Breaking Down the 2003 Chiefs

Jerome Woods was one of the few defensive players to have a solid season for the Chiefs.

QUARTERBACK: Starter -- Trent Green. Backups -- Todd Collins, Jonathan Quinn.

Green was voted the team MVP by his teammates after a third straight year of taking every meaningful snap and completing his finest season. KC's offense broke the team scoring record it set a year ago by totaling 484 points. Green's club record 63 percent throwing accuracy with 24 TDs against only 12 interceptions was a huge factor, as was his steady and occasionally outstanding field presence. His 92.6 QB rating was fourth-best in the league and earned him his first Pro Bowl assignment.

Collins spent a sixth straight year without seeing significant activity. How he might effectively fill in for Green remains unknown. Quinn might well depart via free agency and look for a place where he can compete for a backup's job.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- HB Priest Holmes, FB Tony Richardson. Backup -- RB Derrick Blaylock, RB Larry Johnson, FB Omar Easy.

Holmes proved everyone wrong who thought his career was in danger after a hip injury cut his '02 season short by two games. Despite playing two more games in '03, his yards from scrimmage total (2,110) was down from a year ago (2,287), but he compensated by scoring a league record 27 touchdowns (all rushing) -- a major reason why the Chiefs failed on only one red-zone opportunity in the regular-season. Holmes started somewhat slowly as coaches held down his workload, but was subsequently stronger at season's end than in previous years. Holmes remained the team's workhorse with 320 carries and team-high 74 receptions.

Fullback Tony Richardson, one of the league's best blocking backs, won his first Pro Bowl designation after staying healthy for the first time in two years. Blaylock earned the No. 2 spot behind Holmes after getting most of the spring reps in Holmes' absence. He retained it by showing explosiveness as a runner and receiver on his infrequent opportunities.

First-round draft pick Johnson did nothing to displace him. Johnson didn't help his cause any by moping and bemoaning the fact that the Chiefs drafted a running back when they already had Holmes. Was slow to pick up pass protections and even slower to contribute on special teams, meaning he needs an upbeat spring -- in both attitude and production -- to make an impact here.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Tony Gonzalez. Backups -- Jason Dunn, Billy Baber.

Gonzalez shook off a slow start, in part because of a sore knee, and finished strong with 45 of his 71 catches and six of his 10 TDs in the season's second-half. Did a better job than year ago of fighting through holds to get open and through tight coverage to catch tough balls. Led all AFC tight ends in receptions.

Dunn remains one of the best blocking tight ends in the game, and the Chiefs will want this prospective free agent back. Baber's special teams ability means he retains a spot here.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- FL Eddie Kennison, SE Johnnie Morton. Backups -- Dante Hall, Marc Boerigter.

An average group on a good day. On a bad day, like their five-drop performance in the 38-31 playoff loss to Indianapolis, they kept the Chiefs from being all they should have been. Morton got his wish after a bad first season in KC (only 29 catches, a career low as a starter) and was moved back to the X position he played so well at Detroit. He got better with 50 catches, but his too-frequent drops were inexplicable for a veteran receiver who knows how to concentrate. He's now a candidate for an offseason pay cut or outright release.

Kennison's season will be remembered more for his ill-fated promise to "put something on their ass" prior to the 45-27 loss at Denver than the 56 catches and five TDs he had the rest of the year.

The explosive Hall continues to show growth as a No. 3 receiver. KC threw 11 balls to him in the Denver game trying to get him free in space. It didn't work that day, but against Buffalo he split the seam of a zone for a 67-yard TD that reminded people of his potential as a receiver.

Boerigter's second NFL season was a classic case of sophomore slump. After scoring 8 TDs on just 22 catches as a rookie, he had almost as many drops as receptions (11) this year. He'll now have to regain Trent Green's confidence with a good spring.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Will Roaf. LG Brian Waters, C Casey Wiegmann, RG Will Shields, RT John Tait. Backups -- G-C Don Willis, T Marcus Spears, T Brett Williams, G Jordan Black.

Still one of the league's top blocking/protection units, opened the way for 32 rushing TDs while giving up only 21 sacks. Completed an incredible string of 33 straight games intact over the past two seasons. Roaf never had a lot of speed, and at 33 he's lost some of what he had. But his wits and wiles more than compensate, as when he shut out Indy's Dwight Freeney in the playoffs. Earned his ninth Pro Bowl appearance and spot on AP All Pro team.

Shields remains a master technician at age 32. Can still pull and lead sweeps almost as effectively as ever, as reflected in his ninth Pro Bowl selection.

Wiegmann would be in Hawaii if his teammates weren't hogging two of the five spots. As adept at picking up blitzes as he is in blocking in space.

Waters is getting better every year in making the transition from the defensive end and tight end spots he played in college and in his early years in the league. Athletic skills usually make up for what he lacks in technique.

Tait was much better in his second season at RT, where he moved in '01 to open the LT spot for Roaf. A prospective UFA, he could be the biggest prize in the tackle market if the Chiefs don't do the smart thing and sign him before March.

Backups Shields and Spears are capable, but the rookies never got on the field.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LE Eric Hicks, LT John Browning, NT Ryan Sims, RE Vonnie Holliday. Backups -- DE Eddie Freeman, DT Eric Downing, DE R-Kal Truluck, DE Gary Stills, DE Jimmy Wilkerson, DT Montique Sharpe.

The free agent addition of Green Bay's Holliday and the return of Sims after an injury-shortened rookie season was supposed to shore up a porous run defense. It did -- on opening day when the Chiefs held San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson to 34 yards. But KC was gashed for 159 or more rushing yards in eight games, and for 200-plus in four. Sometimes down linemen were blown off the ball. Sometimes they missed assignments, with Sims being the principal culprit. Sometimes they just plain missed tackles. The players blamed the Greg Robinson scheme that had them slanting into holes or dropping into coverage, but they need to look in the mirror, too. Pass rush was minimal, though somehow KC got 36 sacks.

Truluck and Stills show potential as edge rushers with speed, but they remain candidates to be overpowered physically and must be used mainly in pass-rush situations. Rookie Wilkerson showed flashes and promise, but reserves as a whole lack distinction or hope for a better tomorrow.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- LOLB Scott Fujita, MLB Mike Maslowski, ROLB Shawn Barber. Backups -- MLB Kawika Mitchell, MLB Monty Beisel, OB Fred Jones, OB Quinton Caver.

Barber was supposed to represent the team's biggest defensive upgrade, coming via free agency from Philadelphia's No. 2 defense. He was an improvement, especially in pass defense, but his penetrations into opposing backfields (five sacks) too often produced only near-misses when he missed tackles.

Fujita took a major step up in his second season and led the team in tackles (110 solos, 151 total, 4 sacks), and he'll keep getting better as his coverage skills improve.

Maslowski's recurring knee problem caused him to miss the final six regular-season and one playoff game. It's the same knee that put him down in '01, and now his ability to go the distance in the middle is in question. Not the biggest of MLBs, he still covers up for mistakes made on the D-line, particularly by Sims, and the Chiefs lost much in his absence when rookie Mitchell had to play the final six games. Would special teams standout Beisel have been better than Mitchell? Maybe so, but a groin injury knocked Beisel out of the final four games.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Eric Warfield, SS Greg Wesley, FS Jerome Woods, RCB Dexter McCleon. Backups -- CB William Bartee, CB Julian Battle, S Shaunard Harts, S Lyle West (injured).

For the supposed No. 3 free-agent acquisition, McCleon made the biggest impact on the defense with six interceptions and generally solid play all season long. He had his worst moment of the season in giving up several big plays to Indy's Reggie Wayne at a point of the game where the Chiefs absolutely had to have a stop, but those were exceptions to an otherwise solid season.

Warfield had a decent year, but was caught trailing badly when Cincy's Peter Warrick burned him for a 77-yard TD that sealed the Chiefs first loss after a 9-0 start.

Wesley returned to solid form -- six picks and 121 tackles -- possibly because his backfield buddy also returned.

Woods missed the '01 campaign with a broken leg, and Wesley tried unsuccessfully to pick up his slack. Reunited, Woods earned his first Pro Bowl bid after returning two picks for TDs. The Chiefs weren't awful in pass defense (20th), but the secondary was asked to cover too long because of a woeful pass rush.

Bartee was injured in camp and lost his starting job to McCleon, and he never got it back. Battle simply wasn't ready to play as a rookie cover man. Harts is a capable safety who had his moments when Woods was down a year ago.

SPECIAL TEAMS: KR Dante Hall, K Morten Andersen, P Jason Baker.

Hall finished the year disappointed that he didn't get the NFL record-setting fifth kick-return touchdown that seemed so likely after getting scores in four straight games within the season's first five -- an unprecedented accomplishment. He had to settle for one in the playoff loss to Indy. But in no way should Hall have been disappointed. Even when not scoring game-winning touchdowns like he did on returns against Baltimore and Denver, he was still recording big returns -- several of them just one tackler short of going the distance -- that consistently gave the KC offense prime field position. His 16.3-yard punt return average and two TDs led the league.

Andersen showed his age 43 late in the season when the Chiefs hesitated to try anything from 40-plus, from which Andersen was he was 5-of-9 this year. He missed a 31-yarder in the playoff loss to Indy when the Chiefs needed every point possible.

Baker's punter job is in jeopardy after averaging only 39.5 -- 26th in the league. Top Stories