The Chiefs will enter the 2004 season with several question marks on both sides of the ball but offensively Kansas City has one glaring shortage; that being at wide receiver. And all those questions center on Johnnie Morton, now Morton who has miraculously recovered from an Achilles heel injury; could graduate from the dog house to the starting lineup Sunday night against Denver.
Morton has drawn the wrath of some of the Chiefs coaches for his inability to catch easy balls in games and some teammates question his work ethic but when Morton is focused and driven; he can make a significant contribution to the team.
This will be a tough year for Morton if he does not get out of the blocks fast and prove to his teammates that he's a player. Some consider Morton soft but he has proven he can be a go-to guy in this league and the Chiefs have to be confident that will return to the form that made him a solid free agent acquisition from Detroit two years ago.
Morton will have to step up because with the season ending injury to Marc Boerigter and the hamstring injury that could keep rookie wide out Samie Parker sidelined for a couple of weeks; the former Lion needs to be a bear on offense and catch everything thrown his way.
At least Eddie Kennison has returned to form and will start on one side and Dante Hall will get the other slot if Morton can't start. That means the standout free agent rookie Richard Smith will get significant playing time since the Chiefs quite likely will only have four active receivers for their season opener.
The Chiefs quick strike offense will be put to the test against the Broncos and Trent Green has to utilize more of Tony Gonzalez, Jason Dunn and Priest Holmes in the offensive arsenal especially if Morton is not 100%.
Back-up tight Kris Wilson is out for at least the first half of the season so it will real important not to overwork the Chiefs receivers in the mountain air of Mile High. With Parker also doubtful for Sunday's game, a solid ball control offense might be just the fix to get out of Denver with a win.
The Broncos defense has looked solid in the pre-season and the Chiefs offense seemed to go through the motions in pre-season but when they turn on the jets; they could be unstoppable even with Denver's ‘A' game defense.
Without Clinton Portis, the Broncos are relying on second year man Quentin Griffith, veteran Garrison Hearst and rookie Tatum Bell. Neither has established themselves as the leader but one thing is certain the Chiefs defense has to handle the down blocking techniques that the Broncos offensive line has perfected over the years.
This will be an interesting test for the Chiefs new defense. Jake Plummer is a master at using the bootleg to dump passes to his backs and tight ends. But one thing is certain if the Chiefs can get into his grill, Plummer has a tendency to force balls that lead to turnovers. The Chiefs must attack and be relentless. If they do it could be a long day for Plummer and that would be good news for Kansas City.
In looking quickly at the Chiefs 2004 roster it's surprising that a team that went 13-3 could wind up with 15 new players but that's a testament to the Chiefs scouting department that so many fresh faces impacted the roster that much. That's a good sign in regards to depth and in the NFL change is constant and you can never have enough good football players. This team is much deeper especially at defensive line.
The Chiefs practice Tuesday afternoon after their annual kick-off luncheon. The Chiefs had already begun game preparations for the Broncos weeks ago. Each week they have been working on plays and formations to use in their season opener. The game marks the first time that the Chiefs have opened the season in a Prime Time game in their history. The Sunday Night ESPN telecast will showcase the AFC West's top two teams.
Veteran announcer Pat Summerall will continue subbing in for Mike Patrick who is recovering from open heart surgery. Though he's not the same broadcaster that once powered over broadcasts with a thundering conviction; very few can match his career. For Chiefs fans, we've only heard glimpses of him on broadcasts when NFC teams visited Arrowhead so enjoy the broadcast because this might be the last opportunity to listen to a living legend.
On a personal note, I have to say that I was not shocked that R-Kal Truluck was traded to the Green Bay Packers on Monday. Still for me I will miss R-Kal. He was the first Chiefs player to grant Warpaint Illustrated a live interview and his support of the magazine and the efforts he poured into helping us spread the word in the Chiefs organization about Warpaint Illustrated are very much appreciated. All of us at Warpaint Illustrated hope that he reaches his potential with the Packers.