During the Chief's preseason, Jason Whitlock penned a column where he stated that he was preparing himself to be "bored" by the Chiefs offense this season. Well, you can say what you want about the 1-10 Chiefs, but the offense has been anything but boring. Matter of fact, about the only thing that has kept the Chiefs watch-able the past four weeks has been waiting to see what the Chiefs will do on offense this week. After coming out with 80% shotgun formations and spread-sets four weeks ago, the Chiefs then introduced their "bullet" offense with an unconventional short shotgun with the quarterback and tailback lined up in an I-formation. In a season where there has been a lot to criticize, I give kudos to Chan Gailey and Herm Edwards for having the guts to actually break the NFL mold and run something out of the box, and actually attempt to build their schemem around the players at hand.
In addition to this development, I have also been excited by the play of cast-off Mark Bradley, who appears to have found himself in Kansas City. One wonders what the Bears were missing given the natural ability and speed that Bradley seems to possess. Of course, four decent games a career does not make, but still, Bradley's signing and emergence certainly moves wide receiver down a few pegs on the Chiefs draft priority list.
Of course the biggest surprise on offense has been the play of Tyler Thigpen. In spite of throwing a couple of INT's this week, Thigpen continued to impress with his ability to keep his head together and make plays and to not give up. I am not sure if Thigpen is the answer to the Chiefs quarterbacking future, but he has at least made himself part of the conversation. Much like Bradley, Thigpen's play may allow the Chiefs to drop quarterback down a number of pegs on the draft board as well.
Finally, throw in the fact that rookie Brandon Albert has only given up two sacks at left tackle all season and you can began to see the light at the end of the tunnel for rebuilding the offense. The offense is getting better and what more it has been more explosive and exciting - with big plays and long passes - than it has been since the Vermeil era.
Of course, these are the good surprises; a few roses in a season that has been full of thorns. The bad, surprisingly, is the abysmal play of the Chiefs defense. In case you didn't know it, while the Chiefs offense ranks 23rd in total yards, it's defense ranks dead last giving up over 400 yards per game. Twice this season, the Chiefs have been gashed for over 300 yards rushing by a team. Throw in the fact that the Chiefs are on a pace to set the NFL record for fewest sacks in a season and it would appear that Jared Allen was the most valuable player in the history of the NFL. Granted Allen was great, but when the Chiefs defense moved up to rank 13th in the NFL in defense last season, Allen didn't do it alone. Problem is that the guys who helped him seem to have all fallen off the map.
Tamba Hali, for example, after posting 8.0 sacks in 2006 and 7.5 last season, has only one sack. What is more moving him back to the left side hasn't seemed to help his production. Derrick Johnson is averaging only 5.2 tackles per game – if this stands up it would be the lowest average in his four-year career. Further, in spite of the apparent expendability of Napolean Harris, no linebacker on the team is coming anywhere near his team leading 116 tackles from last season. Mind you, this has been in spite of exceptional play from the Chiefs young secondary, with corners and safeties that one could argue have outplayed those from last 2007.
To see the Chiefs problems you need to look no further than the Chiefs tackle totals. The Chiefs top three tacklers are in the secondary, including corner Brandon Carr, who ranks second on the team with 54 tackles. In 2007, the Chiefs leading three tacklers were linebackers. Further, it seems that every week that the Chiefs have teams run crazy all over them and the only answer is the same line about guys not playing their gap responsibilities, which Chiefs fans have been hearing since Dick Vermeil was at the helm. Even at his weekly press conference, when questioned about problems stopping the run, Herm Edwards stated: "Gap responsibilities – it always boils down to that. Not playing your gaps quite correctly." Well, at least now they are playing them "not quite correctly", so are we to assume that we are finally moving in the right direction? Incidentally, before anyone starts talking about injuries, remember that a rather healthy Chiefs defense was ransacked by every runningback in the Raiders stable in week 2 for a team total of 300 yards.
While I am certainly not bored by the Chiefs offense, I am terrified by a Chiefs defense, which suddenly seems to be three quarters of a defensive line and at least two linebackers away from being decent. Whether Clark Hunt decides to allow Herm Edwards and Carl Peterson make it onto 2009 is still debatable. However, I suspect that – unless something changes quick – someone is going to have to pay for the Chiefs defensive collapse this season. Frankly, it doesn't take much guessing to figure out who that someone will be...