Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Something to Prove

Scott Pioli has built the current Chiefs team the way that he intended to. Bringing in the right personnel into the right system and the right schemes. He kept the pieces from the former regime that met that criteria and wasn't afraid to make examples of ones that were not. While some of Pioli's rebuilding came through free agency - Steve Breaston, Eric Winston, etc. - he concentrated his efforts on building his team in April via the draft.

While Pioli's 2009 draft class has been deemed by many sports analysts as a failure, I don't think many people are aware of how much Pioli's following draft classes have yet to prove.

Many were quick to crown the 2010 draft class a success after their first season. And why not? The team was resurrected from the depths of the AFC West to take the division crown for the first time since 2003 and the contributions of the rookie class - from Eric Berry to Javier Arenas, Dexter McCluster, Tony Moeaki and Kendrick Lewis - the rookie class was praised far and wide. Two years later, however, this class still has a lot to prove.

Eric Berry, after a Pro Bowl rookie season, still only has that season to hang his hat on after spending last season on Injured Reserve with a torn ACL. The same is true for Tony Moeaki. After promising rookie seasons, no fan can be certain if they'll be back to their rookie form. A lot can change in a season, and the NFL is littered with stories of what-could-have-been with players who's promising careers were cut short by injury, or how they were never the same. They have something to prove.

But above all, it is the 2011 class that has something to prove. Only one player - Justin Houston - lived up to expectations. The rest - either because of lack of opportunity or because of lack of production - did not. But even Justin Houston has the same statistical doubt as Berry and Moeaki; only having one season under his belt.

The face of doubt is best represented by Jonathan Baldwin. Rodney Hudson, the Chiefs 2nd round pick, was never given an opportunity last year and will have the chance to prove himself in 2012. But Baldwin was given the chance to compete for a spot right away, and instead got his hand broken by Thomas Jones (who I can't help but blame for doing something so stupid and then being so awful during the season. If you're going to get into training camp fights with teammates and cause injuries, then you have to put up Steve Smith type numbers). Baldwin then went on to a lackluster season that only featured a few brief glimpses that showed the type of player he could be.

The 2012 season will be a very important season for the Chiefs. Everyone from the General Manager, to the Head Coach, to the 2010 and 2011 draft classes, to the quarterback, to the team itself has something to prove. And Chiefs fans who believe in their team want to be proven right.

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