem to want to respond to treatment, panic set in amongst the Chiefs front office and the Chiefs faithful.

The pre-season hasn’t changed a lot of that. Holmes carried the ball fairly well for the Chiefs throughout the meaningless July and August games, but he never ripped off any of those Holmes like magical runs and that still has pundits and fans wondering if the best running back in the game is fully recovered.

But Holmes got up without a limp or hitch after every hit. He did everything he was asked to do, and apparently the Chiefs coaches were satisfied as Holmes had but one carry in the final two pre-season games.

This weekend the 2003 NFL season gets underway, and now the speculation turns to the new season. Publications have the Chiefs finishing from 1st in the AFC West and on their way to the Super Bowl to last in the AFC West and out of the playoffs.

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As The Landmark begins it’s fourth season of full time Chiefs coverage, it’s time to break it down as only we can.

—OFFENSE—

•It all starts up front in the NFL and the Chiefs starting five offensive linemen may be the best in the NFL. But skilled O-Line depth is not a luxury this team enjoys. If any one of the starting five goes down to an injury for a significant time, it could snowball and slow down the most potent offense in the game.

•QB Trent Green is tough, and a tremendous leader. The only thing he lacks is a big arm, but that is really not a problem in this particular offense. He has proven that he was worth that number one pick Vermeil gave up for him three years ago, with the weapons he has he should only expand on his successes from last season.

•The RB position is the strength of the team. Holmes seems to be healthy, and Blaylock looks comfortable in his role. Rookie RB Larry Johnson should excel on special teams. The FB tandem of Tony Richardson and Omar Easy is a nice one. Richardson is the complete package when healthy, and Easy, despite his struggles delivering blocks, can make plays on catches out of the backfield.

•The receivers show why Vermeil has had such success as a head coach. In Vermeil’s first game as the KC head coach, Snoop Minnis and Derrick Alexander were the unproductive wideouts. Both are now gone, and each of the team’s four primary wideouts present different match up problems for opposing defenses. The starters are now Johnny Morton who is now the “x-man” again and will produce. Eddie Kennison’s speed must be respected and is fluid in his route running. But the problems for opposing defenses multiply when budding superstars Marc Boerigter and Dante Hall fill the number 3 and 4 spots. Each presents a difficult match-up for opposition and when you combine all-world TE Tony Gonzalez, the mismatches turn into a nightmare scenario for opposing defensive coordinators.

This offense is clearly one of the most productive in the NFL. But make no mistake; production from the RB position, even with all the skilled receivers is crucial. A healthy and happily contract-extended Priest Holmes can make this one of the most potent offenses in NFL history.

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—DEFENSE—

·The front four are much improved. NT Ryan Sims has been a terror in the pre-season. He’s the key. If he can maintain his level of play, it frees up every other lineman. Eric Hicks, John Browning, and free agent acquisition Vonnie Holliday are able to make plays off Sims strength in the middle. R-Kal Truluck is positioned to have a break out season. No longer just a speed rusher, Truluck has honed his skills and technique and has a motor that never quits.

·The linebackers are now faster and better with the free agent pick up of OLB Shawn Barber. Barber is a ball hawk, and the Chiefs need this guy to be a playmaker. Mike Maslowski is back to his more natural position in the middle and OLB Scott Fujita’s experience from last season has tuned him into speed backer who swarms to the ball. The depth isn’t bad, but there is a drop off if one of these guys goes down.

·The secondary was awful last season. Cornerbacks William Bartee and Eric Warfield were woefully inadequate. While Warfield seems to be developing, Bartee still blows way too many assignments. He has yet to make an interception in 48 NFL games and 21 NFL starts. It’s hard to believe he is still a starter in this league. His pre-season performance did little to provide hope for improvement. The team brought in veteran CB Dexter McCleon for depth, and though he is better suited as a nickel back, don’t be surprised to see him move into Bartee’s spot. FS Jerome Woods returns from a season ending broken leg injury during pre-season last year and seems to be ready. SS Greg Wesley is still a good run stopper. Despite a small upgrade, (and yes I know I’m stating the obvious) this is the weak link in the defense.
The defense stunk last season. This season should fare better, but a ton of pressure is going to be placed squarely on the front seven. On passing downs, if they don’t apply pressure to the opposing QB, it will get pretty ugly in the defensive backfield of the Kansas City Chiefs.

There are no schemes in the NFL to hide corners for an entire game, so despite his sometimes strange array of zone blitzes and coverages, Robinson’s defense is going to get lit up again unless the front seven can make plays early in the game or the cornerbacks improve dramatically.

****

—SPECIAL TEAMS—

•Morten Anderson is the best kicker in the NFL from 40 yards in. Jason Baker must prove himself every week as the punter as the last thing this defense needs is to defend a short field due to poor punting. If he fails, punter auditions will be a weekly event at Arrowhead. KR Dante Hall was the absolute best in the league last season.

—OVERALL PROGNOSIS—

This team has improved on both sides of the ball. The schedule is favorable. Even the bye week lands directly in the middle of the year. This is the “magical” third season that has seen head coach Dick Vermeil take two other teams to the Super Bowl. But the Chiefs play in the difficult AFC West, and the Raiders are the defending AFC champs.

The Chiefs are the sexy pick this season to win the AFC West. I like sexy so count me on board. For the first time in the four years I have covered the team I’m predicting playoffs! The Chiefs win the AFC West and the team heads deep into the playoffs.

The Landmark will provide it’s critically acclaimed Take-A-Memo observation column each week on Monday night at http://www.plattecountylandmark.com/cchatter.htm

(CK Rairden, formerly of Platte County, writes from his home in Arizona. He can be reached via email at ckden@yahoo.com)