The three words NFL fans have been long awaiting to hear: football has arrived. For the Kansas City Chiefs and their fan base, it's not only a new season but also a new era. A lot of new faces will be flaunting the red and gold Friday night when the team takes on the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome. So there will no doubt be a lot of eyes on all the new players on the Chiefs, including all of the rookies. But let's take a look at five key veterans to really watch out for as the preseason kicks off.
WR Jonathan Baldwin:
It's about that time #89. Heading into his third season in the league, it's time for the Chiefs to see some production out of their number two wideout. After being drafted 26th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft out of Pittsburgh, Baldwin was expected to be the compliment big receiver next to Dwayne Bowe to form a nice duo. To this point, Baldwin has been nearly invisible on the field and his lack of production in two years shows it. He's yet to reach 400 yards receiving in one season and only recorded a single touchdown in each of his first two seasons. But the kid's got potential. He looks the best during training camp and practices but come game-time Baldwin enters into ghost mode. So with a new coaching staff led by Andy Reid maybe, just maybe, Baldwin will find himself in this new dynamic offense. The Chiefs need him to step up and make some plays this season.
DE Tyson Jackson:
Along with Baldwin, here's another top pick who's had high expectations and has failed to deliver thus far. Tyson Jackson, the third overall pick in the 2009 draft and the first pick of the Scott Pioli era, has yet to breakout. To his credit he has been doing well against the run but when you're a former third overall selection there are going to be higher standards. Head coach Andy Reid mentioned this offseason that rushing the passer is not Jackson's "forte" and that he's continuously working to get better. He did record the most sacks of his career last season with three, so he will look to build on that. With Glenn Dorsey gone and Mike DeVito in, Jackson will be asked to produce in Bob Sutton's new defense. After taking a $10 million pay cut, a smaller bank account could motivate him.
SS Eric Berry:
The former top picks keep coming. As the fifth overall selection and the best safety by far in the 2010 draft, Eric Berry has also been held to high standards. Some compared him to Ed Reed coming out of college and Chiefs fans are still waiting for Berry to really explode. Although he made the Pro Bowl in each of his two playing seasons, the numbers don't prove it. After an ACL injury that kept him out of the 2011 season, Berry bounced back with a full season in 2012 and earned a trip to Hawaii. However, he only picked off the ball once last season and never got to the quarterback for a sack. But his presence in the run game can't be overlooked as Berry was all over the field running down the ball carrier. And now in Bob Sutton's defense, Berry is lining up in all sorts of positions pre-snap. He will be asked to blitz a lot more, cover the TE, and be a leader in the secondary that ranked near the bottom of the league a year ago. Look for the #29 to be everywhere on the defense.
TE Anthony Fasano:
One of the positions being talked about a ton in training camp is the tight end position. As Tony Moeaki returns from offseason arthroscopic knee surgery, the Chiefs went ahead and added Anthony Fasano during free agency. They also drafted a TE in the third round so it's no secret that the tight ends will be very active in Andy Reid's offense. That's why Fasano will be a player to watch as the season approaches. He made some nice catches during his time with the Miami Dolphins and presents a big target for the QB. Early impressions in camp has Fasano catching the ball and making plays. If he stays healthy, he can be a productive player stretching the field and moving the chains.
QB Alex Smith:
Oh yeah, Alex Smith is the new QB calling the shots under center this year for the Chiefs. How could we forget. Most likely, all Chiefs fans will have their eyes squarely on #11 as he orchestrates the new offense. Quarterback play has been horrific to say the least for the Chiefs in recent seasons and without a good QB, there aren't going to be very many wins. Alex Smith comes over from San Francisco and has plenty to prove after losing his job to Colin Kaepernick. He as well as the rest of the team are excited to strap it up and get on the field against an opponent and show some success. There is no doubt the success of the Chiefs will rely heavily on the right arm of Smith as they will only go as far as he can take them. So when he puts on the Chiefs uniform for the first time Friday night, there will be anxiousness and excitement to see what he can do.
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