Part 3: The Good
Before I conclude my three part series on the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs, I want to first say how excited I am that the NFL is back! Yes, it was only one preseason game, and yes virtually no important players lasted for more than two series, if any at all (looking at you Tony Romo), but it was still an NFL game. Only 30 more days until the regular season; can’t wait!
Moving back to our regularly scheduled programming, today’s piece completes my trilogy on the 2012 Chiefs. Despite finishing with an ugly 2-14 record and the victim of bad quarterback play, there was some good play by the Chiefs. Don’t believe me? Just look at the 2012 Pro Bowl Roster. The Chiefs had six players named to the game. That number was tied for fourth in the AFC and tied for sixth most in the NFL. These six Pro Bowlers each had good 2012 seasons, and each returns for the 2013 campaign.
1. Eric Berry – strong safety
After a strong rookie season in 2010, Berry was expected to be a leader for the 2011 Chiefs defense. Unfortunately for him and the Chiefs, a knee injury in Week 1 versus Buffalo forced Berry to miss 15 of 16 games in 2011. Despite being forced to take a year off, Berry came back to the Chiefs in 2012 as an improved player. He finished the year with 86 combined tackles (solo plus assisted), ranking 24th among NFL safeties and 77th overall. Berry only contributed one interception, but his true impact is in stopping the run and making big hits on receivers who come through the middle. If Berry can improve his takeaway numbers in 2013, he can establish himself as a top-10 safety in the league.
2. Jamaal Charles – Running Back
I first learned about Charles in Week 17 of the 2009 season, when he rushed for 259 yards and eliminated the Denver Broncos from playoff contention. Since then Charles has always been considered one of the best playmakers in football. The 2012 season was no different, seeing him average just fewer than 100 yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry. Charles’ numbers suffered due to the bad quarterback play, which allowed opposing defenses to stack the box against him. If Alex Smith proves to be the upgrade at quarterback the Chiefs expect, Charles could come close to a 2,000-yard season in 2013.
3. Dustin Colquitt – Punter
Dustin and his brother Britton were by far the two best punters in the NFL last season. Dustin was most likely named to the Pro Bowl because he had more attempts. He finished 2012 with his longest career average of 46.8 yards per punt and a league leading 54.2 percent of punts pinned inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. In 2013 the Chiefs would like to use Colquitt fewer than 83 times, but know they can count on him to change field position and pin opponents deep when his number is called.
4. Tamba Hali – Outside Linebacker
Hali’s 2012 season was his worst in three years, but he still proved to be a defensive force. While he only recorded nine sacks, he still led the Chiefs in quarterback pressures and improved his run defense. Hali can still be an elite pass rusher for the Chiefs again in 2013, especially if Dontari Poe is able to produce from the interior defensive line. If Poe becomes the force that the Chiefs expected him to be when they drafted him 11th overall in 2012, Hali will see fewer double teams from his edge rushing position.
5. Justin Houston – Outside Linebacker
Houston was a steal in the 2011 NFL Draft. Originally projected as a first round prospect, Houston fell into the Chiefs’ lap in the third round. After a nice rookie season, Houston made a big leap forward in year two. Last season he recorded a team high 10 sacks, proving to be an excellent Robin to Hali’s Batman. The sky is the limit for Houston, and I expect him to record double digit sacks again in 2013.
6. Derrick Johnson – Middle Linebacker
Just like Charles, I was first introduced to Derrick Johnson on January 1, 2010. Johnson had been a decent linebacker through his first four seasons in the NFL, but during the first 15 games of 2009 he recorded only 31 tackles. However on that day, Johnson had two interceptions for touchdowns. His career has skyrocketed ever since. Johnson had another impeccable 2012 finishing 16th in combined tackles, third in solo tackles and forced three fumbles. 2013 should be no different, as Johnson will continue to build on an excellent career.
With six returning Pro Bowl Players, the Chiefs have the opportunity to go from worst to first (figuratively of course, as the Broncos will win the AFC West). The argument could be made that even with the six all-stars; the team was still only able to win two games just a season ago. What will make 2013 different? For starters, the Chiefs will have a completely healthy Dwayne Bowe. Last season Bowe struggled with health, yet still put up solid receiving numbers. Next, factor in new quarterback Alex Smith. Smith is a large upgrade over the two-headed monster that was Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn. His contributions alone should help move the Chiefs offense from last in the NFL to the top half of the league in production. Finally, this season the Chiefs will have an all-star coach. No offense to Romeo Crennel, but he is nowhere near as good of a coach as Andy Reid. Reid knows how to win football games, reaching seven NFC Championship games while in Philadelphia. Add all of those factors together, and in 2013 the Chiefs hope the sum of the parts equals a wild card berth.