2004 Kansas City Chiefs Season Preview

<b>Head Coach: </b> Dick Vermeil (103-94) <br><br> <b> Last Year's Record </b> (13-3) First AFC West <br><br> <b> Last Playoff Appearance</b> (January 2004) <br><br> <b> Projected Finish</b> (First AFC West & AFC Champions)

09/12/04 @Denver
09/19/04 Carolina
09/26/04 Houston
10/04/04 @Baltimore
10/17/04 @Jacksonville
10/24/04 Atlanta
10/31/04 Indianapolis
11/07/04 @Tampa Bay
11/14/04 @New Orleans
11/22/04 New England
11/28/04 San Diego
12/05/04 @Oakland
12/13/04 @Tennessee
12/19/04 Denver
12/25/04 Oakland
01/02/05 @San Diego
Running back Priest Holmes #31 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks to better his 2003 performance and lead the Chiefs offense deep into the playoffs.
Getty Images/Dave Kaup
  Key Games: 09/12/04 @ Denver Broncos, 10/4/04 @Baltimore Ravens, 10/31/03 vs. Indianapolis Colts, 11/22/04 vs. New England Patriots, 12/13/04 @Tennessee Titans, 12/19/04 vs. Denver Broncos, 12/25/2004 vs. Oakland Raiders.

Star Power: Running Back Priest Holmes (8th Year), Tight End Tony Gonzalez (8th Year), Guard Will Shields (12th Year), Quarterback Trent Green (11th Year), Tackle Willie Roaf (12th Year), Safety Greg Wesley (5th Year), Safety Jerome Woods (9th Year).

Notable Additions: Tackle John Welbourn (Trade Philadelphia Eagles), Guard John Bober (UFA New York Giants), Lional Dalton (UFA Washington Redskins), Wide Receiver Richard Smith (Undrafted Free Agent Arkansas), Punter Steve Cheeks Trade Houston Texans, Kicker Lawrence Tynes (UFA CFL), Defensive Coordinator Gunther Cunningham (Linebackers Coach Tennessee Titans).

Notable Subtractions: Tackle John Tait (Chicago Bears), Morten Andersen (Released 04-signed w/Minnesota Vikings.

Notable Returnees: Defensive End Erik Hicks, Safety Jerome Woods, Defensive Tackle John Browning, Cornerback William Bartee and Safety Greg Wesley.

Offensive Overview: When Dick Vermeil took the head coaching job back in 2001, he knew that the team he left; the St. Louis Rams was the 'Greatest Show on Turf' but the offensive juggernaut he put together in Kansas City includes six pro-bowl performers that can score at anytime from anywhere on the field. Quarterback Trent Green has been razor shape in the pre-season and running back Priest Holmes has set his sights on Eric Dickerson's rushing mark. Tight End Tony Gonzalez will be even bigger in the Chiefs offense this season especially with the wrath of injuries that their wide receiver corps has dealt with in the pre-season. Dante Hall will see more action at wide receiver and look out for undrafted free agent receiver Richard Smith out of Arkansas. He has the tools, speed and intelligence to be an impact performer this season for the Chiefs. Backed by the best offensive line in the NFL, the newest member of the 'Five Horseman' John Welbourn fits the mold of outstanding tackle. The loss of John Tait hurt but Welbourn has a mean streak that Tait couldn't match. The Chiefs led the NFL in scoring in 2003 and nothing short of an injury to one of the big three, (Green, Holmes & Gonzalez) could prevent that from happening this year.

Defensive Overview: When defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham decided to comeback to Kansas City to overlook, reshape and instill an attitude that had long since disappeared when he left as head coach four years ago, he vowed that the Chiefs defense would indeed play like they did back in the 90's. That might be a tough task considering the Chiefs didn't add any big time free agents and re-signed all of their veterans on a defense that was one of the leagues worst the last two seasons. There is little doubt that the team has talent and Cunningham has to get the most out of each player so this team can be a middle of the pack defense. With the Chiefs offense virtually unstoppable, the defense simply needs to stop the opponents several times a half and that should be good enough to get the Chiefs deep in the playoffs. Linebacker Mike Maslowski is out for the season and third sting linebacker Monte Beisel takes over in the middle until second year linebacker Kawika Mitchell is fully recovered from a severe ankle sprain. Up front, veteran Erik Hicks has been lights out in the exhibition season at defensive end, fourth round rookie Jared Allen could be a force on the other side. But the key to the teams defense is former first round draft pick defensive tackle Ryan Sims. The much-maligned Sims was forced to play in a defense that does not maximize his skills and Cunningham knows that Sims is better suited to attack the gaps. In the backfield cornerbacks Eric Warfield and Dexter McCleon give the defense two capable corners that can play solid bump and run. The downside to the defense is depth where rookies and unproved veterans will be forced to learn fast so the starters can get a breather.

Special Teams Overview: With the "Human Joystick' on the prowl, no team is safe in the kicking game. Dante Hall nearly made NFL history in 2003 when he nearly scored a touchdown via kick-off or punt returns in five consecutive games. He settled by scoring in four straight games and his 92-yard hail-marry against the Denver Broncos was the most electrifying moment in Arrowhead History. The Chiefs enter 2004 with unproven Kicker Lawrence Tynes, who was the CFL's best kicker last year and rookie punter Steve Cheeks. Tyne takes over for 44-year old veteran Morten Andersen who lost considerable leg strength and range in the off-season. Tynes routinely blasts 60-yard field goals in practice and Cheeks has the ability to punt the leather off the ball. Still it's a risk to go into the season with two unknowns at valuable positions. But the Chiefs had little choice and time will tell if they made the right moves.

The Kansas City Chiefs will go to the Super Bowl if...... the defense finishes the season ranked near the middle of the pack (no less than 15th). The offense could be even better especially when rookie tight end Kris Wilson returns in the second half of the season and fourth round draft pick Samie Parker can turn his sprinters speed into long gainers and fellow rookie Richard Smith can parlay his great pre-season and become a go-to-guy for Trent Green. Then the Chiefs with a rookie kicker hope that Lawrence Tynes can become the next Nick Lowery and his playoff performances are better than those of Lin Elliott.

TheInsiders.com 2004 NFL Football Preview
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