Each week, theScore will go division by division, highlighting which three players’ performances will most impact their team’s season in 2017.
Hill took the NFL by storm during his rookie season, torching defenses as a wide receiver, running back, kick returner, and punt returner. After the Chiefs released Jeremy Maclin, he’ll be asked to play a larger role in the offense – one that could dictate its fortunes this fall.
Gifted with world-class speed, Hill can burn almost every cornerback in the league on a go route, and possesses the field vision to score every time he touches the ball. The Chiefs’ offense was often criticized for running a conservative scheme with Alex Smith under center, but Hill’s ability to line up pretty much anywhere adds a number of layers.
He’ll be asked to act as the Chiefs’ best receiver entering the season, with tight end Travis Kelce operating as an unconventional No. 1 target. If Hill can replicate his rookie year, in which he earned All-Pro honors as a punt returner, Kansas City could make a deep run.
The Chiefs’ secondary is brimming with talent, but there’s no player more important to the defense than Berry. Entering his eighth season, his ability to patrol the field, excel in coverage, and dominate against the run makes him arguably the NFL’s best safety, and he’s the clear leader of the unit.
Berry’s all-encompassing skill set allows his teammates to take more risks, whether it’s using more aggressive blitz packages, or cornerbacks jumping routes pre-emptively in search of interceptions. After beating cancer, he hasn’t missed a game over the past two seasons, and his leadership, consistency, and nearly unmatched ability to oversee and command the defense make him the Chiefs’ most important defensive piece once again.
Houston hasn’t been completely healthy since the 2014 season, but when he is, the Chiefs’ defense elevates from good to elite, as the 28-year-old is one of the NFL’s most ferocious sack artists.
It appears he’ll return to top form, and the outside linebacker declared himself fully recovered from a bevy of knee injuries that truncated his 2015 and 2016 seasons. He can’t be blocked by a single lineman, and when he returns to the field, offenses will have to alter their game plan, as the four-time Pro Bowler can wreak havoc on a game if unchecked.
If Houston is anywhere near his 22-sack 2014 form, the Chiefs’ defense could be among the NFL’s elite again as the club looks to make a long postseason run.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)
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