The Kansas City Chiefs continue on with their OTA schedule this week, although the three players that will arguably be most crucial to the team’s success in 2012 are not participating. I refer to the trio who missed all of 2011 with injuries, and that’s running back Jamaal Charles, tight end Tony Moeaki and safety Eric Berry. Since championships and playoff berths aren’t won in June, it’s not alarming that the players aren’t participating. Here’s an update on the latest from each one, as well what Kansas City’s options might be if any of the three aren’t up to speed once the hitting starts…
Eric Berry: A knee injury ended his season in the opener against the Buffalo Bills and he’s continuing to spend June working with the trainer, though all indications are he’ll be ready to play in late July when the team convenes for training camp. And all of the injured players, Berry’s fate is the most important, because there’s the fewest options available for fallback. Kendrick Lewis, slated to start at free safety is also recovering from offseason surgery and joins Berry in spending his time with the trainers at OTAs. The depth at the position is not good, a reason Kansas City is reportedly kicking the tires on free agent options including Yeremiah Bell and O.J. Atogwe. The latter was a good strong safety in St. Louis, although a disappointment in Washington. Adding him for insurance makes sense for the Chiefs and given Berry can also play free safety, it might even be a good starting combo if things work out well.
Jamaal Charles: After interior cruciate ligament surgery Charles is waiting until training camp to go through contact, and the reports he’s still at 80 percent, so the extra two months are badly needed. Charles has trash-talked through Twitter that he’s still the fastest player on the team. What the concern is going to be is not speed, but his ability to cut and make defenders miss as he runs between the tackles. Certainly a less-than-effective Charles would not be ideal, but Kansas City does have a good offensive line and could at least create a manageable running game between the power of Peyton Hillis and the versatility of Dexter McCluster. But if you put Charles on top of these two and running behind new free-agent acquisition Eric Winston, then Kansas City has something truly special.
Tony Moeaki: After he tore up his knee ligaments, Kansas City went out and got some insurance with Kevin Boss, a veteran who’s gotten a Super Bowl ring with the Giants and played last season with the Raiders, enduring injuries of his own. Everything looks ready to roll with Moeaki come late July. He’s similar to Charles—the organization has created depth, so the offense can survive if he’s not 100 percent. But given Matt Cassel’s increased effectiveness when he’s throwing underneath, Moeaki would be invaluable and the team is also preparing more two tight-end sets in anticipation of Moeaki’s return.
The Kansas City front office has done as good a job as can reasonably be expected in giving the coaching staff some options if any of these players aren’t quite up to snuff when the season begins. No team could lose players like these and not suffer through the kind of season the Chiefs had in 2011, but the reports of better days to come look to be reality, not just dreamy optimism.