Over the course of three seasons, the Kansas City Chiefs have gone from 10 wins and an AFC West title in 2010 to being tied for the worst record in the NFL with a 2-14 mark in 2012.
Some felt that last season Romeo Crennel (who took over for fired head coach Todd Haley in December of 2011) had a team capable of winning a division title.
Now for the third straight season, the Chiefs will start the season with a new leader on the sidelines. Andy Reid now takes over for Crennel, who was let go after the disastrous 2012 showing.
But onto 2013 and here we will take a look at five players who could be critical to the team's success this upcoming season. While in some cases the obvious will be stated, on other instances the focus will be on a newcomer to the team or a performer looking to rebound from a disappointing year.
So here are five players to keep an eye on this season when it comes to the Kansas City Chiefs…
QB Alex Smith: After some rough times with the San Francisco 49ers, the former first overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft came into his own under head coach Jim Harbaugh in 2011 and midway through 2012. But Smith was sidelined with a concussion in what proved to be a tie with the St. Louis Rams and in the process would lose his job to young Colin Kaepernick. The veteran signal-caller was dealt to the Chiefs this offseason and hopes to bring a little (okay, a lot of) ball security to the team. Last season, Kansas City committed 37 turnovers, tied for the most in the league.
WR Dwayne Bowe: In six seasons with the Chiefs, the former first-rounder has totaled 415 receptions for 5,728 yards and 39 scores. Some will forget that Bowe was a Pro Bowler in 2010 and led the NFL with 15 touchdown receptions that season with quarterback Matt Cassel (now with the Minnesota Vikings) pulling the trigger. Those thinking Bowe isn't capable of leading the league in either catches or touchdown receptions may be surprised by the end of 2013.
RT Eric Fisher: The first overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft is slated to open at right tackle this season and if he lives up to billing, the Chiefs' offensive front (with Branden Albert at left tackle) could be one of the best in the league. Last season, with Jamaal Charles in the backfield, Kansas City finished fifth in the NFL in rushing yards per game. But the Chiefs also gave up 40 sacks in 2012, something Fisher, Albert and the rest of their linemates hope to help with this season.
DT Mike DeVito: While Kansas City did finish dead last in the league last season in scoring with 211 points, the team's problems in 2012 weren't strictly limited to the offense. Only five teams in the NFL allowed more rushing yards per game last season. With defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey in San Francisco, DeVito (late of the New York Jets) hopes to make the team's front three a little harder to push around.
CB Sean Smith: The Chiefs added the talented free agent this offseason and are hoping he can fill the void left by the departure of Brandon Carr in 2012. In four seasons with the Miami Dolphins, Smith totaled only five interceptions but also knocked down 40 passes over that span. But hanging onto some of those errant throws would certainly help. Last season, Kansas City was tied for last in the NFL in both interceptions (7) and takeaways (13).
So what can we expect from the Chiefs in 2013? Can the team bounce back from two straight last-place finishes in the AFC West? And who else will play an extremely pivotal role in the team's fortunes this season? It should be an interesting season for a very talented team.
Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. He is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country and is blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.
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