Work in Sports
Kansas City Chiefs
Offense must improve before playoffs come into focus
The Kansas City Chiefs, with backup QB Warren Moon entering the final season of his storied career, open their 2000 training camp at University of Wisconsin-River Falls in River Falls, Wis., on July 20. Here are a few questions from Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z, followed by CNNSI.com's perspective on some of the issues facing the Chiefs this season. SI's season preview will post Aug. 23.
Dr. Z wants to know:
1.) Granted, Gunther Cunningham is a good guy, but when a coach makes his reputation as a fire-eater and motivator, and then his team loses its last two to drop out of the playoffs, don't you start questioning certain aspects of this whole psychological-motivational thing?
2.) Why can't the Chiefs find one runner and stick with him? Want my nomination as the team's most effective back last year? Fullback Tony Richardson.
3.) What's your take on QB Elvis Grbac, whose rating points always look good but he somehow doesn't really take charge of games?
4.) Do you want to know where the Chiefs' top wideout, Derrick Alexander, finished among the NFL's wide receivers? Answer: 42nd.
The Chiefs can make the playoffs if ... the backfield-by-committee approach can improve on last year's rushing output. Six backs had more than 128 yards rushing, but none surpassed the 627 yards of Donnell Bennett. Draft picks Frank Moreau and Dante' Hall may see playing time in the offensive mix, but Kimble Anders and Bennett are expected to carry the bulk of the load.
Pivotal games: Oct. 22 vs. St Louis; Dec. 17 vs. Denver. The Battle for bragging right in the Show Me State is perhaps the highlight of the schedule in Week 8. A bloodbath usually results when the Chiefs and the Broncos meet up, and their Week 16 encounter could have playoff implications on the line late in the season. The Chiefs better make some hay early in the season when they have a friendly beginning to the 2000 slate with five of their first seven games at home. Following that stretch, Kansas City has five of its next six on the road, including tough division matchups at Seattle, at Oakland and at San Diego. The Chiefs' schedule is rated as the eighth hardest, featuring six games against playoff teams.
On the hot seat: Defensive end Duane Clemons was brought in from Minnesota to beef up the pass rush, but the shoes of Derrick Thomas will be a daunting task for him in his first year playing in Kansas City. Clemons totaled 9 1/2 sacks last year with the Vikings, but now he will be a focal point of the offensive blocking schemes without John Randle to attract the double teams. Fading defensive tackle Chester McGlockton looks to be nearing his last legs, as his high-skill, low-energy game declined even further last season at age 30.
Up-and-comers: Kevin Lockett has improved his numbers in each of his three season, and he may be a top candidate for a breakout year in 2000. Andre Rison's legal troubles and severe decline in skills will likely mean a decreased role for him, so Lockett should easily surpass the 34 catches for 426 yards and two touchdowns that he put up last season.