2005 preview: Chiefs

2005 preview: Chiefs
By Charles Robinson, Yahoo Sports
July 29, 2005

Charles Robinson
Yahoo Sports
AFC West predictions
   1. San Diego
   2. Denver
   3. Oakland
   4. Kansas City
Kansas City Chiefs
Head coach: Dick Vermeil, fifth season
2004 record: 7-9
2004 rankings: Offense, First (418.4 yards/game); Defense, 31st (377.3 yards/game)
2005 strength of schedule: Fourth (tie)
From SportingNews.com: AFC West overview

While few thought Kansas City would miss the playoffs in 2004, it wasn't a complete shock. Not after the Chiefs did virtually nothing to upgrade an atrocious defense and hoped the unit would mature and respond to the coaching of defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham.

That didn't happen, and Kansas City's offense couldn't carry the load by itself, stumbling to a 3-8 record before winning four of five to end the season respectably. But even in defeat, the offense was consistently good and dominant in spurts, and it may have found the eventual replacement for Priest Holmes in running back Larry Johnson.

OFFENSE

The unit isn't getting any younger, but it's still got enough left in the tank to be among the league leaders. Holmes was amazing in only eight games, but last season's knee problem and his age (he'll be 32 in October) are causes for concern.

Holmes had been healthy for four straight seasons, and the knee issue could be a fluke – or it could be the first sign of the physical decline that often hits running backs in their early 30s. At least the Chiefs know Johnson can flourish in Holmes' absence.

The offensive line is aging right along with everyone else, but it is still one of the best groups in the NFL. Tight end Tony Gonzalez was brilliant last season. Quarterback Trent Green had arguably the best season of his career, and with receiver Freddie Mitchell replacing Johnnie Morton, Green essentially has the same set of weapons.

The offense could have a frightening scenario if Green ever went down with an injury, though. Little-used Todd Collins is the backup quarterback.

DEFENSE

The Chiefs finally made some significant upgrades, adding Kendrell Bell and rookie Derrick Johnson to the linebacking corps, and cornerback Patrick Surtain and safety Sammy Knight to the secondary. With those additions, the 31st-ranked defense has to play better – even if it takes some time to develop chemistry.

The defensive line added some depth with the signing of end Carlos Hall, but Junior Siavii and Ryan Sims will have to play better for the front four to make serious strides.

As wonderful as the defense's acquisitions were, some questions have yet to be answered. Bell is coming off an injury that forced him to miss most of last season, and there were concerns about Johnson's tackling abilities as he entered the draft. Also, Surtain still has Pro Bowl skills, but cornerbacks don't always make smooth transitions in new surroundings.

But considering the collection of talent, Kansas City's worst-case scenario would be to look anything like last season's debacle.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Punt and kick returner Dante Hall couldn't duplicate his amazing 2003 season, but he wasn't bad last year, twice scoring touchdowns on special teams. He's still the NFL's most dangerous return man.

Kicker Lawrence Tynes was inconsistent at times last season, but he has a strong leg and should develop nicely this year. Rookie punter Dustin Colquitt was drafted in the third round to fill that role for the next decade.

PREDICTION

The Chiefs will finish 7-9 and fourth in the AFC West.

Charles Robinson is the senior investigative reporter for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Charles a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Updated on Friday, Jul 29, 2005 1:13 pm, EDT

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