2006 Team Report: Kansas City Chiefs
Starter: Trent Green
Backup(s): Damon Huard, Brodie Croyle [R], Casey Printers [R]
Starting QB: Trent Green has thrown for over 4,000 yards in each of the past three seasons; he is the only QB to have done so. Fantasy points come easy for Green as the leader of the high-powered Chiefs’ offense. The strong rushing game opens the passing lanes, and often puts the offense in scoring territory. Moreover, Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes can each turn short screen passes into long gains, further padding Trent Green’s stats. Green manages the offense well. He lacks exceptional arm strength and mobility, but he makes use of the weapons around him and generally avoids making poor decisions.
Backup QB: Damon Huard will enter training camp as the number two quarterback, but will receive strong competition from rookie Brodie Croyle and CFL refugee Casey Printers. Huard has the upper hand in the experience department, but is seen as having limited long-term potential. With Trent Green about to turn 36, either Brodie Croyle or Casey Printers may be groomed as Green’s eventual replacement. After missing most of his junior season with a torn knee ligament, Croyle played well as a senior at Alabama and helped himself with an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl. Printers is a young quarterback who displayed intriguing talent in the CFL. He is seen as a long-term project, but has excellent mobility, a strong arm, and, as the CFL’s most valuable player in 2004, more football experience than your typical rookie.
Starter: Larry Johnson
Backup(s): Michael Bennett, Dee Brown, Quentin Griffin, Priest Holmes [PUP]
Fullback(s): Ronnie Cruz, Travis Wilson
Starting RB: After taking over as the starter in week nine last year, Larry Johnson rushed for an incredible 1,351 yards in nine games. (Semi-meaningless stat to ponder: over a full 16-game season, that extrapolates out to 2,402 yards rushing!) He returns as the featured runner in 2006 whether or not Priest Holmes rejoins the team. The Chiefs’ offensive line is still one of the top run-blocking units in the league, and when Larry Johnson is given a crease, he gets through it with tremendous power and burst. He is a true workhorse RB who can carry the ball 30 times in a game without losing steam. It remains to be seen, however, whether he can take a full season’s worth of pounding as the starter without wearing down.
Backup RBs: The Chiefs acquired Michael Bennett from the Saints a week after training camp started. Bennett, a former starter for the Minnesota Vikings, has breakaway speed but has often struggled to stay healthy. The Chiefs insist that Bennett's addition does not mean that Priest Holmes won't return to the field this year. (Holmes suffered a head and neck injury that required surgery last season). At this point, however, we believe that Holmes is an extreme longshot to return. He will being the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, meaning that he will miss at least the first six weeks of the season. Larry Johnson's primary backup, whomever it ends up being, should get plenty of work this season. The Chiefs’ RBs have run the ball 450+ times in each of the past two seasons, and should be expected to take at least 400 hand-offs again in 2006. Larry Johnson will not be able to do that all on his own. Dee Brown and Quentin Griffin round out the depth chart. Brown, a former Carolina Panther, is a good receiver out of the backfield; and Griffin, a former Denver Bronco, has exceptional quickness and elusiveness. Neither player, however, is much of a power runner.
Fullback: With Tony Richardson having departed for the Vikings, Ronnie Cruz hopes to fill his role as the Chiefs’ starting fullback. Cruz signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2004 and finished that season on the practice squad. He was Tony Richardson’s backup last year, but didn’t get much playing time. The Chiefs use a lot of two-tight end formations, so the fullback is on the field only about thirty percent of the time. Cruz is, like Richardson, a good runner and receiver for a fullback, but is not a dominant drive-blocker. Former Kansas State fullback Travis Wilson provides depth at the position.
Starters: Eddie Kennison, Samie Parker
Backups: Dante Hall, Jeris McIntyre, Jeff Webb [R]
Starting WRs: Eddie Kennison has quietly put together two top-twenty fantasy seasons in a row at his position. The eleven-year veteran still has above-average speed, and has developed into a reliable route-runner with good hands. His production should start to decline as he ages, but it hasn’t happened yet. Last season marked career highs for Kennison in both receptions and yards. Third-year player Samie Parker took over the starting job opposite Kennison last year and should hold onto the position this season. He has had trouble staying healthy, but has performed competently when he’s been on the field. He has good speed and has improved as a route-runner, but his fantasy potential is limited by the fact that he is no better than the fourth option in the offense after Larry Johnson, Tony Gonzalez, and Eddie Kennison.
Backup WRs: Dante Hall has been one of the premier return men in the game, causing opposing special teams coaches to dread every time he fields a kick. On offense, Hall will operate out of the slot, where the Chiefs will try to get him the ball on underneath routes and let him run after the catch. Behind Hall are three young receivers who have zero NFL catches between them. Jeris McIntyre, a sixth-round pick in 2004, has spent the past two seasons on the Chiefs’ practice squad. Competing with McIntyre for a roster spot will be this year’s fourth-round pick, Jeff Webb. The Chiefs like all three players’ potential. Webb has the best size of the group; on a roster full of smallish receivers, that could give him the edge.
Starters: Tony Gonzalez
Backups: Jason Dunn, Kris Wilson
After setting an NFL record in 2004 for most receptions by a tight end, Tony Gonzalez had a bit of an off year in 2005. His 78 receptions and 905 receiving yards were second among TEs behind only Antonio Gates; but his paltry two TDs on the season rendered him the #7 fantasy player at his position – the first time in six years that he finished outside the top two. Gonzalez should rebound this season with a more typical reception-to-touchdown ratio. Jason Dunn gets plenty of playing time in the Chiefs’ double-TE formations, but is used primarily as a blocker. His presence in goal-line packages gives him some scoring opportunities, but for the most part he is used as a third tackle and thus has no fantasy value. Kris Wilson is an athletic tight end who is a better receiver than blocker. He would fill in as the pass-catching TE if Gonzalez were injured, but otherwise gets little playing time.
: The Chiefs ranked 4th in kicker scoring last year, their best rank in decades. Tynes helped by improving his accuracy on both FGs and PATs. He hit 27 of 33 FGs (81.8%, up from 73.9% in 2004). The biggest reason was a change in the Chiefs offensive production. In the three prior years, they scored a very large number of TDs, which meant fewer FGs. Last year they were still one of the top offenses, however the TDs totals were down and FGs were up.
Kick and Punt Returners
Kick Returners: Dante Hall; Chris Johnson; Larry Johnson; Samie Parker; Quentin Griffin; Benny Sapp
WR Dante Hall had 65 kickoff returns, with a 24.0 yard average and 1 TD. He now has ten career return TDs, trailing only Brian Mitchell (13) and Eric Metcalf (12). FA acquisition CB Chris Johnson was the Rams leading KR last year (38 returns, 22.6 avg., 1 TD). Most of the other potential backups’ experience dates back to their college years. RB Larry Johnson had 59 career returns (22.8 avg.) and one TD at Penn State, WR Samie Parker had 7 career returns for Oregon as a sophomore, and CB Benny Sapp averaged 24.9 yards during his senior year at Northern Iowa. RB Quentin Griffin has a little NFL experience, four returns with Denver in 2004.
Punt Returners: Dante Hall; Eddie Kennison; Samie Parker
King of the return specialists, Dante Hall ended 2005 as the number one fantasy returner. It was his fourth consecutive top three ranking. His number of punt returns (42) was up from recent years, although his average (6.6) was down. The only other player to field a punt last year was WR Eddie Kennison (1 return for 17 yards, and one fair catch). Samie Parker has even less experience with punt returns than he does kickoff returns.
Projected Starters: RT Jordan Black, RG Will Shields, C Casey Wiegmann, LG Brian Waters, LT Kevin Sampson
Key Backups: RT Kyle Turley, LT Will Svitek, C Chris Bober, G/T Tre’ Stallings (rookie), G Peter Heyer, LT Willie Roaf [retired]
The Chiefs offensive line, widely considered among the league's best, was dealt a potentially crippling blow at the start of training camp when Willie Roaf announced his retirement. Roaf, who is known to detest training camp, hasn't formally filed his papers, which leaves the door open for his return. Chiefs fans better hope he has a change of heart because otherwise, a strength becomes a major question mark as either Kevin Sampson or Will Svitek will roll into the starting lineup. While the run blocking should be okay with or without Roaf, the pass blocking, has slipped somewhat over the past couple of years. Will Shields has also considered retirement and, at 35 years old, could suffer a major decline in effectiveness at any point. Center Casey Wiegmann is 33-years old this year but still playing at a very high level. He has another couple of years left as a top-tier center. Guard Brian Waters made the Pro Bowl last season and has really come into his own. The former undrafted lineman is tenacious and has good quickness. Finally at right tackle, it appears that 3rd year player Jordan Black may have the inside track to the job although veteran Kyle Turley has made an unexpected return after several years out of the league. Turley in his prime was much better than Black, but right now he's underweight and rusty. John Welbourn, last year's starting right tackle, retired this offseason.
The Chiefs struggled at times last season on defense and found themselves in too many shootouts. They finished 25th overall in total yards allowed last season and in the middle of the pack in points allowed per game (20.3), but allowed 25 points or more in six games. The unit was much better against the run than the pass, finishing seventh overall in rushing yards allowed per game but 30th in pass yards allowed per game. Led by Greg Wesley and Patrick Surtain, who combined for 10 interceptions on the year, the Chiefs tied for seventh overall in takeaways. The Chiefs are again likely to struggle to slow opposing offenses through the air in 2006 after releasing Eric Warfield and Dexter McCleon in salary cap sparing moves. They were widely expected to address the corner position in the draft, but didn’t take a cornerback until the fifth round. Despite the strong statistical finish against the run, they remain relatively weak at defensive tackle as well. Defensive end and linebacker look to be strengths again with young studs Jared Allen and Derrick Johnson joining solid MLB Kawika Mitchell and heralded rookie DE Tamba Hali. The Chiefs should finish around the middle of the pack again in 2006 but could remain a defensive unit capable of causing turnovers in bunches.
Starters: RDE Jared Allen, DE Tamba Hali [R], DT Ron Edwards, DT James Reed
Backups: LDE Eric Hicks, DE/DT Jimmy Wilkerson, DT John Browning (IR), DT Lional Dalton, LDT Ryan Sims
Starting DL: Jared Allen had a breakthrough season in 2005, with 57 total tackles and 11 sacks, building on an impressive rookie season. He is emerging as a solid two-way end. The Chiefs drafted Tamba Hali in the first round despite an obvious need at cornerback suggesting that the coaching staff is extremely high on his potential. Factor in that Hicks wasn't completely healthy during mini-camp and that HC Herman Edwards isn’t shy about giving rookies significant playing time and Hali won the job easily with a solid camp. The Chiefs have struggled to field a solid, healthy defensive tackle tandem in recent seasons. Reed and Edwards are the listed starters but all four tackles will play in rotation.
Backup DL: Hicks lost his job to Hali in camp but will be a valuable veteran presence and situational player. Wilkerson is capable of backing up both end and tackle. John Browning is a durable, but not flashy player that will provide depth at tackle. Lional Dalton is a 325 pound player who can occupy blockers but doesn’t make many plays. He was just re-signed to a four year deal. Ryan Sims has shown flashes of ability in his four seasons but hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He has appeared in only half of the Chiefs’ games in his four year career, including ten games during 2005 with a severe foot injury. Both will rotate in with Reed and Edwards.
Starters: ROLB Kendrell Bell, MLB Kawika Mitchell, LOLB Derrick Johnson
Backups: LB Keyaron Fox, LB Rich Scanlon, LB Boomer Grigsby
Starting LBs: Derrick Johnson was overshadowed a bit by the seasons his draftmates Shawne Merriman and Lofa Tatupu had but he is every bit as talented. He will again play on the left side of Kansas City’s left/right stack scheme and be a factor on every down. Kawika Mitchell established himself as the MLB in 2005 after former Chiefs Scott Fujita and Monty Beisel left. He is a solid 6’1”, 250 pound physical linebacker who holds his own in coverage. The Chiefs will again hope that 2006 is the year Kendrell Bell returns to his prior form as a disruptive force at ROLB. Although healthy enough to play 16 games in 2005, Bell was a huge disappointment, making only 41 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He could provide a nice boost if he can become the playmaker he was for a couple of seasons in Pittsburgh before a groin injury knocked him off course.
Backup LBs: Grigsby, Fox, and Scanlon will all provide depth and special teams help. Fox will be first in line for replacement duty should any of the Chiefs’ starters get injured. Fox has struggled to stay healthy in his first two seasons, but projects as a player with decent speed and range and is a threat to take over on the WLB and possibly in the nickel package if Kendrell Bell continues to stuggle. He shows promise as a pass rusher as well. Grigsby is a short, but powerful 5’11”, 249 pounds with a tremendous motor and nose for the ball.
Starters: RCB Ty Law, LCB Patrick Surtain, SS Sammy Knight, FS Greg Wesley
Backups: CB Lenny Walls, CB Marcus Maxey [R], S Bernard Pollard [R], S Jarrad Page [R]
Starting DBs: Patrick Surtain is the Chiefs’ top cover corner. He is solid is all coverage and has the ball skills to make plays. Although he struggles against bigger, physical receivers, his footwork and instincts have allowed him to average five interceptions a year for the past four seasons. Rumblings that veteran Ty Law could be added before camp proved to be prophetic in July. Although he is no longer an elite shutdown corner, Law is a solid upgrade. Strong safety Sammy Knight has been one of the most productive and durable safeties in the league. He excels in both run support and coverage. Greg Wesley had another solid year after moving to free safety to make room for Knight. He had six interceptions for the third time in four years and is also a solid two way safety. The tandem will provide a veteran, physical presence in the secondary again this season.
Backup DBs: Lenny Walls won the third corner role in training camp. One of the tallest corners in the league, Walls struggled with the Broncos last year and will probably be pushed all season by Marcus Maxey, a fifth round pick in the 2006 draft. Maxey has good playing speed and instincts and competes hard in man coverage and in run support. Second round pick Bernard Pollard is a big safety with good zone coverage skills in the mold of Knight and Wesley. He will be expected to learn from the starters while contributing on special teams. After an impressive mini-camp showing, he may push for a starting role sooner than later. Seventh round selection Jarrad Page was the third draft pick used to add depth to the secondary. Like Pollard, he is a big 239 pound safety with some coverage skills. Page will have to decide between two sports, though, as he was taken in the June baseball draft.
Last modified: 2006-09-04 10:03:57