Healthy Chiefs Key to Training Camp

Eric Berry

Last year the Kansas City Chiefs were snake-bitten with the injury bug. But this year with a real off season in hand, the team could see some of their former wounded soldiers shine bright in 2012.

When Brandon Siler, Tony Moeaki, Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles and Matt Cassel all ended their 2011 season on injured reserve, fans had to hope that the prospect of that sequel - won't play out this year in Kansas City.

The Chiefs open camp in less than a week and at some point each of the injured players will need to be medically cleared - before they can set foot on the Missouri Western fields. So assuming they all are cleared, what can we really expect from the recovering wounded this year.

LB Brandon Siler - We'll never know if the former San Diego Charger standout would have had an impact last season for the Chiefs. Thanks to a torn Achilles Heal in training camp we never had the chance to find out.

This year that story could play out much differently. In Siler, the Chiefs have a player highly motivated to wash away the stain of last years lost season. He also has an even better opportunity to supplant, inside linebacker Jovan Belcher, for a starting spot.

Siler was the unsung hero of the Chargers defense before signing last summer with the Chiefs. Though he wasn't an every down player, he did get on the field in passing and short yardage situations. In fact, Siler probably ticketed for more duty in San Diego but the organization never showed him the love he'd been looking for so he jumped AFC West cities.

Inside linebacker is by far the weakest part of KC's defense. And had Derrick Johnson not risen his game to All Pro status a year ago, it might even be considered a woeful unit.

A healthy Siler though can elevate that group considerably.

TE Tony Moeaki - When the Chiefs flirted with former Colts Tight End, Dallas Clark even after signing Kevin Boss in free agency, many felt that was precautionary move. And that was necessitated by the fact the Chiefs 2010 third round pick from Iowa, Tony Moeaki, continues his injury run in the NFL.

There is no doubt that Moeaki can be a beast on the field. When healthy he can run solid routes, makes the tough catches over the middle of the field and block as well as or better than - the man he replaced in the starting line-up, Tony Gonzalez.

But the injury bug has stung his growth in Kansas City. And much like it did at the University of Iowa, Moeaki can't seem to stay healthy enough to play an entire season.

Still on the flip side, had Moeaki participated in the offseason program a year ago, then maybe he'd have come to camp in much better shape. In training camp, his knee was scoped and probably came back too soon. And had former Head Coach Todd Haley not forced him into more action in the final pre-season game versus Green Bay, than maybe Moeaki would have played a few games for KC last year.

But that debate is a mute point. All I know is that if Moeaki is healthy the Chiefs offense is going to be that much better in 2012. And with TWO healthy tight ends that can virtually do the exact same thing on the field, the sky is the limit.

S Eric Berry - In my view, there isn't a player more important to the Chiefs defense in 2012 than, Mr. Berry. He's an elite talent that had his legs not taken out from under him in the season opener against Buffalo last year, might have been the teams defensive MVP.

His impact on this defense is unmeasurable to say the least. In fact, had Berry been able to be on the field the entire season, his impact would have helped the Chiefs snag at least two more wins. And that would have been enough to win the AFC West.

But the biggest impact he brings to this football team is leadership. He stepped into that role the second he signed his mega contract two years ago. Berry was so good in his rookie campaign that he found a path to Hawaii as an All Pro.

This year I'm expecting a repeat performance of 2010.

RB Jamaal Charles - I can still replay the misstep that cost Jamaal Charles the 2011 season. After tearing up the Detroit Lions on the ground to start the game, he slid outside, ran toward the sidelines trying to get every yard he could. It proved disastrous.

Charles, much like Berry, might be the second most valuable player on this football team. When Charles is slicing and dicing through defenses, the Chiefs generally win games. Without him, as we saw a year ago, the Chiefs offense is less than average.

There is much debate about running backs coming off knee surgeries in NFL circles. And most feel that we won't see the real Charles until the 2013 season. But something tells me after a lukewarm beginning, that Charles will likely find his footing and once again return to the dominating rusher that strikes fear into opponents.

QB Matt Cassel - Not going to beat a dead horse.

The hand injury that put the Chiefs starting quarterback on the shelf last November is completely healed. For now, This is his team. And for better or worse, fans need to embrace Cassel as their starting quarterback.

Everyone expects him to flop! But this sole voice, thinks otherwise. So until a shadow of a doubt that it can be proven Cassel can't get the job done, please give the kid a break!

Which of these players do you think will struggle to return to form in 2012?

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