Breaking Down the Chiefs' 2005 Offense

The next month is the down time of the NFL season. With training camps opening in July, football fans don't have much to do but sit and wait for things to get underway. I thought this would be a good time to take a look at the Chiefs' team, position by position, and see where they are at going into training camp.

While a lot of positions will work themselves out during camp, there are many new faces in Kansas City this season, which means more competition for starting jobs. The Chiefs have been kind of a good news, bad news team over the past few seasons. The offense has been the good news and the defense has been the bad news. Let's kick off the first part of this two part series on a good note and break down the explosive Chiefs' offense by position.

Quarterbacks
While he isn't always mentioned as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, Trent Green is as steady and productive a quarterback as there is in the league. Green has thrown for over 4,000 yards in each of the past two seasons and he is the undisputed leader of the Chiefs' offense. Green is the one player the Chiefs can't afford to lose for a significant period of time because his poise and leadership would be impossible to replace.

Todd Collins is a serviceable NFL backup. Collins is a smart player with an accurate arm but he lacks the overall skills to be a long-term NFL starter. Collins could come in and hold the fort down for a few weeks but the Chiefs' offense would be in trouble if the reliable Green was lost for an extended period of time.

Damon Huard is still listed as the Chiefs' third quarterback but that is likely to change. According to Warpaint Illustrated's Nick Athan, Huard has looked terrible at Chiefs camp and he will be lucky to make the team. That leaves second-year man Casey Clausen and rookie James Kilian to battle it out for the third spot. Clausen has the advantage of being in the system for a year but keep an eye on Kilian. He has a strong arm and he could make the team with an impressive training camp and pre-season. Either way, the Chiefs need to settle on a young quarterback and begin grooming him to at least be a dependable backup in the NFL, just in case Green goes down and Collins should falter.

The Chiefs' quarterback position pretty much follows the NFL blueprint: a quality starter, a dependable but unspectacular backup and a young, developmental player with some potential. Collins hasn't started a game since 1997 and the young guys are unproven but that is the case on a majority of the NFL teams. In most cases, if a starter goes down for any length of time, the team is going to suffer unless the backup is a sixth-round draft pick out of Michigan named Brady. Grade: B+

Running Backs
The Chiefs may have the most potent 1-2 running back punch in the NFL. Priest Holmes has been injured each of the past two seasons but when he is healthy, he is still one of the most dominate backs in the NFL. Despite the emergence of Larry Johnson, Holmes will be the Chiefs' primary ball carrier again in 2005 and he should have another big year. Johnson came on at the end of last season and put to rest any talk that he couldn't produce at the NFL level. Using his rare combination of power and speed, Johnson rushed for 581 yards and 9 touchdowns while filling in for Priest the last month of the 2004 season. As long as Holmes is healthy, Johnson won't get on the field as often as he would like, but expect him to spell Priest for a couple of series a game and for both backs to be on the field at the same time in some packages. Dee Brown, Ronnie Cruz and Jonathan Smith will battle to be the Chiefs' third running back in training camp.

Fullback Tony Richardson is still a big part of the Chiefs' offense. The versatile Richardson can run, block and catch as well as any fullback in the league. Richardson won't get many carries but his versatility is a key component to the Chiefs' offense plus the Chiefs added depth to the fullback position by signing former Tennessee Titan Robert Holcombe. He doesn't catch the ball as well as Richardson does but he is a tough veteran who can step in and contribute if he is needed.

Usually losing a player like Derrick Blaylock hurts your football team but with the talented Johnson now backing up Priest, the Chiefs are loaded at the running back position. The Chiefs will never be accused of running the wishbone but with two quality backs like Holmes and Johnson at their disposal running behind one of the league's best offensive lines, expect offensive coordinator Al Saunders to be tempted to run the ball a little bit more this season. Grade: A

Wide Receivers
Now we come to the big question mark on the Chiefs' offense: the wide receivers. The Chiefs have any superstars at receiver like they do at every other offensive position. Eddie Kennison is a solid receiver who has rejuvenated his career in Kansas City but he would be a number two receiver on a lot of NFL teams. The fact that the Chiefs can get away without having superstar receivers and still have a high-scoring offense is a tribute to the schemes and game planning done by Dick Vermeil and Al Saunders.

Kennison isn't quite as explosive as he once was but he still has the speed to beat defenders deep and he has become the Chiefs most reliable receiver over the past three years. While Kennison is set at one receiver spot, the other starting spot is up for grabs. The early leader to land the slot is second-year man Samie Parker. Parker came on at the end of last season and his speed and explosiveness adds a new dimension to the Chiefs' offense. If he continues to improve, Parker should have a solid season for the Chiefs. Early returns from the OTA's clearly put him as the favorite. No receiver has looked better than Parker in the May workouts.

The rest of the receivers on the Chiefs' roster are surrounded by question marks. Dante Hall is more valuable as a return man but he can still do some damage as a receiver. With his speed and quickness, Hall demands the attention of opposing defenses every time he lines up at receiver. Chris Horn and Marc Boerigter are both coming back from knee injuries. It would be a huge help to the passing game if one of those players steps up their game this season. Rookie Craphonso Thorpe and second-year man Richard Smith are two more young players the Chiefs will count on to contribute in 2005. Thorpe is a little raw and he needs to do a better job of beating physical corners off the line but he has the talent to be a good NFL receiver.

Receiver is the one question mark the Chiefs have on offense and it's also the one position that is likely to change before training camp. With Johnnie Morton getting cut, the Chiefs are looking to bring another veteran into the mix. Right now it is being reported that Freddie Mitchell, Az-Zahir Hakim and Koren Robinson are three players the Chiefs have known interest in adding to the roster. I expect the Chiefs to add another receiver in the next couple of weeks but the overall success of this unit will be decided on how much Parker and the other young receivers contribute this year. Grade: C

Tight Ends
It's nice to see this Tony Gonzalez kid is finally starting to pan out. After years of hovering around 80-90 receptions, Gonzalez finally broke out in 2004 with 102 catches for 1258 yards. I hope you are picking up on the sarcasm because I am laying it on pretty thick. Not only is Gonzalez the best tight end in the NFL today but after his record-breaking 2004 season, Gonzo is making his case as the best tight end to ever play the game. The Chiefs' entire passing game goes through Gonzalez. He is a nightmare match up for opposing defenses and his body control while the ball is in the air is as good as I have ever seen in over 20 years of following the NFL. The Hall of Fame doesn't open its doors to tight ends very often but they can start carving that bronze bust for Gonzo now if they want to.

While Gonzalez is the style, Jason Dunn adds a little substance to the position. Dunn is a powerful blocker who plays like another offensive linemen on running downs. While he is not a great receiver, Dunn can do some damage near the goal line from time to time.

The player to watch is Kris Wilson. Wilson was injured as a rookie but he has soft hands and good speed for his size. Playing with Gonzalez will only help Wilson become a better player. Wilson has the potential to be something special in the upcoming years.

This is another position where the Chiefs are stacked. Gonzalez is the best tight end in football, Dunn is a key contributor to the Chiefs' running game and Wilson is a young player with a lot of potential; all in all its a nice mix at tight end for the Chiefs. Grade: A

Offensive Line
This is the oil that keeps the Chiefs' offensive machine running. Over the past three seasons, the Chiefs have had arguably the NFL's top offensive line and that should continue this season. The group is starting to get up there in age but the starters are still very good and the depth is solid. LT Willie Roaf is one of the top pass protectors in the NFL and RG Will Shields is one of the best players at his position as well. Shields, LG Brian Waters and C Casey Wiegmann are all athletic players who are a perfect fit for the Chiefs' system of pulling and getting out in space. RT Jordan Black is a third-year player who really came on last season. He adds some youth to this veteran group. The Chiefs have good depth on the offensive line as Brett Williams, Chris Bober and John Welbourn are all players who can step in and play if the Chiefs need them.

Roaf and Shields are nursing injuries right now and Waters was presumably sitting out OTA's over a contract issue but he told Carl Peterson that he'd be at the teams' mandatory mini-camp in June. Not to worry this unit will be ready to go by opening day. This offensive line is good at protecting Trent Green but run blocking is where they really excel. One only has to go back and watch what they did to Ray Lewis and the Ravens' defense last year to know how dominant they can be. 2005 looks to be another stellar year out of one of the NFL's elite offensive lines. Grade: A

Overall
The 2005 Chiefs' offense has a chance to be the most explosive offense in Kansas City since Vermeil and Saunders arrived and that is saying a mouthful. Trent Green really has control of this offensive system and it looks like he, Gonzalez and Holmes are primed to have big seasons. The offensive line is still among the league's best and there is depth at running back, receiver and tight end. Kennison should be fine and if some of the younger receivers and any new faces the Chiefs bring in can step up and produce, this offense is going to cause a lot of headaches for opposing defenses on Sundays. There is no doubt that this year's version of the Chiefs' offense has the talent to put up big numbers and make a championship run. Grade: A-

WarpaintIllustrated.com Top Stories