Bob Lutz

Chiefs have a lot to prove in 2010

It's time for people to start showing some things in Kansas City.

Time for Todd Haley to show he's a legitimate NFL coach. Time for Scott Pioli to show that he knows how to construct a team on his own. Time for Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel to show us once again that they're masterminds as coordinators.

Time for Matt Cassel to show he has what it takes to be a quarterback in this league. Time for Dwayne Bowe to show he can be an elite receiver instead of a butterfingers who tweaks you with promise but fails to follow through.

Most of all, it's time for the Chiefs' defense — a high-priced defense full of former No. 1 draft picks — to actually defend something.

With a 10-38 record over the past three seasons, there's nowhere for the Chiefs to go but up. They did double their win total last season — from two to four. Doubling it again would provide hope to a franchise that hasn't had any for a long, long time.

Offensively, I think the Chiefs will be OK. Cassel, like any quarterback, is as good as his weapons. The Chiefs haven't given him much to work with in recent season, but I like the addition of Thomas Jones to the backfield and I think the offensive line is a strength.

Bowe and Chris Chambers aren't the most explosive wide-outs in the NFL, but if Bowe can finally tap into his potential, Cassel will have options. I really like rookie Dexter McCluster and the versatility he brings to the offense. And Jamaal Charles should continue to build on his breakthrough 2009 season.

Jones and Charles combined for 2,522 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. Charles is a threat to get to the outside; Jones is a sledgehammer. They perfectly complement one another and, though Jones is 32 (that's 124 in running back years), he has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in five consecutive seasons and doesn't look to be slowing down.

The Chiefs will score points.

Hello, defense. Are you guys there?

Forgive me for asking, but you weren't there in 2008, when you ranked 31st in the NFL, allowing 393.2 yards and 27.5 points per game.

You weren't there last season, either, ranking 30th in the league and giving up 388.2 yards and 26.5 points per game.

There's just no excuse for being this bad, considering the Chiefs have used their first-round draft pick on a defender five of the past six years.

In the past three years alone, the Chiefs have spent $166 million — $88 million of it guaranteed — to lock up Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson and, most recently, safety Eric Berry.

It's time for the team to start getting some return for that hefty investment.

The Chiefs envision Dorsey and Jackson being the kind of defensive linemen who lock down a team's running game and get some pressure on the quarterback. Neither has consistently done so yet, although Dorsey is beginning just his third season and Jackson was a rookie in 2009.

Linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali have developed into good players, but not as good as Chiefs fans hoped they would be. Both are still young, but it's their time.

Second-year cornerback Brandon Flowers was one of the Chiefs' most consistent defenders last season.

The Chiefs can't get into shootouts, their offense isn't that good. So, for the team to improve the defense has to play significantly better.

The AFC West is still probably ruled by San Diego, but the Chargers have loosened their grasp. Oakland is a media darling going into the season. I think the Raiders will be better and perhaps even a threat to San Diego. I also think Oakland owner Al Davis will find a way to screw it up.

Count me as a believer in Denver coach Josh McDaniels, whose team started quickly in 2009 only to fade. I don't think the Broncos have enough to win the West.

Neither does Kansas City, but the Chiefs will be better. Weis and Crennel know their jobs and it will be good for Haley to concentrate on the things head coaches need to concentrate on without throwing himself into calling plays, as he did last season.

Haley strikes me as a control freak, but the team's veteran coordinators will have none of that.

A big reason for optimism is the Chiefs' schedule. If Kansas City can hold up through its first five games — going 2-3 even — the rest of the schedule sets up nicely.

Those first five, though, will be difficult, starting with Monday night's opener against San Diego. Then the Chiefs go to Cleveland, are at home against San Francisco and play road games in Indianapolis and Houston.

The Chiefs will play only four games against teams that were in the playoffs last season. They have a seven-game stretch after playing at Houston during which they play Jacksonville, Buffalo, Arizona and Denver at home while going on the road to Oakland, Denver and Seattle.

Kansas City will win more than four games this season. How many more depends on what the Chiefs show us early. It's time for some people to start producing.