Photo: Melina Vastola USA TODAY
On Sunday at high noon, the Kansas City Chiefs entertain the Dallas Cowboys at Arrowhead. This grass roots NFL special has all the makings for an entertaining afternoon in KC’s home opener. So who must stand out to insure the Chiefs start the season 2-0?
1. RB Jamaal Charles - Until further notice Sir Charles is the heartbeat KC’s offense. As Charles goes, so does KC’s potentially high-octane offense. A week ago we saw what the Chiefs are capable of when their All Pro running back is in the lineup.
But when he’s on the sidelines injured or resting, opposing defenses continue to heavily stack the box and force the Chiefs to put their offensive hopes in the hands of Quarterback, Alex Smith.
Charles, who had a mild quadriceps injury, may not be exactly be at the top of his game against the Dallas Cowboys, it may not matter because KC’s passing game has vastly improved from a season ago.
The good news now with a more diversified offense, Charles understands, he doesn’t have to do it all. But he should have some open spaces on Sunday considering the Cowboys defense is more of a guess first – react second bunch. In other words, if they over pursue which they are very prone to do, Charles might hit not one but two home runs in Sunday’s rematch of the former Texas franchises.
2. CB Sean Smith - The Cowboys receiving core is anything but special and slighting that fact in any way, would be a gross injustice. With Dez Bryant and Miles Austin running routes downfield, both the Chiefs corners, Sean Smith and Brandon Flowers, must bring their physical ‘A’ game on Sunday. If not, the Cowboys could tear up KC’s secondary all afternoon long.
Chiefs fans will remember the last time the Cowboys invaded Arrowhead three years ago, Austin caught the game winner in overtime. However, for those worried about a repeat, this KC defense is light years ahead of the one that Dallas saw back then.
Still Smith in my view is the Chiefs best line of scrimmage cornerback. He’s big, strong and physical. That means he can alter the routes of either Bryant or Austin at the point of contact before they get into their routes. By doing that, KC’s linebackers should be able to sniff out a few hurried throws by Cowboys Quarterback, Tony Romo, by jumping underneath the slant routes that he likes to throw when the pocket collapses.
Luckily the Chiefs defense is built to defend two great wide receivers. Thus all they may have to worry about on Sunday is to find someone that can match-up with the games premier Tight End, Jason Witten
3. HC Andy Reid - This is a pretty big game for the Chiefs new head coach who is set to make his regular season Arrowhead debut. But what’s important is his familiarity with the NFC East. Reid does hold a huge advantage over KC’s next three opponents, the Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants.
Though I’ve stated before, it’s critical the Chiefs put the hammer down on the Cowboys early and often. With a road contest just four days away at Philadelphia in KC’s only primetime game of the season, the last thing Reid needs is a game that’s long and drawn out.
The Cowboys have their flaws and nearly all of them were exposed at home last weekend against the Giants. That alone should position Reid to out coach his counterpart on the opposing sidelines, Jason Garrett.
4. KR Dexter McCluster - I’ve been riding Run DMC pretty hard since the start of training camp. I do think offensively he’s limited in what he can bring to KC’s offense. But on special teams, he can do amazing things.
However, he’s been living on past laurels and we should all start expecting more out of him. Especially when the Chiefs possess a pair of gifted return men in Knile Davis and Quentin Demps.
So if I’m not mistaken, outside of his Chiefs debut three years ago on Monday Night against the San Diego Chargers where he scored an electrifying punt return, he’s yet to do it again.
The Cowboys average special teams could provide a nice opportunity for McCluster to not only set up KC’s offense, but to put his own points on the board. Even though he’s a popular player within the Chiefs fan base, its time he do more than set up field position for KC’s offense – it’s time to bring one back to the house for the fans.
5. DE Tyson Jackson - Since I’m in the dogging phase this weekend. I have to give props to Tyson Jackson for his performance last weekend against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Not only did he get a sack but he was strong at the point of attack against the Jaguars manageable offensive line. This week the Cowboys do have a bit more bulk. But I don’t think, they’re any better than the offensive line Jacksonville put on the field against the Chiefs last Sunday.
Obviously this is a make it or break season for Jackson in Kansas City. After giving the Chiefs significant cap room this spring, he has much to prove. He’s never going to be a superstar in Kansas City. And even though I think he should be playing defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme, he can be more than serviceable in KC’s 3-4 alignment this year.
Thus if Jackson can provide seven or eight sacks this season, which I believe he can, he might be a player the Chiefs may want to hold onto next year.
Through one game and a solid summer of work, it appears Jackson’s taken full advantage of the dominating interior presence of defensive tackle, Dontari Poe and the veteran leadership of fellow defensive end, Mike Devito.
Perhaps Chiefs fan can start getting a bit greedy when it comes to this former fist round draft pick.
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