There's a relaxed air around Arrowhead, and a feeling of the team getting settled into the season.
For the first few games, the Chiefs struggled to find an identity. The defense has progressed quickly, but offensively the team was finding its way. They couldn't run the football, something everyone knows they want to do, and seemed a little apprehensive about throwing.
Even great early performances by tight end Tony Gonzalez, who's having one of the best seasons of his career, and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe couldn't get the Chiefs to shift their focus.
From the looks of the last couple of games, it appears the Chiefs are finding that identity, and that bodes well as the second half begins. The running game is getting on track - Larry Johnson has hit the 100-yard mark in three of his last four games after the being stalled for most of the season. The passing attack looks almost as explosive as the Vermeil era at times, and will flourish if Eddie Kennison can return and play as he used to.
Here are the Chiefs' midseason grades by position:
Quarterback - B-
Talk about hanging in there. Damon Huard has been tough as nails this season, putting together some gritty performances while enduring dropped passes, sketchy play calling, and a beating from opposing defenses. We all know Huard isn't the most athletic guy, but we need to get over it. He's a leader, and he's kept the ship steady the last couple of weeks. That's the essence of quarterbacking.
Running Back - D+
The Chiefs can only hope the running game improves from here. Larry Johnson is ranked 15th in the NFL in rushing, and this is one of the more frustrating seasons in recent memory. Until the Cincinnati Bengals came to town, the Chiefs had been struggling to move the ball on the ground, the low point being a 10-yard game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
At times, the Chiefs have been overmatched up front, and there have been no holes, but other times, there's been tentative running from the backfield. The team shipped off Michael Bennett to Tampa Bay, and activated the prodigal Priest Holmes, who looks like he'll be able to return to at least partial form of three or four seasons ago, and that'll help.
Offensive Line - D
Let's start with the good. Kansas City's pass protection has been up more than it's been down, and things are improving. However, things haven't been that good up front this season, and just about everyone on the offensive line shares blame. The line has been totally abysmal at times in the run game, only recently putting together a couple of really good games. It actually looked like they were still getting to know each other at times this year, as if there were communication issues. Sometimes it appeared like players didn't know who to block or couldn't get into position.
Receivers - B
The Chiefs have found the downfield threat they need in rookie wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. He and tight end Tony Gonzalez have been a real boost to the offense, terrorizing just about every defense they've faced when given the opportunity. Bowe got his shot right off the bat when Eddie Kennison went down with a hamstring injury, and didn't look back.
Jeff Webb and Samie Parker have chipped in nicely at times themselves, giving the Chiefs a deep receiving corps for the first time in years. We had to deduct for dropped passes, however, something that's been haunting the Chiefs all year long.
Drum Beats: Chiefs Midpoint Grades, Part I
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