The first obvious point, when one looks at evaluating the 2008 Chiefs is that this isn't going to be pretty. Make no bones about it, in every way conceivable, the 2008 Chiefs were the worst Chiefs team in the 49-year history of the franchise. Not only did the team manage a team record for losses, but the defense set a dubious record by getting on 10 sacks for the season as a team.
In any event, here is my never biased analysis of the 2008 Chiefs by position and grade.
Secondary: Grade C+
I like what I saw from both young corners. I thought Carr faded a little towards the end of the season, while Flowers came on. It isn't uncommon for rookies to fade a little at the end so I think Carr will be fine. Leggett also looks like a guy who could certainly play nickel and be a great 3rd corner.
Page and Pollard are both great hitters. The are a little weak in coverage at times and get sucked up too much (esp. Pollard), but I think a lot of this would be helped if we had any sort of pass rush. Frankly, it is almost hard to evaluare much of the secondary or linebacker coverage because the D-line was so pitiful. Give any QB 5-7 seconds to throw the ball and they will find someone open.
Linebacking Core: Grade F
I don't know what happened to the linebacking core. At one point in training camp people were talking about this being the deepest unit on the team. Suddenly it seemed like nothing the Chiefs had done or planned prior to training camp panned out. First, the Chiefs wind up starting unknown Pat Thomas over Nap Harris - who was their leading tackler in 2007. I still can't figure this one out. Harris goes back to the Vikings and helps shore up their D (I believe he is starting there) and is in the play-offs.
Also I can't figure out why DJ wasn't tried at MLB in camp if this is his natural position and we had Edwards and Williams - who we spent a lot of money on - for the outside. What should have been a strength for the team wound up becoming a catastrophic waste of free agent money, when the biggest defensive acquisitions in the past two seasons, Harris and Williams started 2008 on the bench. Not only was the LB situation a mess but it was handled like the coaching staff was on crack IMO. Ultimately, when all is said and done, four of the Chiefs top five tacklers were in the secondary, which tells you all you need to know.
Defensive Line: Grade F
If there was something lower than F, I would give it here. About the only bright spot in this group was the play of Glenn Dorsey, who seemed to be occasionally getting into the backfield and disrupting running plays, however, he was certainly doing it alone. Ultimately, Dorsey wound up with 46 tackles and a sack, which isn't terrible work for a defensive tackle. However, he will need to progress in 2009 if the Chiefs defense is to improve.
Otherwise, everyone else on the Chiefs line was a complete disappointment. Tank Tyler, Dorsey's partner in crime managed register 41 tackles, but was even less of a factor in terms of pass rush and regularly got blown off the ball in short yardage type situations. . Tamba Hali led the team with three sacks but was a non-factor most of the season and seems to have gotten a little less productive in each of his three seasons. Turk McBride played with energy but failed to get a sack before being placed on injured reserve. His replacement, Jason Babin, did little to show me why he shouldn't have been released by the Seahawks and at times looked like he could have held containment on desert turtle, let alone an NFL runningback or receiver.
Offensive Line: Grade C-
THe O-line did gel as the season went on and I thought Wade Smith did a decent job at guard after replacing Adrian Jones. Whether or not he may be a long-term answer remains to be seen. Herb Taylor is someone who will be valuable because it seems that he can play every spot but center. I would like to see a draft pick at RT because McIntosh plays like crud when he is hurt and he gets hurt a lot. I also think Niswanger is just serviceable at center. Otherwise, Brian Waters had a solid year as did Brandon Albert. However, it was a little hard to evaluate this group entirely because of the use of the bullet offense. The group did a really good job at pass protection, but screens were never successful all season and this group did not seem to do well when we needed to push for a yard. My thought is that ultimately this group will need help at center, guard and right tackle if they are to become an elite crew.
Receiving Core: Grade B
I thought the wide receiving core really emerged in the last half of the season. If Bradley can stay healthy he may be the answer for years to come. Bowe dropped a lot of passes, but that may just be his thing. He reminds me a lot of TO (except with a much better attitude), who also drops a grip of passes (pun intented). Darling came on late and I think Franklin can be a player. Of course, there is Tony Gonzales who played like Tony Gonzales, which is about as good a compliment as you can give a guy.
Runningbacks: Grade C
The entire group of runningbacks was inconsistent to say the least. Some of this may be attributed to the Chief's unconventional offensive sets. Larry Johnson seemed to play well at time but at other times seemed to lack the passion and effort on would like to see. Jamaal Charles has explosiveness and played well when given the chance, however, it remains to be seen if he has what it takes to be an every down back. While he is fact at times he goes down with too little contact. Kolby Smith might have been a factor if he hadn't gotten injured, time will tell if this injury is the end of the road for him.
At fullback, Mike Cox played OK when we used the two back. It was kind of hard to evaluate him out the bullet because while he didn't do as well, he didn't look comfortable either...sort of hard to blame him for that, though.
Quarterback: Grade D
When all is said and done, Tyler Thigpen would up with a 76.0 rating, including 18 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. The 76.0 rating was enough to rank Tyler 27 out of 32 NFL quarterbacks. While these are decent numbers for a 2nd year quarterback, they are not the type of numbers that will lead a team to a winning record, let alone the play-offs. Of particular concern is Thigpen's completion percentage, which was 54.8%. Granted, much of this number may be attributed to his rocky start, however, there is no doubt that his accuracy (or lack thereof) showed at times. Thigpen seems to have particular accuracy problems with the long ball. He often made his receivers work too hard to make the catch or overthrew open receivers. In the last two games alone, he missed five different throws to Mark Bradley, where a better pass would have led to a big game or even a touchdown.
Also, Thigpen seemed to fade as games went on and made typical "rookie" quarterback mistakes such as forcing the ball into coverage or being too eager to tuck and run the ball at times. On the other hand, he seemed to show good leadership skills and played with tons of heart and moxie. Throw in the fact that he seems to have the support of Tony Gonzales and that really makes you think about the kid.
Special Teams: Grade C
The Chiefs have still not found a kicker. Although Conner Barth hit on 10-12 field goals, his kickoffs were poor and he needed to make that 50-yard field goal to beat the Chargers. Great kickers make kicks like that, end of conversation. The return units were fair but not good. Kevin Robinson isn't flashy but he gets what is there, which – sad to say – with the way the Chiefs block sometimes isn't much. Dustin Colquitt managed another fine year of punting, in spite of nagging injuries much of the year.
Coaching Staff: Grade D
The only reason why this group doesn't garner an F is because of Chan Gailey. Gailey managed to do something that is unheard of in the NFL. In mid-season he instituted an offense that is has never been run in the NFL in order to fit the personnel he had on his roster. That my friends is coaching at its finest.
Having said that, the rest of the coaching staff was a mess. Edwards should be given credit for taking the reins off of Gailey and for breaking from his pattern of being ultra-conservative. On the other hand, while the team mostly played with passion, the team did seem to give up at times, particularly in the Tennessee, Atlanta and Cincinatti games.
On the defensive side, there is little defense that can be made for Gunther Cunningham. This unit, which had been on the uprise suddenly regressed to the worst Chiefs fans have seen in many years. Granted, Jared Allen was gone, but one player shouldn't make a defense and – to be frank – it didn't. Even with Allen, this group was have struggled due to the poor play of the linebacking core, for which Gun was primarily responsible.