3. Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs found a way to reach the playoffs last season and hope to do it again with a veteran defense that added new starting linebackers in Donnie Edwards and Napolean Harris, a move that should keep Kendrell Bell fresh to be a force as a situational pass rusher or push him to be productive enough to beat out Harris. Edwards led the Chargers in tackles the past five seasons so his addition not only solidifies the Chiefs but may have created a problem for their chief divisional rival.
The suspension of pass rusher Jared Allen will hurt until he returns but Tamba Hali showed as a rookie he’s a high energy player who can be disruptive with or without him. Head coach Herman Edwards also believes he got a steal when he signed ex-Bear defensive tackle Alfonso Boone to bolster the inside pass rush and help free up Hali. If he’s right and their aging corners, Ty Law and Patrick Surtain, hold up this group that could give Edwards the kind of defense he covets.
Offensively the battle is on at quarterback between young Brodie Croyle and surprisingly productive Damon Huard. Edwards favors a conservative offense built around his steam-roller running back, Larry Johnson, so whichever man wins the job will be asked to keep himself and the offense under control and limit his mistakes. Huard’s experience seems to make him the better fit short term but Croyle will get the chance to prove he’s the future.
In the end though, the Chiefs will go as far as their defense and Johnson carry them. Johnson rushed the ball an NFL-record 416 times last season. Edwards has promised to make more use of Michael Bennett but in the end it will be difficult to take the ball away from Johnson if he runs as he did a year ago, when he piled up 1,789 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns while averaging 4.3 yards per carry.
Johnson has scored the Chiefs’ last 34 rushing touchdowns, which gives you an idea of how valuable he is.
I am looking forward to seeing Alfonso Boone as well. I really hope we can establish a good pass rush. It has been missing since the 90's.