“Counterparts to be counted on” is a 32-part series where we the “Front Office” of couchpotatogm.com analyze one offensive player and one defensive player on each team that MUST have a particularly strong individual season in 2015 for their respective teams to have a successful 2015 campaign. The ultimate goal is to win a Super Bowl but a successful season doesn’t always result in hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. No matter what “you” consider to be a success these counterparts are essential to achieving that goal.
Kansas City Chiefs “Counterparts to be counted on” 2015
Jamaal Charles – You could lump in the Chiefs’ offensive line into this as well. However, if you’re identifying only “one” player that the Chiefs’ offense needs to perform at a high level in order to be successful in 2015, the obvious choice is Jamaal Charles. It would certainly help if quarterback Alex Smith could exceed 3,500 yards passing for once in his career but Charles is clearly the engine. With a career and NFL best among non-quarterbacks 5.5 yards per carry, Charles is arguably (a strong argument) the most explosive player in the NFL. His dynamism is further evidenced by the fact that Charles has never carried the ball more than 285 times despite eclipsing the 1,000 yard rushing mark in five of his seven pro seasons (only 67 carries as a rookie in 2008; 12 carries in an injury shortened 2011; outliers).
Charles’ running-mate Knile Davis is sure to siphon a fair share of carries to keep Charles fresh for the duration of the season but head coach Andy Reid has to recognize that the Chiefs’ offense is at its best when the ball is in Charles’ hands. Take for example, the Kansas City Chiefs of 2013, a Wild Card team. Charles had 259 carries, a conservative-to-moderate workload for a smaller-type back but Charles was able to find “pay-dirt” a career high 12 times and he had a career high 70 receptions (7 TDs) on 104 targets crushing his previous career high of 45 receptions on 66 targets respectively. In 2014, the Chiefs missed the playoffs. Charles played in the same amount of games (15). Although he didn’t finish every contest it doesn’t excuse the fact that he had 53 fewer carries, 30 fewer receptions and 45 fewer targets. In other words, more touches are warranted. And considering that your trigger man is Alex Smith, Charles should be challenging Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce for the team lead in receptions. If you don’t want to run him into teeth of the defense 300+ times make sure he gets plenty of touches via the passing game.
Dontari Poe – I expect the Chiefs’ defense to be formidable in 2015 with the likes of Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Ron Parker and Sean Smith. Additionally, Derrick Johnson is expected to return from injury and Eric Berry has a clean bill of health after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2014. You need talent at every level of your defense but when playing a 34 defense it starts up front, at the nose. At 6’3″ 346 lbs. Dontari Poe is a massive man, with “catlike” quickness and exceptional athleticism that would still be impressive if he were 75 lbs. lighter. The 24-year-old must continue his ascent among the top interior defensive lineman if the Chiefs hope to challenge for the AFC West crown. Unfortunately, Poe is currently sidelined with a herniated disk; he had surgery in July. The healing/rehab process may result in Dontari missing regular season games or at the very least jeopardize his conditioning come Week 1.
Poe’s primary responsibility is to hold-up at the point of attack to allow an impressive group of Chiefs’ linebackers to make plays against the run and pass. However, the Chiefs’ coaching staff has wisely recognized that Poe’s physical gifts are unique and have allowed him to take a “one-gap” approach at times that allows him to use his athleticism, get up the field and penetrate the line of scrimmage. Despite playing in a “two-gap” system this wrinkle has led to a trip to the Pro Bowl (2014) and 10.5 sacks over the past two seasons. A very healthy number for a nose tackle. He also doesn’t come off the field on passing downs a very rare trait among nose tackles in today’s NFL. The Chiefs ranked 2nd last season in terms of passing yards allowed but ranked 30th in rushing yards per carry allowed (4.7 ypc). If Poe can get healthy for the start of the season and master the craft of stopping the run on the way to the passer, “Arrowhead” could be hosting a playoff game in January 2016. If he misses any time coming back from surgery there will be a huge void in the Chiefs’ defense literally and figuratively.